Around this time five years ago, I was quite despondent about the state of politics here in Canada. I was finding it increasingly difficult to pay any attention to the news, simply because it would only further anger and frustrate me.
Part my job requires that I follow parliamentary events in other jurisdictions, and so I was paying nominal attention to the 2010 UK election campaign. I wasn’t on Twitter at the time, so relied on UK online media. My interest grew as talk of a “hung parliament” — words never heard here in Canada — came to dominate. I was startled by the number of studies and opinion pieces in the press by Constitutional and political experts explaining government formation and what to expect if the result was indeed a hung parliament. In Canada, nothing of the sort ever happens because the media will simply declare whichever party has the most seats, even if it’s not a majority of the seats, to be the winner and its leader will head a minority government. Because that’s how things work here.
But it wasn’t how things worked in the UK in 2010. I followed the après-vote events with a growing sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, UK politicians would act more maturely than their Canadian counterparts. And when the Coalition was announced, I was almost jubilant. In fact, during the Cameron-Clegg news conference in the rose garden behind 10 Downing street, I actually cried. Which is beyond soppy, I know, but it was just such an inspiring sight, I quite literally fell in love with the coalition government.
I understand that many Brits reading that will react in shock and horror, but please understand that this is not a commentary on the Coalition’s policies. Not being a UK citizen, I have no horse in any of your races, so to speak. The coalition to me was symbolic of what politics could and should be, and stood in stark contrast to what transpired in Canada in 2008 and which continues to transpire. Over here, politicians bend over backwards to deny any interest in forming coalitions. If one does dare to suggest that coalition might be an option, their opponents will pounce on that and usually within less than 24 hours, a statement will be issued clarifying that they have no interest in coalition. I know the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition was far from perfect (as is the case for all governments), but for this politically despondent Canadian, it was inspiring.
In fact, it was so inspiring, I started this blog. The new UK Parliament sat for the first time on 18 May to elect the Speaker. I started this blog that day and my first post appeared on May 21 2010.
While I am following today’s election with great interest, I must admit that I am more interested in what will follow, assuming the polls and various seat projections are on target: another fascinating tutorial on government formation in Westminster parliamentary democracies. Again, I have no personal interest in what form of government emerges — my interest is purely academic. Whatever happens in the coming weeks and beyond, I am certain it will inspire many future blog posts.