Did you notice? We got what we asked for in the UK election? It was billed as the election where no-one won and everyone lost. Not quite so. Between 65% and 70% of the population made their vote clear. They voted with an X for the candidate of their choice. There was no ambiguity or indecision like the media has suggested.
The media has continually suggested that the country doesn’t know what it wants as if it is some sort of schizophrenic single being. It isn’t. The media suggested that the voters have caused a ‘mess’. We didn’t. We voted for our favourite MPs in each constituency and sent them to Westminster. That’s all we can do under the current system. We know we weren’t voting for a prime minister ‘president’ as the leadership debates tried to make us think. It’s for our chosen MPs to then sort out how they work together to form a stable government and that seems to be exactly what they’ve now done. The interesting thing is that if we had some variation of alternative or proportional voting system the results wouldn’t have really been too different. We would have still required a variety of MPs to work together in some way.
Some of the media, with their lust for disaster and mayhem have in some quarters already labeled the new coalition as flawed and began hunting for cracks. In my opinion that attitude is the enemy of this country. Unless we are insane, masochistic and suicidal, we all want the economy to recover and grow, we all want taxes to come down and we all want full employment of some kind and the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society to be helped.
In David Cameron’s first speech as Prime Minister with Deputy Leader Nick Clegg stood beside him he said something quite interesting. He said in effect that the outcome was ‘better than any alternative’. Did he mean that the coalition concept is better than a Conservative majority too? In a way perhaps he did. What this new deal means is, as he and Nick have said, a new kind of government. For once they’ll all going to have to work together. They’re all going to have to agree upon the best ideas. And according to many opinion polls (which for once were eerily accurate) that’s exactly what the country wanted in the first place. People have become tired with extreme party policy. They detested when during the leaders debate the three party leaders argued with each other. Most people do seem to be in favour of cooperation in an age when trust in the ivory tower of politics has crumbled to dust.
What we now have is a more humble government. It’s made up from three excitingly re-tooled parts. The Conservatives have had their most right wing, more extreme tendencies and the most idiotic parts of their manifesto clipped off. The Liberal Democrats have added their most common sense policies with the more unpopular, freakier ideas put to one side. Meanwhile we have what was a bloated and complacent Labour party slotted into opposition who can now re-group and sharpen their act. It’s now their job to provide what UK politics needs, a strong and vocal opposition who’ll support the good ideas and question the questionable. They can now re-asses their role in fighting for the core remit of what labour really should stand for in the 21st century. The fact that the coalition deal was brokered and agreed in 5 days is heroic. Other European countries more used to coalition structures take 50+ days to agree.
I believe we’ve got not only what we wanted – politicians working together in a spirit of co-operation for the good of the nation, but what also got what we need; the best of all possible worlds. The best ideas put forward and a willingness to work together to get the job done. Sneering at the involvement of the Lib Dems or attaching the Torys based on party prejudice or inverted snobbery from twenty years ago isn’t productive, helpful or possibly even relevant. It can and should work. There are European countries who work very well with coalitions much wider apart than what we have now. In the UK, Wales have had a coalition of unlikely bedfellows for a number of years and have found it straightforward to bury the hatchet of their opposites and work together under a one Wales coalition.
There’s an interesting phenomenon of leadership that is not often discussed. When a group of people have a particular leadership, whether they like it or not, whether they agree with the leader or not, whether they voted for the leader of not, the group (in this case the nation) take on some of the characteristics of that leadership. I notice this in schools. When I visit a school and the head is present, open and friendly, the children in the group that I talk to will have those characteristics. If the head is rushed, absent, aggressive and condescending in his or her approach, the children will not be engaged in the talk and it’ll be a much harder session.
Have a think back to what you feel or remember was the attitude of the nation under Churchill’s wartime leadership. What was the nation’s attitude during the Thatcher years? When Tony Blair won the landslide victory in 1987, there was a air of optimism and hope, that did last for some time until other events eroded it. The nation somehow did embody the ethos of those respective leaders. We now have a leadership founded on cooperation and determination to succeed. It knows that the stakes are high and the challenges tough. We know the alternative to success is to slide into the abyss. I hope and expect that this mood of determined cooperation and the attitude of putting aside our old prejudices and old fashioned, out of date ideas as well as the attitudes of selfishness and grabbing what we can while we can, filters down to all of us. We all cling onto our old demons, fed by the media, plying us with uncertainty. I think this election has surprised the media in many ways and in effect it is they, if anyone, who really ‘lost’.
So we didn’t get a saviour, an ‘Obama’ who will sort everything out so we don’t have to worry. I think we got something better, a team, within which every MP has a part to play. It’s this spirit of co-operation and optimism that brings out the best of our creativity and it’s creativity that we need to harness to problem-solve the country’s really serious problems that we know we’re going to have to face up to.
It’s a brave plan and a tough plan, with a set 5 year term, so instead of second guessing and looking for it to fail, let’s hope, and demand that it works, for the sake of all of us.