The election campaign across the water which has hogged our TV news bulletins for the past seven days turned out to be far more intriguing than any of us could have imagined. And of course, it has started to whet appetites on this side of the pond for the day when we too get the opportunity to vent our feelings and express our opinions electorally on how we think this country has been and should be governed. Britain, like ourselves is currently experiencing an economic crisis, but it has the greater population base and natural resources from which regeneration is more possible. The Irish have always had a keen interest on the personality of the occupant of 10 Downing Street, more so in the past when there was an inclination that a Labour incumbent complete with working class backing would take a greater interest in the “Ireland question.” Now that peace has broken out in Northern Ireland that factor is less pressing and so for the first time in generations, we are able to look at the British election through fresh eyes and not through the narrow prism of our own terrible issues.
While the image of David Cameron and Nick Clegg espousing about this new type of pilticis is manna from heaven for the political idealists, the fact that it has happened, allied to the emergence of Obama in the US has given, perhaps naively, the hope that it is possible to create a new type of Government, one that is less jingoistic and partisan. It is a move towards the civil society model in which people come together for the greater good. It is a sort of Amish community approach to problem solving, the idea of the Meitheal tradition in Ireland where communities helped each other out so that everybody had a chance to reap benefit from the harvest. Can that work at political level? Is there a need for a national government at times of crisis such as this. Post pensions, expenses, and damning cuts, has our faith in the profession sunk through the floor?
There is no doubt that the UK election and where it was won, lost, and perhaps drawn, will be devoured by the Irish political spindoctors so that the same lines and approaches can be taken or avoided once we set into general election mode in the next 24-30 months. By then the worst of the crisis will be over. One wonders if the appetite for change then will be as acute as it is today.