Hello and Goodbye

US InaugurationSomething that has always bemused me is the vast contrast between the US and UK on the exchange of power following a national election..

The cost of the recent US election has been put at just short of $14 Billion while the last General Election in the UK cost £141 Million, and even that paltry sum by comparison caused some criticism. To be fair, the population of the US is about five times greater than the UK and their election also involves Congressional and many state official elections. Even so, the cost is still on a astronomic scale.

US Presidents serve for a fixed term which is not the case in UK Although the maxim term or a Parliament is five years, a General Election can be called at any time with Parliamentary approval. Not so long ago the Prime Minister had the power told call a General Election at any time.

There are also big differences in the amount of electioneering time with US political parties kicking off the process about two years following a election. The first year is taken with run-off internal party elections to decide who their candidate will be, and the next year campaigning for that candidate. The UK by contrast has a six week period on the hustings prior to the election.

Even following the US election, there is about a two month period before the actual transfer of power takes place with a lot of ceremonial razzmatazz,  while in the UK it’s overnight occurrence providing a clear result has emerged. In that case the leader of the winning political party goes to see the Queen the next day who tells them, that’s it, you are the next prime minister. I accept its a bit more formal that that, with the winning head of the political party being ‘invited’ to form a government, but that is the essence of what it boils down to.

The outgoing US President is usually seen flying off into the sunset, but it does seem to me that defeated Prime Ministers in the UK, often appear as they are doing a moonlight flit and sneak out the back door.

There is no way I am going to attempt to suggest that one system is better that another as a lot will depend on individual views tempered by which country one was raised in, and the different customary ways people have become used to.

While the UK may not have the same sort of ceremonial at the point where exchange of power actually takes place, we certainly do have a lot of ceremonial pomp and pageantry as the Queen formally opens the next session of Parliament where she reads out the programme of reforms the new government hope to achieve.

Somehow I prefer the way we do it in the UK. Quick, plain and simple.

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