Friday, May 18, 2007

Enter Gordon Brown Who Reminds me of …

I have mixed feelings about the Prime Minister to be. I was put off the first time I ever saw him by how much he reminded me physically of Richard Nixon – the jowly face, the body language, even the way he had of speaking. That was a long time ago, but makeovers later and the Nixonian aura still persists for me

Gordon Brown is a hard fellow to warm to, as was the disgraced President. But one must try to give the man a chance. But I do think he’s a bit of a “strange” one, though that does not mean he won’t be a great leader. I wish him well and I hope we find him to be a leader of wisdom and depth who can rise to the challenge of a country suspicious of its leadership and worried about the future and the direction we seem to be heading.

It is a strange system that can simply change Prime Ministers at the whim, or not, of one man. Doesn’t seem very democratic. I really do wonder if Gordon Brown is ‘electable’ without becoming Prime Minister first. The United Kingdom, like the United States does not elect it’s political leader directly. The United Kingdom is, however, electing a government. Americans really don’t think that way. First of all, it’s complicated because the Head of State in the UK is a sovereign born to the role for life. The closest we have to a Prime Minister is the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader of the Senate.

It is very valuable for Americans to study how politics in the UK works. It explains why our own government is the way it is. Our government was created to correct what were deemed to be the faults of Parliamentary Sovereign Britain. The most evident method of doing this was the system we have of ‘checks and balances’. This is an important concept to have developed, but there is a price to pay – government stagnation.

For example, in Britain, the government of the day can raise taxes within hours! (Un-American!!) In Britain the government of the day is elected for 5 years – in the U.S. the government can change dramatically every two years. The Queen has an interesting way of putting things to a new Prime Minister when she asks him if he or she can ‘form a government’. In Britain ‘government’ means do you have enough of a consensus to do the job? A Government is 'of the day'.

I love the concept here of the ‘loyal opposition’. For every ‘government’ there is a ‘shadow government’ and every minister in the government must stand up and defend the policies of the day and is answerable directly to his ‘shadow minister’ in particular and must also be able to respond to questions from other honourable parliamentarians. The most striking thing to me about Parliament is its intimacy and almost informality amidst all the tradition and politeness of the ‘honourable friends’.

Most Americans believe that ours is the greatest democracy in the world and our Constitution is the best in the world. I don’t believe this – other countries do have democracies that can rival ours. Somehow all the safeguards that the founding fathers came up with didn’t stop big government. It is a fact that when the Constitution was written , it was assumed there would be Constitutional Conventions held that would bring forth Constitutional reform – when the amendments to the Constitution are longer than the original document, it seems to me perhaps it is about time to start over again.

But I cannot in my wildest imagination come up with who we find to perform such a task and how we would ever be able to get 50 states to agree to its adoption. And so comes some more wisdom from the British! They have an ‘Unwritten Constitution’. I used to joke about this as an instance of British arrogance. Now I think it a mark of genius!

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