Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Opposition Leader David Cameron during PMQ.
in England there isn't a President -- there is a Prime Minister. and the current Prime Minister (much to many people's chagrin) is Gordon Brown (just so you know).
since i got to England one thing i've noticed is the smaller distance between "the people" and their elected officials, at least compared to America, and i think this is a good thing.
when i watch the news in England the newscasters are frequently reporting a few yards from the actual door of 10 Downing Street (the Prime Minister's residence, like The White House in the States). in America, the best a reporter can do when reporting on the President or politics is stand on the sidewalk outside a tall cast-iron fence, through which you get a view of a giant, green lawn and a blurry bit of the North portico, or South facade, perhaps. unless of course it's a White House press conference, which is different. anyway, this kind of proximity to the Prime Minister's front door struck me as pretty amazing.
yesterday i watched my first "Prime Minister's Questions" (aka "PMQ"). once a week the MPs (Members of Parliament, which are kinda like Congress back in the States) gather in the Houses of Parliament with the Prime Minister for a televised, 30-minute session of non-scripted, highly-charged question and answer. MPs are allowed to ask one direct "question" each to the Prime Minister (with the MPs getting their turn to ask by random selection). they stand up, say their piece and Gordon Brown has to respond on the spot. and not in a bull-shitty politician way, either. in England, if a politician starts bull-shitting, the rest of the room starts booing and groaning quite audibly. in fact, for an American it's very amusing to see and hear it. the whole process impresses me because i'm not so sure that today's American politicians could hack that kind of pressure to be well-informed on a wealth of topics and speak so directly off the cuff.
Gordon Brown may not be popular, but the man does answer some questions. conversely, David Cameron, the stellar leader of the Opposition, knows how to ask them. nowhere in American politics does the general public get the opportunity to watch such a political ass-kicking contest on TV as the English enjoy with PMQ.
how accessible and accountable British politicians are (even the Prime Minister) compared to the way American politicians are sheltered from the public is something to be considered.
in America, a member of the general public is almost never given the chance to speak to or ask a direct question of their local politician. in Britain this opportunity exists almost daily. politicians do not mince words and they can't hide behind bullshit evasion tactics because here they are put on stage with an audience of constituents who are actually allowed to ask them questions that are not pre-screened or pre-approved (or scripted). British politicians don't talk bologna generalities because the public will not accept it here.
there's very little pomp in British politics, it seems (the Royal Family excluded) because unlike America, the politicians seem to stay closely tied to the general public. i don't know how to properly phrase this whole thing, but once a week i watch local British politicians debate and discuss and field questions from "regular" people on shows called Daily Politics and Question Time -- and this seems infinitely more healthy than the elitist nature of American politicians with their speeches and special security.
American politicians do not speak clearly and definitively about much -- they prefer tweakable generalities that satisfy the broadest percentage of the American public. England is different. in America it seems the only way to win is to evade questions, line the pockets of your peers and keep a shit-eating grin on your face, while in England it takes almost the complete opposite.
i'm not sure what my point is -- i just find myself enjoying politics a lot more now that i'm in England.