Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Watching Britain's New PM


It almost rained on Liz Truss's parade. As BBC cameras showed her motorcade, and British Tory politicians assembled en masse in Downing Street to hear their new Prime Minister, the heavens opened and all the eager Tories (and the perhaps less eager press) got wet. It looked as if the speech would be called off or at least moved inside. (I am not sure why that would have been such a terrible thing, but I guess there is something about the special street view in front of that famous door that politicians - and probably the media - really seem to like.) But then, just in time, the rain stopped. The podium reemerged. The motorcade crossed the river. The gates to Downing Street opened. And Britain's new PM stepped out of her car and gave a rather short, very business-like speech. All in all, the pre-game show was at least as entertaining as the speech, maybe more so. 

Since then, of course, the cabinet offices have been reshuffled, and Prime Minister Truss is putting her governing team in place, all of which interests the media more than it usually interests most ordinary citizens, who undoubtedly care more about energy prices and the like.

As an American, I have no comment to make on the substance of her speech, which mostly and probably rightly concerned British domestic issues. President Biden sent her a nice message on twitter: "I look forward to deepening the special relationship between our countries and working in close cooperation on global challenges, including continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression." Indeed, Ukraine and resisting Russian aggression may unite us on both sides of the Atlantic more than has recently been the case, one welcome side benefit for others from Ukrainian heroism.

The whole episode did, however, make me reflect on what a sensible system the British (and others) have that enables regularly replacing or reshuffling political leaders when needed. One could quibble about the particular way modern British parties have chosen to select their leaders. But when one considers the weird way we in the U.S. choose party nominees for president, there seems less to quibble about. The British have gotten into the habit of replacing prime ministers rather frequently, which is different from what they used to do. That may or not be a good thing (on balance, probably not). But the flexibility in their system which gives them the ability to do so seems significantly superior at this moment to our constitutionally rigid terms and our modern permanent campaign, which right now are great for extreme polarization and hyperventilating about it, but are contributing little to good governance and democratic development.

Photo: Newly chosen Conservative party Leader Liz Truss accepts appointment as the UK's new Prime Minister, AP Photo.

No comments:

Post a Comment