François Hollande was elected President of France on Sunday 6th May but will not take office until Tuesday 15th. What a sensible way to go about things, and what a stark contrast to the ridiculous British convention by which, if there is to be a change of party, the new PM enters No10 by the front door and the old one leaves by the back, all on the morning after the election,and the new PM sets about forming a government in a state of dazed exhaustion.
This silly situation is even worse when no party has a clear majority, as in 2010, and it is my belief that one of the problems of the coalition is that it was cobbled together without sufficient time to appreciate and remedy its flaws. More time would have enabled Liberal Democrat negotiators to realise that an agreement to abstain from voting on student fees was an insufficient concession when nearly all MPs had signed pledges to vote against, and made this a major feature of their campaigns. More time would have enabled us to probe the attitude of the Tories to electoral reform rather than assume, bathed in the good will of the Rose Garden, that they were "vaguely in favour." More time may have enabled Liberal Democrats MPs in the Social Liberal mould to negotiate an agreement which would have enabled us to stand aside from destructive monetarist policies rather than be fully associated with them, and, indeed charged with implementing them by accepting the appointment of a Liberal Democrat as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Instead a deal was struck in haste on the pretext, almost certainly false, that "the markets" were baying for a decision. Now around 1000 former Liberal Democrat councillors have plenty of leisure in which to repent.
We like to think we can teach the rest of the world about democracy. We need to become more humble and see what we can learn from others, in this case the French. And this "pause" between an election and the taking of office of a new government, would be a valuable import.
Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Forming a government - what we can learn from the French.
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