A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Uneasy Nuptials---Cameron and Clegg

Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride is gorgeous and the groom is exceedingly handsome and they tick all the boxes: Dana Hall and Choate, Ivy League, Wall Street jobs, loft in Tribeca and house in the Hamptons...and there is still a very nagging doubt that all is just too perfect? That this marriage may not make it after the rice is swept up and the Colin Cowie centerpieces are tossed in the bin?

That's how I felt yesterday as I watched the press conference given by Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg in the garden of 10 Downing Street. It was a bit too jovial, a bit too nervous, a bit too....well....too. Cameron and Clegg had been bitter rivals in the election. And yesterday, they appeared together for the first time in front of the public since the hung Parliament forced  these two men's fates to come together. They appeared vibrant, young, fresh, impeccable of manner...but there was still something amiss, something that just didn't quite fit. It's like putting a jigsaw puzzle together and you cannot find that one last piece to complete it. The last piece was missing. It isn't politics as usual, no, but is it politics in a stronger and better way? We won't know for awhile yet.

The Liberal Democrats have been marginal in the inroads that they have made in British politics. They are simply a sleeker version of the Labour Party. Nick Clegg has only been an MP for five years. Before that he worked for the European Parliament and that isn't a resounding accolade. Cameron is in charge, but Clegg (through body language and visual cues) is obviously not happy to be second in command. He is looking for a co-Prime Ministership (not in name, but in influence) and will settle for nothing less. In the UK, the Deputy Prime Ministership carries a lot of clout and it does so even more because Clegg holds the trump cards for the Conservatives. Can a more uneasy liaision be possible? I think not.

Let me explain what happened to bring these two together using American politics (as much as I can since the actual British system is so different.)

In 1992, Clinton ran for President and Ross Perot was the third party candidate. Clinton won the election, but let's say that in order to actually become President, he had to have the majority of votes in the House, too and let's say (for sake of example) that he didn't. The only way to get his majority was to get Perot and his team on board and form a coalition that would rubber-stamp all Democratic legislation. So, Perot says, "Make me Vice-President and I will give you the majority in the House that you need to pass all your legislation. Oh, and while you are at it, I expect you to also give a number of important cabinet positions to my cronies. That's the only way I will deliver what you want."  So, Clinton is forced to take Perot on....the candidate that came in third. What would our country have been with Clinton at the helm and Perot yap-yap yapping at his heels with views and  issues that diametrically opposed the President's? Exactly. Which is why this whole idea of a coalition government makes me uncomfortable at best, alarmed at worst.

The last time a coalition government was formed in the UK was right after the Second World War and Britain was in tatters. However, it had the great statesman Churchill at its core. Cameron is not Churchill. We have yet to see what he will be like under the stress of an economy that is tanking and social issues that are pressing. I like what I see. But sometimes what you see, is not what you get. That holds true especially in politics.

Yesterday a reporter cheekily said something like, "Prime Minister, do you remember saying on the campaign when someone asked you if you knew any good political jokes, you said...Nick Clegg? How do you feel about that now?" A red-faced Cameron recovered quickly while Clegg appeared to jokingly storm off...and Cameron called "Come back!". It was a light-hearted moment but it was also highlighting the bitter rivalry that existed with these two men. Cameron went on to say that a lot had been said during the campaign that would have to be forgotten in order to get on with the job. I venture to guess that it is going to be a long hard road for these two and for the country. The alternative would have been Labour and that was out of the question. This is a new breed of governance that has yet to be tried. We don't have a bevy of mature statesmen here, we have two new kids on the block and a lot of  new kids in the cabinet. The new blood was needed after Labour bled the country dry. Let's hope that it doesn't devolve into a frat party pie throw.

I would not toss the receipts for the wedding presents in the rubbish bin yet....just in case.