Saving the fire and fight for policy

By Pascale Palmer
May 13, 2010

And so it begins. After weeks of election fever, the solid and well-oiled wheels of government have been set in motion: the big jobs have been meted out and the policy compromises of the coalition are being aired.

But things were hairy for just a moment on Tuesday night, weren't they?

As Gordon Brown formally resigned and exited Buckingham Palace, it felt as though the country was holding its breath. For 30 minutes we were rudderless, for 30 minutes the handover of power left us listening to the ticking of something - bomb or timepiece, we weren't sure. It felt strange - a little frightening maybe; certainly exciting.

And then the silver Jaguar of David Cameron took to the streets. Collectively we exhaled: all was as it should be. And whether there was kissing of hands or no, this suddenly seemed to be the tone of British politics as we know it.

The quiet reverence of the ceremony and process was at odds with the boisterousness of an election played out in the media. The enforced gladiatorial posturing of the TV debates - although beneficial on some levels for engagement and inclusion - seemed suddenly and so obviously out of character.

In his resignation speech, Gordon Brown looked more at ease than we have ever seen him, and his gracious goodwill combined with his understated devotion to Labour may well have caused some tears of regret amongst the electorate. And David Cameron's first words as British Prime Minister eschewed hyperbole, aiming instead for political largesse, belief and the basics of the UK's economic situation.

The quiet glide of Cameron and Clegg's people into Number 10, and the lack of public beefing from those leaving, is actually what British politics is best at - saving its fire and fight for the policy issues at stake. Perhaps recently, in the eye of the media storm, some have forgotten that politics is not Britain's Got Talent or the X Factor: politics is about channelling passionate beliefs into calm and right-headed actions that forge progressive policies.

With some very hard economic decisions to be made in the next months, our new coalition government must look beyond popularity ratings to an idea of policies for the common good where the Tories and LibDems do what is right for the long-term flourishing of people in the UK and in the world's poorest countries.


Pascale Palmer is CAFOD's advocacy media officer.

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