Thursday, 13 May 2010
Uneasy Nuptials---Cameron and Clegg
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.
I would not toss the receipts for the wedding presents in the rubbish bin yet....just in case.