23rd June 2017
Libor Fůs, a consultant from Grayling’s office in Prague, provides a refreshing outsider perspective on recent developments following the UK General Election.
Visiting the United Kingdom in the fortnight since the General Election, I find myself in a unique position to compare the current political situation to my own, more distant, experience. As a Czech public affairs consultant from the Grayling office in Prague, on an exchange in London, I have been keenly watching the post-election analysis, the Queen’s speech and subsequent debates. Each new development has been accompanied by loud groans in the London office at the perceived political chaos.
To give the Brits some, much needed, relief, I believe this is the perfect opportunity to remind the British people just how lucky they are to be living in a political environment and system like this. Coming from Central Europe, the cradle of the proportional representation and direct presidential election systems, I can only be jealous of the relative calmness and certainty with which things are proceeding.
So there’s a hung parliament and the winner of the election has to make a deal with another party. I understand that’s something Westminster politicians may not be used to, and yes it creates uncertainty regarding the future of the Government. But these are problems faced by the political establishment across Europe each election year.
In the Czech Republic, coming only 9 seats short of a majority would be considered an outstanding result. After failing to get a majority, the hard work begins. Imagine trying to sign a deal between the Conservatives and the Green Party and then we can talk about the challenges of coalition building. Since 2002, we haven’t had fewer than three parties in government, and even before then we had the two major parties cooperating in the strange form of a grand coalition. Imagine May and Corbyn together in Government – I told you it could get worse!
There is even much to be admired about your ‘very British’ Queen’s Speech. Allowing Her Majesty to choose her own hat, but not the contents of the speech, would be a popular idea back home. After the last election in 2013, our directly elected president summoned a select group of members from the victorious party to his summer retreat. He conspicuously forgot to invite the leader of the party and future prime minister. It turned out that the whole purpose of the meeting was to get rid of the leader and establish a government led by the President’s allies. Luckily for the country, and our democracy, the plan lasted only a few hours. If only we could all have a ceremonial Head of State.
Having read the above, it should come as no surprise to you that in our recent history, only two governments have completed their whole four-year term (if the current one survives this summer, it will be three).
So in summary, you have a process-driven political system, with fewer unknowns than in most European democracies. Surprises may be in store, but having existed for over 700 years I guess your Parliament has seen them all before. For that reason I envy the UK electorate. This might not be the kind of stability Theresa May promised during the General Election, but your political system certainly is strong and stable compared to elsewhere in Europe.
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