It’s the right thing to do

November 30, 2008

Only a few weeks have gone by since Barack Obama was elected the next President of the United States of America, and he is still surprising us. Not least for his choice of Bush’s Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, to remain in his post for the simple reason that Obama believes him to be the right man for the job. He has reportedly settled on Hillary Clinton, formerly his bitter Democrat rival for the presidential candidacy, as his Secretary of State. Can you imagine such a thing in Spain?

If the dividing line between ‘left’ and ‘right’ in the US is fuzzy, this country is still bitterly divided, almost 50-50, between whom are often called Reds and Fascists, depending which side you’re on. Can you see Zapatero holding on to a minister or two of Aznar’s? – there were some good ones, by the way. Can you imagine your local Council keeping on a couple of the opposition’s people on after an election? They’d be called mad! Crazy idea!

No, for the most part, with very few exceptions at local level, whatever the previous lot have done flies out of the Town Hall window as soon as the new lot take their seats. Sometimes it’s even the seats themselves that fly out, too.

Yet these are troublesome times, when talent and experience should be more highly valued than loyalty to a political party – and when the humility of those who have to make these choices should be to the fore when making them.

The problem lies in a confusion among politicians, not necessarily of Spain alone, that distorts the meaning of loyalty to public service with that of a party. It is a shame, for we can hardly afford the luxury of dispensing with the past, if only because we should be learning from it.

And it’s the right thing to do, Mr. President.

(c) Alexander Bewick 2008