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A conservative-liberal democrat coalition take over in Britain

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I comment first on two events of the recent past- the West Indies bowing out of the ICC Twenty 20 Tournament and the Girls’ High School Torch Relay

Exit the West Indies

Now what next can we do with the West Indies? The disgraceful way in which they made their exit from the ICC World Twenty 20 on home ground must have been painful to the home crowd in St. Lucia and equally so for those who looked at it on television. The problem with the West Indies is that you can never be sure who or what will turn up on a given day.{{more}} Their fortunes in Twenty20 now seem to hang on the performance of Chris Gayle, the matches against India and Australia clearly demonstrating this. West Indian fans continue to be loyal and expect so much from a team that really should not command that loyalty based on their recent performances. To have crashed out the way they did against Australia was truly embarrassing, giving 5 wides to booth, to complete the humiliation. The team seems to be stuck in quick sand, going no way, instead sinking all the time. The resurrection of Wavell Hinds has to leave us to ask if there are no young players around. Denish Ramadin whom they promoted to number 4 during the series against Zimbabwe appears to have lost his way, at least with the bat. The attempts to use Fletcher as a replacement based on his presumed better batting ability were disastrous. Clearly he is out of his league both with the bat and gloves. Are we going to face humiliation again with the South African series? My bet is that you are not going to hear very much about Fletcher for a while but after some months in the wilderness he will be recalled. To do what, I am not sure, but that is the West Indies for you.

GHS Torch Relay

I was only able to see the Girls High School Torch Relay on television, but was highly impressed. It was seemingly well organised and very touching as the present students who participated and the Old Girls displayed enormous pride in being part of an activity that had meaning for them. The expressions on their faces told their own story. The merging of the Windward and Leeward groups as they approached the gates of the School was something to behold. This activity that involved current students was really a masterstroke for the students would clearly realise that they are part of something big and something that started long before they or even their parents were born. This would certainly influence positively the way they see their school and they way they situate themselves in it. It was good to see people like Mrs. Dacon and Mrs. Keizer, despite her ill-health, being part of that exercise to launch the programme of activities for the centenary celebrations of the school.. This was not the climax but the beginning and one anticipates that there will be bigger things to come.

The British Elections

For five days following the British General Elections, I spent a large part of my time monitoring the political drama on television and in the British Press. It reminded me somewhat of what had happened following the 1972 general elections when the historic tie left one individual, James Mitchell, holding the trump cards. I could remember delegations going to Bequia to work out a deal and the leader of the Labour Party, Milton Cato, trying to hold on to the office. Like Gordon Brown he was not wrong. The country needed to have a Prime Minister in place and the sitting PM would naturally remain in place until the situation sorted itself out.

While the Conservative and Liberal -Democrats worked at sealing a deal, emissaries of the Labour Party were also sending out feelers hoping to undercut the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats being more natural allies of the Labour Party than the Conservatives. From the very beginning Nick Clegg had indicated that he was prepared to give the Conservatives the first option of forming a coalition government. The figures, too, worked in favour of this for a Conservative-Liberal Democrat arrangement could guarantee a majority of seats, 363. A Labour- Liberal Democrat coming together was going to bring only 315 seats, 11 short of commanding a majority, which meant that they would have had to depend on the other parties.

An agreement on a working coalition means abandoning some key policies in both parties. One of the more obvious ones was Electoral Reform or as they began to call it after the elections, political reform. This is, of course, key to the Liberal Democrats because as a third party a system of proportional representation or some other aspect of electoral reform would be in their best interest. Interestingly enough, the fact that the country had to wait five days before a government could have been established must have brought home clearly to the British public the need to re-examine their political system. All of this, of course, in a country that has exported the first-past the post electoral system to so much of the world. Of great consequence was the fact that the British economy continued to be in turmoil and having to wait so long for the establishment of a government was not in the best interest of the country.

Coalition governments are apt to be shaky, but so far there appears to be a determination on the part of both leaders and key members of the ruling coalition to make it work. The General Elections were of great interest. Polls before the elections had at one time been giving the Conservatives under David Cameron a commanding lead. During the campaign, especially after the first political debate the flag of the Liberal Democrats appeared to have been flying very high. In the end the elections were somewhat of a disappointment to those parties, the Lib/Dems getting 5 seats less than the last time and the Conservatives even though winning 97, still falling short of a majority. The Labour Party despite their 258 votes did much better than they were expected to do at one time. So Gordon Brown departs and Cameron and Clegg now occupy No. 10 Downing Street. Will it work? We have to wait and see.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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