It’s an interesting time to be in the UK, where the Mother of All Parliaments, the House of Commons, has been roiled by infighting and discouraging economic news.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer ignited a firestorm of protest last week: see Chancellor Alistair Darling warns slump could be the worst for 60 years, precipitating a slump in the Pound Sterling and a furious debate over whether he acted irresponsibly or not. In many ways the entire thing -including debating whether government ministers ought to be blunt or Pollyanna-like in their official statements, the reliability or unreliability of official statistics, the question of whether the chief executive should take the fall to prevent the decimation of the party- sounds eerily familiar and because of that, oddly comforting.
The Brits are working through issues not very different from our own and it seems to be there isn’t all that much of a difference between the way British and Filipino politicians are trying to do damage control: orare ignoring public opinion altogether while politicizing previously relatively partisan-free civil service institutions.
The Times in a recent editorial (which came at the heels of the paper’s report that a sacking was in the offing), The twilight of Sir Ian Blair, looked at the controversial head of Scotland Yard and took him to task in all-too-familiar (for Filipinos) terms:
His responses are by now well practised. He believes that near-constant pressure to quit is an occupational hazard to be shrugged off if not actually ignored. And he believes mutinous disloyalty from senior colleagues is an inevitable result of radical reforms of which he is fiercely proud.
The trouble for Sir Ian is that his reforms have not made him indispensable. Nor can he be sanguine any longer about the calls for him to go. His support from the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office has crumbled: his contract will not be renewed in 2010. This makes him a lame duck not only in the view of his many critics, but in fact. If his record were spectacular, this newspaper would back his bid to stay in office until the 2012 Olympics and beyond. Unfortunately, it is not.
What sets the British media apart from our own is the deeper sense of memory, whether institutional, national, and personal, that the media, the politicians, and commentators have. For example, Libby Purves in Why did Alistair Darling choose 1948? points out a fascinating detail, concerning 1948 as a watershed year for Britain despite postwar austerity:
The disreputable anomaly of plural voting was abolished – previously university graduates could vote in two places, and business owners had an extra vote at their place of work.
The odd thing of course being that there are frustrated middle and upper class Filipinos who continue to think plural voting might be a good thing.
The business and finance media, too, write clearly and informatively, something hardly ever seen at home. The Business Editor of The Times pens an analysis: This slowdown has a long way to go yet — so just look forward to the sales. And there are short, but richly informative reports that contextualize the economic news. An article Is the party over for pubs? points out British pubs are closing at the rate of four per day and also ties in the various economic trends (crashing property prices, increasing food and labor costs, etc.) into the uncertain future of a British institution.
In Britain 2028: we need ten new cities, please, Camilla Cavendish looks at the immigration policies of the UK, something that ought to be of interest to Filipinos living and working here.
Just today, Gordon Brown to increase Holyrood’s tax powers focuses on the great Labour project of restoring the Scottish Parliament and increasing its powers over taxation and budgeting: again, this ia a debate erupting in Britain which should be interesting to proponents of Federalism.
Update: Only Blair could save Labour now provides an insight into how more “mature” democracies factor surveys into the political situation, and how past and present leaders can add and detract from their party’s future prospects.
A great pleasure is reading the obituaries published in the British papers. See K.K. Birla: industrial tycoon and philanthropist.