Democracy on its knees in T&T

 

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Category: Trinidad Politics 10 May 15
 

Shock. That's the reaction to the election result in the UK which left the Conservative Leader, David Cameron, put in Downing Street for another five years. My friends are crying into whiskey with their bacon and eggs as I write this, the day after the UK general election.

The polls that showed Labour neck and neck with the Conservatives (hinting at a Labour victory) were horribly wrong. I believed this because my Facebook feed surged with hope before the election and plunged with disappointment after it.

As a Trini/bagonian it was interesting watching an election in a first world country. Firstly, all the papers took a political stand in the election campaign. For instance, 95 per cent of the columns in the Rupert Murdochowned tabloid, the Sun, have been anti-Labour. The Daily Telegraph, a respected conservative broadsheet, sent out a mass email to its readers urging them to vote Conservative and included a link to the Telegraph’s editorial backing the Tories. The Guardian endorsed the Labour party.

The disappointment at the outcome was so great that one of its columnists, Stuart Heritage wrote this histrionic column following the David Cameron victory.

“Glancing around this morning, the overwhelming instinct is to succumb to despair. The country is screwed. The electorate is evil. The UK has become a flat, ugly, smouldering disaster zone, and by the year 2020 we'll all be dressed in rags and feasting on abandoned placentas for sustenance.”

In Trinidad, if we wrote something like this journalists would be pilloried, pummelled and ousted for “biased” reporting. The fact is that newspapers and journalists have a right to take a stand. The other thing that I found interesting about this election is that everybody voted on issues. It had almost nothing to do with personality.

Even the most tabloid of tabloids, The Sun devoted two full pages in the run-up to the election stating the issues and what each party represented. Just as a template for us, the issues were seen to be the following.

The economy. Immigration and Europe. National Health Service. Security and defence. Education. Energy and environment. Crime and justice. Housing. Foreign aid. Britishness. Freedom of the press. The BBC.

No matter how disappointed people are, no matter how devastated or elated they are, depending on which side of the fence they stand, they voted on how they thought their government would work for them. It’s understood. The Government works for the people.

The other thing that separates us from proper leaders of proper countries is that the leaders of the losing parties—Liberal Democrats, (Nick Clegg) Ukip (Nigel Farage) and Labour (Ed Miliband) have resigned.

The Brits are not pugnacious in defeat. They do the right thing. They resign without being forced out by some scandal which bleeds so heavily that no band aid can contain the damage.

It is true that I am personally disappointed at the outcome as I have always leaned towards Labour but like the electrician who came to fix my stove today, I think Tony Blair watered down Labour so much that it became barely indistinguishable from the Conservatives. He said that under Labour he bought two homes.

Under the Conservatives his prospects haven’t changed much although he works much harder due to the tax regimes that penalise people who earn above a certain amount. No matter how much they protest, it is no denying that under the conservatives the rich and powerful will stay that way. Under a Tory Government visitors, students and immigrants to the UK will suffer.

The Conservative government has promised an EU referendum. They have promised to cut net immigration to below 100,000 people a year. Under Labour foreign students had two years to work after they graduated. The Conservatives cut that out.

It will remain that way. I suspect the far right, the fascists will gain momentum and there will be a greater emphasis on being white and British. Whatever that means.

As a journalist who has literally grown up with the BBC, I am particularly saddened that the Conservatives intend to “review the BBC Royal charter to ensure it is delivering value for money,” which means they will cut staff and possibility the world service which will be devastating to millions around the world. Under this government the Scots will almost certainly go their own way.

A spark of hope is that the Conservatives are committed to working toward peace in Syria and Iraq and the defeat of IS (The terrorist Islamic State).

The end result is democracy is alive in the UK. I can’t be so sure of that at home. We are so fractured that the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Keith Rowley, who was suspended from the Parliament will not be allowed to return to the House for the remainder of the session over ‘false’ emails. The vote was taken in the absence of the opposition members, who walked out hours before Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal moved a motion of censure against Rowley. It stated that Rowley produced false information to the House when he brought some 31 emails to Parliament two years ago.

So who is running the country? Who is the watchdog? Where are the checks and balances? This is far more ominous than the Labour defeat in the UK. The UK is shocked but we are disappointed.

Democracy is on its knees in T&T. Almost dead.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur