Tens of thousands of Belgians have staged a march to call for national unity and demand a government after seven months of political impasse.
About 50,00 people joined the "Shame: no government, great country" march in Brussels, organisers said. Police put the number at 34,000.
I went to Belgium for the day just before Christmas. It was bloody unbelievable, they'd had months of no government, and the roads were open, trains were running, cafes and shops were open for business, the busses worked, police were patrolling, streets were clean. It was a nightmare, the whole fabric of society had come crashing down because there wasn't a bunch of grey suited men and women sitting around telling everyone what they should do.
Oh, what am I thinking? That isn't the sign of a society in meltdown because there wasn't a government, that is the sign of the fact that not having a government made absolutely no difference to the lives of the ten million or so who live in the country, a country that, some people would have you believe, is so ridden with mistrust between the Flemish and French speakers that a repeat of Yugoslavia in the 90's, but with fewer hills and more chips, is just an offensive joke away.
I am amazed that the EU didn't come in and declare Belgium to be something along the lines of the District of Columbia, or the Australian Capital Territory and place it under direct EU control. They've missed a trick there.
Here's a newsflash kids, a lack of government doesn't mean living in Somalia. Here's a few stories I've lifted at random from Google with a three word search '[name of country]', 'government' and 'criticised'. Let's see what's been going on, shall we?
Canada's government has been criticised for spending huge sums to host G8 and G20 summits at the end of June, including two million dollars on a fake lake inside the media centre. (08/06/2010)
An Australian government proposal for a mandatory web filter has been criticised by key internet players Google and Yahoo as a heavy-handed measure that could restrict access to legal information. (24/03/2010)
South Korea has been heavily criticised for burying up to one million pigs alive as it grapples with a foot and mouth disease outbreak. (07/01/2011)
A well-known Nazi hunter criticized a Latvian court Tuesday for allowing a procession to commemorate the day in 1941 when Nazi troops entered the country's capital after ejecting the Soviet Union's Red Army. (29/06/2010)
The above stories make you wonder how we cope without governments. I really feel for the Belgians, having to live without a proper government. It must be really hard for them. [/sarcasm]
My mind goes back to the election when both the Tories and Labour were warning about the disatisfaction of a coalition government. We needed, by all accounts, a strong government. That would have been best.
Best for whom? Those forming the government, without doubt. For the rest of us? Belgium would suggest it doesn't make a great deal of difference. Indeed, not having the endless initiatives, policies, back tracking, u-turns, arguments, waste and everything else that goes with a 'strong' government, looks like a marked improvement to me.
I reckon we've got enough laws to be getting on with thank-you very much. Once you've covered the biggies, the rest is farting about on the margins, and politicians are too caught up in the notion of 'legacy' for my liking.
No, not having a government didn't seem to bother the good people of Bruges one bit as far as I could see.