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    Volume 9 Issue 19| May 7, 2010|

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Straight Talk

Eenie Meenee Minee Mo Catch a Prime Minister by His Toe

Nadia Kabir Barb

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

It was one of those mad afternoons when the whole world seemed to be conspiring against me and nothing was going right. Still, regardless of how bad my day was, I committed the unforgivable sin of forgetting to check the time and realised that I was still at home when I should have been at my daughter's school to pick her up! Of course I rushed out of the house like a mad thing but, as luck would have it, I got stuck in traffic (typical!) so I called the school office to leave a message saying I would be late. I was expecting an irate or very distressed little girl waiting for me at school.

To my astonishment, however, she was not in the least bit recriminatory when I arrived half an hour late to collect her and sheepishly made my apologies. When I asked her what she had been doing to pass her time, her answer took me by surprise.

“I was reading the Manifesto for the Labour Party. In fact I have it my bag and I need to read it carefully over the weekend.” I had to stare through my rear view mirror to see if she was joking but she looked at me quite seriously and said, “We have elections in school on the 6th of May to reflect the general elections and I'm supposed to be Gordon Brown.” My initial response as a parent was to feel rather pleased that my daughter had been chosen to stand in the school elections but this was followed closely by the knowledge that she definitely had her work cut out for her if she was going to be Gordon Brown!

I have to admit that at the age of 11 I was not very politically aware. I could have told you that Ziaur Rahman was the President of Bangladesh at the time and was the founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party but if you asked me what the BNP's policies were I would have been stumped. But here was my daughter pulling out a photocopy of the Labour Party Manifesto, perusing it and trying to identify and highlight the key issues she was going to present on the day of the mock elections. I asked her if she knew the leader of the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats and she reeled off the names David Cameron and Nick Clegg without hesitation.

I think children these days are far more aware and have a much better understanding of the world in which they live. Whether it is the influence of television, newspapers or more likely the internet where they literally have the world at their fingertips, they just seem to be conscious of the economy, the environment, political scenarios and the like. I thought that the idea for the school to have their own elections on the same day and get the girls to take on the role of the leaders of the main political parties was excellent. What better way to get children involved in current affairs than make them part of it.

My daughter also told me that they had already started campaigning and canvassing for votes! Since I brought her home, there have been numerous phone calls made between her and a couple of other girls from her party identifying strategies for the day of the election including printing flyers and wearing red tee-shirts bearing the logo of the Labour Party. Who knows she might actually have a fighting chance (although I am not sure I can say the same about Mr. Brown whose chance of returning to No. 10 downing Street are looking more and more slim).

School children are more aware of the world outside these days.

Turning back to the real elections for a moment, the run up to general elections in the past has always consisted of the usual campaigning and interviews with the leaders of the main political parties but what has been very different in the 2010 Elections are the live televised debates between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Although in 1964, Harold Wilson put forward a proposal to the then Prime Minister Alec Douglas Home for an election debate, which never took place.

In fact over the years similar proposals have been made to have televised debates by election candidates but have never come to fruition until the General Elections of 2010. The three main political party leaders have gone head to head in three televised debates, which is somewhat similar to the televised debates held prior to the Presidential elections in the US.

Millions of viewers have watched and listened intently to see how each of the men respond to the questions directed at them. Every gesture, hand movement, pursing of the lips, body language and delivery of their arguments and counter arguments has been analysed and scrutinised by viewers and critics to decide who might be a worthy Prime Minister. These debates on television have given the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Nick Clegg a huge amount of exposure to the public that he might not have had otherwise had and generated interest in him as the new kid on the block. David Cameron has shown himself to be an eloquent and confident speaker, something that is not surprising to most people, though this may turn some voters off if they perceive it as arrogance. Gordon Brown has probably had the hardest time of all trying to defend the actions of the Labour government over the past 13 years and try and convince people that electing the party for another tenure would give them the chance to make things right.

What is of concern is that it may turn into a personality contest with the man with the best gift of the gab winning centre stage rather than choosing the party based on its policies. Prime Minister Alec Douglas Home may have had a point when he rejected the idea of the debates saying, "You'll get a sort of Top of the Pops contest. You'll then get the best actor as leader of the country and the actor will be prompted by a scriptwriter.”

According to some surveys, people who are undecided as to which party to vote for, have said they will base their decision after having watched the televised debates as will younger people and those voters who are not staunch supporters of any particular political party.

By the time you read this article, my daughter will have had the school elections and the UK will have had the results to the General Elections but whatever the results in her school, one thing is for sure. They will not be facing a hung parliament and the possibility of a coalition government something that is looking more and more likely for this country. But then again politics is an unpredictable game and we may see David Cameron and the conservatives scraping by on the 6th of May to form a Tory government. I guess we will just have to wait and see...


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