Tuesday, May 11, 2010
When George W.Bush ran for a second term as President, I campaigned against him, in actuality, at street level. I drove from California to Nevada and went door to door, persuading Democrats to come out and voted against the incumbent President. I'm not an American, I wasn't campaigning on personal "I don't want my taxes going to them" grounds, but rather because I saw, as a citizen of the world, that President Bush was wreaking havoc on a global level. I believed (and still do) that the US had taken a horrible veer down a blind alley of greed, mercenary impulses and xenophobia and I wanted to stand against that. Similarly during the last US election, I got very much involved in the political discussions both in the UK and the US, I had out and out arguments with people who accused Americans of being flagrant racists who would never elect a black President. I remember waking up and hearing the news and feeling jubilant, and seeing the headlines everywhere and knowing that across the world this was the topic of conversation.
Last week the UK general election resulted in a hung parliament, with no party able to claim the majority needed to form a government. The Liberal Democrats, it was clear would have to form a government with either Labour or the Conservatives to make up the numbers. Until this election the Lib Dems have always been thought of as something of a noble but lost cause, so to see them go from also-ran to king makers in the space of a month was really rather astounding. To my chagrin the current (Labour) Prime Minister stepped down today, not to clear a space for a new Labour/Lib Dem government but rather a Lib Dem alliance with the Conservatives. My distaste for and stance against the Conservative party has been much discussed on this blog, and needless to say the sight of David Cameron entering Downing St as PM fills me with great sadness.
Sadder still am I made by the resounding lack of interest or understanding coming from contacts in the US regarding this election. It's as if all those cliches about Americans and their entire lack of cognition of a world beyond their borders were true, as if all those jokes about frat boys who ask "Is England in London?" were in fact not jokes. I am no nationalist, I find the UK bearable at best, but I can't help feeling let down by some crucial American allies in this arena. How could you not know this? How can you not see what's going on? It makes me wonder if they are all inherently egomaniacs and isolationists. This election has seen a Prime Minister's resignation, the first coalition government in the UK since WW2 and may well see the voting system change to proportional representation. This is not a squabble in a church hall! The UK holds a permanent seat on the UN security council, and it is the world's fourth biggest arms dealer, it is deeply embroiled in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the stalemate in the Middle East. It is a country with a steady and determined grip on how world policy shapes up, which environmental treaties pass, which schemes to alleviate poverty go into action - what happens in London affects you, lover.
The whole deal brokering scenario leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives seem to make terrible bedfellows. But more so the way the media trumpeted this decision as if it were already made, before the votes had even been counted, unsettled me to say the least. The idea that the Conservatives without a majority should somehow by an esoteric mixture of default and morality, automatically come to power is absurd. They did not win the election but the news media paved the way (with their insistence and repetition of the "rightness" of Cameron for PM) for a Conservative/Libe Dem coalition government. Is this not exactly how George W. Bush won his first election? With thanks to news teams hammering his "victory" home and making Al Gore look like a sorry spoil sport and a sore loser? Is it JUST me?