Monday

March 27th, 2017

Insight

Hip, hip, hooray for the humdrum

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published May 11, 2015

There are times when the best climax is anticlimax, and the British election Thursday was one of them. It turned out to be just another walk in Hyde Park on the way to some nondescript job at Harrod's or Barclay's with uniform-of-the-day in place (bowler and bumbershoot). Now the world that was watching in such hyped-up suspense can just tear another page off the calendar and forget all the folderol about what was going to be Britain's craziest, most exciting election in years.

Instead, the Tories have drifted into No. 10 Downing Street again almost in an absence of mind, with all the drama of another two-decker bus disgorging its passengers at a routine stop.

Not nostrums but normalcy -- solid, stolid English normalcy -- seems to have won a clear majority if anybody still cares, for the results were about as dramatic as a tepid cup of tea with milk. ("Want a stale English muffin with that, luv?") It seems there is still an England, and may there always be one to provide a measure of saving sanity in a world gone bonkers.

Britain-watchers who feel they've been cheated out of a madcap election don't know what they're missing. Namely a lot of ideological nonsense, that is, a French election.

Disappointed observers who wanted a bullfight, complete with cheap brass and a lot of goring, bring to mind those Americans who were fashionably bored when a genial Ike won still another presidential election or war. The old duffer was so ... boring. Much like the ordinary, pedestrian peace and prosperity he presided over in the buttoned-down Fifties.

Commonplace peace and prosperity is also what the Brits have been experiencing under this conservative government year after year even if they haven't noticed. Their economy has been outpacing even the German growth machine, unemployment is down below 6 percent, and the Help Wanted ads are everywhere.

But what's so boring as good news? Maybe the kind of solid reforms the Tories have been presiding over for years. Corporate tax rates have been slashed, along with the highest income-tax rates, freeing capital for the kind of investment that's providing all those British jobs.

Charter schools by another name ("free schools") have taken off across the pond, too, a good sign for the British future. Letting families choose the best schools for their kids is always a good investment, for the secret to progress -- as always -- remains three things: education, education and education. The real thing, with high standards and measurable results, not the glossy simulacrum offered by the usual, deadly combination of teacher unions, educrats and race hustlers.

Many of the characters in this comic opera known as the British elections of 2015 won't be missed. Indeed, it's already hard to recall their fading names:

Labour's strange leader -- Ed Miliband -- isn't Labour's leader anymore; he's stepped down after a crushing defeat. The same goes for the Liberal Democrats' quondam chief, Nick Clegg, after his neither-here-nor-there party was left with only eight seats in Parliament after beginning the election with 57.

Nigel Farage of the United Kingdom Independence Party, which tried to outdo its various nationalist competitors by making its Englishness just another national splinter group, is gone, too, having lost his seat and base in little South Thanet by thousands of votes.

Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party needn't hang up her tartan yet. Scottish nationalism seems as persistent as ever.

As for all those other bit players who have been ushered offstage, their absence will be as welcome as the coming of the English spring.

All told, it was a great day for the Brits but in the understated, British way. Over and above the election results hovered the shades of all those patron saints of British patience, persistence and just plain common sense -- from Edmund Burke to Margaret Thatcher, even if the victors dared not invoke the Iron Lady's name, knowing it would only inflame the fractured opposition.

So today whispered congratulations are in order for David Cameron's conservatives. No need to make a big show of it and get everybody's knickers in a twist. Sail on, Britannia, steady as she goes.

Comment by clicking here.

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles