Resurgent Democracy?

April 17, 2010

Here’s a quote from United States of America, President Teddy Roosevelt that I have always found inspiring:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”



I have just returned from my parents house where I watched the live TV debates between the three leaders of the main political parties in Britain – Labour Prime minister Gordon Brown, David Cameron Conservative leader of the opposition and Nick Clegg leader of the Liberal Democrats.

This was the first time there has been a televised leadership debate between the three main political party leaders in the history of the United Kingdom. As I watched a part of me was stirred again to take an active interest in politics and to hope and work for a better world through responsible democratic government.

The situation today is very different from the politics of the 1980s when I was growing up and the Conservatives had a clear majority in the House of Commons. The world has also moved on greatly since the late nineties and early noughties when New Labour governed the country without a significant opposition. Now for the first time we can see the leaders of the main political parties speaking face-to-face without media manipulation or post-event editing. It was an exciting 90 minutes, even if the debate itself was highly stage-managed and the speakers often seemed to repeat party political rhetoric rather than explain detail policy. Still, I feel revived by the spectacle and encouraged that once again the social upheaval in terms of modern media proliferation over the last ten to fifteen years might finally be beginning to force politicians out from their tribal party politics to public accountability in the face of public scrutiny via live TV debates.

I guess all of this creates in me a hope that we might see a better governed country in the United Kingdom and a more enlightened world politics. Whatever the ultimate results of the General Election, I felt all of the men came across as conviction politicians, although I don’t necessarily agree with their convictions.

All responsible unbiased opinion polls have shown the third-party leader Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats as coming across as having won the debate, with David Cameron coming second and  Gordon Brown faring better than expected in the TV debate, but as runner-up in third place (in some ways this is no surprise as the incumbent Prime minister and as a main architect of the Labour government’s thirteen years in power it is difficult for him to present himself as an agent of reform and change).

I think Nick Clegg’s strong performance, (as well as Vince Cable doing well in the Chancellor’s debate) in the first debate will be healthy for  British Democracy. The two main parties have had sway of politics in this country for too long. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this new development in the next couple of weeks.



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