I don't believe that the US is better than the UK. For a start we don't have 45 million poor people without access to healthcare. But Barack Obama's inauguration shows, that in the USA at least, there is hope of change for the better. We must wait and see if President Obama lives up to even modest expectations of making the USA a fairer and more equal society.
But can you imagine such a thing happening here? I can't. I don't just mean a black prime minister. I mean the election to government of a person or party with social justice at the top of its agenda. A party that could roll-back the damage that has been done to our society by nearly 30 years of Thatcherism. Why not? Well there are two big sticking points; one - we don't have a major political party with social justice at the top of its agenda. The closest we get to that is the Lib Dems - but does their programme inspire anyone? Two - we have an electorate which seems hidebound by the way it has voted in the past. In the UK voting is almost like supporting a football team. You adopt a party and stick with it through thick and thin. Yes, there are floating voters but not nearly enough of them for my liking.
If you look at the polls about the very best we can hope for is a hung parliament. People have predictably moved away from an unpopular incumbent government to the Tories. Why not give the Lib Dems a chance? Of course I would like people to switch to the Green Party but I accept that is not a realistic prospect at the moment. I know some will and we have hopes of winning a few seats but unless there is a dramatic swing like there was in 1989 when we won 15% of the national vote at the European elections we will probably have to settle for about 8% of the vote.
And as for the rotten democracy in our moribund parliament well the depressing list of events goes on and on. Recent examples include failing to take to task the bankers who have wrecked our economy, trying to thwart international attempts to clamp down on tax havens, and trying to hide MPs expenses from freedom of information requests.
What hurts most about this supine parliament and our rotten democracy is that you get the government you deserve. Things won't change quickly here because people won't change their voting habits. Just imagine if Obama had lost. the US would be facing the possible prospect of another eight years of Bush style presidency. That didn't happen because American voters had the courage to vote for change. Maybe we can learn something from them. I hope so.