Out With the Old, In With the New. . . .

Ever since we'd landed on the Netherlands' shores in January, we'd been hearing about the late April elections in Britain. And not just on CNN, but it seemed many people throughout Europe were interested in what would take place with one of their most important trading partners and keys to the future success of the EU.

We were in Greece and Egypt when we got word about threatened IRA bombings in an effort to influence the outcome. We were in Spain and Switzerland when word spread about the election taking on real steam and better modeling itself after real American democracy when the mud began to be slung. And we were on our way by train to Calais to catch a ferry to Dover, England when we heard about threats to close the waterways.

Outside a pub in London, these voters demonstrated for their party's success, the No Nothing Party. Ten minutes later they were back at their lagers.

When we found ourselves in Jolly Ol' England and the middle of a fierce and critical battle between the long entrenched Conservatives, the fast approaching Labor, and the upstart Liberal Democrats with a few other parties thrown in for laughs. Just like in our home country, everyone was listening to the pollsters predict the outcome and then insisting that pollsters don't have a clue about how they would really act.

The election was held while we were visiting the world's center of weird, Stonehenge, Avebury and the land of crop circles, ghost dogs and haunted pubs. For that day there was no reports of hauntings, crop circles or secret Druid ceremonies--but there were plenty of reports about things that go bump in the night. Namely the entire Conservative Party that bumped up against reality and lost its 18-year long grip.

And we were there as the young and vibrant Prime Minister, Tony Blair, zoomed into his new role with the grace and speed of Jaguar V-12. Every time we walked by Number 10 Downing Street it had the feel of visiting Delphi in Greece — it was the center of the universe, surrounded by journalists, photographers and other types of cranks, like us.

The English waste no time in their politics. The day after the election the new Prime Minister drove to the palace to accept the responsibility of the new government by Royal proclamation from the Queen. And in the next few days he'd appointed more women to key positions than any government before him. He began to announce sweeping changes in the way government would operate, including making certain they'd work for a change.

And he began to monkey about with the imperial habits of power. It was front page news around the nation when he announced he would be called "Tony" by his ministers, rather than Prime Minister. But thousand-year-old habits are hard to break, particularly in the country that invented parliamentary government. And after the hue and cry from the ol' boys of Parliment, Tony had to content himself with his new title of "PM" just as all the others before him.

What this historic election means to the future of the UK and to the EU we don't pretend to understand. But change, a strong air of substantive change is in the air of Britain. And the people on the streets (or rather more accurately in the pubs) have taken their respective post-election roles: unfathomable doom, unparalleled hope, unknowable wait-and-see.

We had missed the frontline fun of our own American election back in November, watching it from the distant shores of Japan. But this time it was fun to watch a process so close, so similar, yet so alien to what we were familiar with. And now, all the world gets to watch as a leading industrial country charts a new course--the country that holds the honor of being the first to greet the new millennium.

Home :: About :: Journals
If you'd like to write to George, Salli, Samantha or Cassidy, drop them a line!

Copyright 1996 - 2011 - No form of usage or reproduction allowed without express written permission