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May 30, 2012 / Stephanie Vermillion

US vs. UK: Politics more humorous across the pond

My dad is a political science professor and former county government member which comes with many pros, including his ability to explain political stories and keep me informed on breaking news. On the cons side, though, he also ensures that every trip we go on includes some sort of political “experience.”

For example, in Dublin this past weekend residents were in (and still are in) ongoing debate about voting yes or no on Europe’s Fiscal Stability Treaty. It’s a unique time to visit, with “vote yes” “vote no” signs on every inch of open space throughout the city. As is typical with our family travel, my dad sees this as an opportunity to surface his political analyses (which I must admit are quite interesting), but it also gives him the change to purposely agitate us (usually me), pointing out every way I could get the contrasting yes/no signs in my photos. I photograph pretty things, not politics, and he knows and exploits that. Constantly.

Case in point number two: My family travels to Mackinac Island usually once per summer for the peace and serenity of no cars, and plenty of food and fudges. But, one year my dad decided to throw Mackinac City Council meeting into the mix. I was about 12 years old, and stuffy rooms with dry government talk was not on my “cool pre-teen things to do list.”

Apparently it wasn’t on my brother’s “cool teens to-do list,” or my moms “cool not-teens to-do list” either (don’t worry, I know sharing your age on here could face punishments as severe as a month without Target), because when divine intervention gave me a nonstop hiccup outbreak, that council meeting transformed into lively, hilarious politics.

But, believe it or not, my mom, brother and I were the only ones laughing. My dad, with smoke escaping his ears, was mortified. So I guess we’re one for one in politically agitating/embarrassing each other. Game on.

So that was my first-ever encounter with truly entertaining, watchable politics. While many of the U.S. presidential debates now interest me at the “wise” age of 24, I’d hardly call them entertaining. But in the U.K. it’s different. In my International Media and Political Systems course here in London, we were exposed to the Prime Minister’s Questions — a 30-minute convention occurring every Wednesday, where U.K. members of parliament ask David Cameron any questions they choose, and he has to candidly answer them on live television.

(from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URWXkPDwG0g)

We debated whether or not this is effective for the U.K. government in class, and while in theory I believe (along with probably most of the world affected by government) that the more open the government or business the better, the PMQ’s are different than anything I’ve seen, and if run the same way, I’m not sure they’re something I’d want in the U.S.

While politics and current issues are discussed in detail, it’s more of a free-for-all meeting, that turns into a sensationalized media event, where David Cameron and Ed Miliband duel for the last word, and MPs get so enthusiastic/excited that the speaker jokes about calming them down.

The PMQs are pretty hilarious, and I found myself actually laughing out loud while watching government — something I thought could only happen with intense hiccups. But, while it is entertaining, I’m not sure it’s something we could benefit from, because in the U.S. fun and politics can’t usually mix without scandal and/or impeachments.

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