Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reflections on the UK Election 2010

On May 11, 2010, I sinned. I broke the Ten Commandments. I was found guilty of breaching the final straw of the Decalogue – I looked at my neighbour’s property with jealousy!

It is not his wife, girlfriend or car that I was lusting over.The venue of this gross misdeed was in a friend’s living room, in front of a black 21 inch Samsung TV set, watching the BBC’s live coverage of Gordon Brown handing over power to David Cameron. And I have never wanted to be more British.

For a decade and a half now, I’d heard of the word democracy; from teachers, examination papers, newspapers, TV stations and campaign posters. But something about watching a country’s entirety change hands, in a space of less than an hour, live on television as if it is another reality TV series, gives you a whole new meaning of democracy.

As a consolation to our African heads of state, it’s wise to note that there’s a Never-Say-Die element in every man worthy of a political office. And you could almost sense that bug biting away at Brown’s person, trying to hide him away from the stunning impeachment the British voter had issued to the Labour government.

But it’s at that moment that he parts ways with his African colleagues. He realised that the UK is more than just one political party. He did not get one or two wise cracks about being the only one who “holds the vision” for his country.

And in a show of just as much tradition as only the UK can brag of, he headed for Buckingham palace, to officially end his tenure. Royal guards at the palace’s entrance saluted as he drove in. Ten or so minutes later, he drove out; the guards did not salute; he was no longer Prime Minister.

A news chopper, (yeah a news chopper), followed him all the way back to the offices of the Labour party, and not Downing Street. Number 10 now awaited a new occupant. He was after all, not bigger than the office he’d occupied.

Not long after, a silver Jaguar left the Conservative Party headquarters, bound for the palace. It was ushered in without a salute. 20 minutes later it remerged. This time round it got a salute, and another car, probably filled with security detail, joined its convoy at the front. Inside was the new Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron.

Three cars! That’s all that the convoy consisted of. There was no need to burn fuel, bought by hard earned and harshly taken away tax payers’ money, on getting a convoy stretching over a kilometre long, and filled by gun trotting mean faced guerrillas.

It drove leisurely along the streets, not hooting and forcing the ‘lesser citizens’ off the road. When the traffic got heavy, the convoy stopped, and patiently waited for the cars ahead to clear. He was not more important than the rest. At one point, the new Prime Minister’s car had to stop to allow a couple of children cross the road.

The convoy soon pulled into Downing Street, and not the Conservative Party offices. Mr Cameron opened his door even before his escort could. He walked around the car, as he buttoned his suit, and opened the door for his wife. She was pregnant, and bore that charm that only pregnant women do.

He walked to the mic and made his first speech as Prime Minister. He had accepted the Queen’s invitation to form a government, he said. A sense of British national tradition and pride was all over the air, even down here in a Nairobi apartment. It was simply infectious.

He proceeded to address the country; not showing that he now runs the show, or that he spent 5 years fighting and thus deserved the office he held, no! This was atypical of a servant leader, well knowing that the people he now addressed were the bosses who’d placed him in the office.

20 minutes! That is how long it took for power to shift from the Centre Left Labour party to the Centre Right Conservatives. There was no hush swearing in ceremony in the dark, just 30 minutes after the release of the results. There was no post election violence. There was no declaration of war because the polls were rigged, and hey, there even were no allegations of vote rigging.

I was jealous!

I sat back and thought of the election we have at home next year, and I could almost see how it would go. But I realised I was only admiring another man’s property, and that I had mine, however uncouth. It beat me just to know that even though the British had colonised us, taught us their language, made us drop our religions for theirs, they had not succeeded in teaching us how to do democracy like they do.

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