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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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By George Psyllides PRIVATE auditors have expressed doubt the electricity authority (EAC) could be considered a going concern and have asked its board to draft a credible plan to tackle the problem, according to the auditor-general’s 2012 report on the semi-state company. Among other issues, ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Our View: British elections - a bloody nose for everyone ]

Our View: British elections - a bloody nose for everyone

BRITAIN woke up on Friday morning trying to come terms with political uncertainty it had not known since the last time its voters delivered a hung parliament 36 years ago in 1974. The electorate had spoken, but no one was quite sure what they’d meant to say.

By the time the votes had been counted, it emerged that 36 per cent of the population had voted for the Conservatives, 29 per cent for Labour and 23 per cent for the Liberal Democrats. This was too close a spread even for Britain’s notoriously weighted first past the post system to deliver a clear majority, leaving the Conservatives some 20 seats short of power.

Politicians can add up the percentages to create whichever combination suits their agenda. Was this was a clear vote for change, delivering a strong majority to kick an unpopular Prime Minister out of office? Or was it a strong showing from a left-wing block determined to keep the Tories out of Number 10 – even stronger when you add the 12 per cent that voted for other parties, mainly nationalist groups far more averse to the Conservative politics of David Cameron?

It was a bloody nose for everyone: for the Conservatives unable to achieve a majority despite the deeply unpopular leadership of Gordon Brown at the tired end of 13 years of Labour rule (contrast that with Tony Blair’s landslide that ended 18 years of Conservative rule); for the unelected Gordon Brown, handed the most humiliating personal rebuff when he finally presented himself to the electorate after inheriting power from Tony Blair; and for the Liberal Democrats who had hoped so much, yet saw Cleggmania evaporate at the ballot box in a night that saw them actually losing seats when all had predicted a spectacular surge.

It is a result that throws up a glaring paradox, installing Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg as kingmaker even as his party failed to secure the strong mandate his campaign had promised, and putting the question of electoral reform right at the top of the agenda, just as the British people seemed to have expressed their distaste for it, flocking back to the two main parties in an apparent effort to avoid the hung parliament so many feared.

Yet that is what they’ve got, and the onus is now on Mr Clegg to prove that consensus politics can work, however distasteful it may be to party purists. Many grassroots Lib Dems will find it anathema for their party to cooperate with the Conservatives, given the ideological chasm on everything from Europe to immigration to defence and public sector cuts. On the other hand, voters would not forgive the Lib Dem leader for propping up a Labour leader so decisively rejected at the polls – vote Clegg to get Brown, the Tories warned, and the fulfilment of such a prophecy would cause incalculable damage to the Liberal Democrats.

On the other hand, protracted haggling and failure to make a deal, especially at a time of economic crisis demanding firm leadership, would lead to new elections within months, sounding the death knell for the Lib Dems’ historical demand for proportional representation – a system that would make coalition building the norm rather than the once in a generation experiment it is at present.

Pundits had lamented the growing public disaffection with politics, the toxic mix of indifference and disgust at the Westminster expenses scandal. Yet voters this week turned out in large numbers, mobilised and engaged by a campaign invigorated by lively television debates. They were not afraid to change their minds as the campaign went along, while the significant local variations in swing show they were not afraid to vote tactically, or to vote locally for the member that would represent them rather than the national beauty pageant.

The issue of electoral reform will not go away: a voting system in which it takes 120,000 Lib Dem votes to elect an MP, compared to just 33,000 votes for Labour, is patently unfair, and could have thrown up the absurdity of Labour coming third in the popular vote yet first in number of parliamentary seats. Yet the fully proportional system the Liberal Democrats demand would sever the link between MP and constituency that is the bedrock of Britain’s political life, while giving undue influence to unpleasant fringe parties like UKIP or the BNP. Reform there needs to be, but not one that throws out the baby with the bathwater.

But that is not the priority right now. What the voters expect of their leaders is to buckle down and hammer out a viable government to tackle pressing financial problems. Throughout the campaign, the party leaders insisted that they would work for the national interest. Today, that means collaborating across the party divide and taking tough decisions that will upset the purists. Party leaders will need to take risks for victory: if those risks pay off, those that dared will have demonstrated necessary leadership in adversity. If they fail, there will be a heavy electoral price to pay for petty squabbling at a time of crisis.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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