As Gordon Brown entered Buckingham Palace yesterday evening to relinquish power he was saluted by the palace guards. On the way out, as an ordinary citizen, he was ignored.
Gone too was the police escort that cleared the streets on his way to the Queen leaving Brown to negotiate London traffic as best he could.
I don’t know but suspect that former British Prime Ministers do not enjoy the luxury of a state car and two police drivers for life as former Irish Prime Ministers do at enormous expense to the taxpayer.
As power was handed over in London today it was fascinating to observe how a real democracy operates.
The attempt by senior figures in the Labour Party to do a deal with the Lib Dem Party was quickly scuttled when Labour backbenchers revolted saying it would be undemocratic not to accept the will of the people.
A woman, angry at possible deals being hatched behind closed doors, demanded that Parliament sit. We want openness, not secrecy she demanded.
This attitude is in stark contrast to how Irish citizens react to the Tammany Hall type deals done in Ireland.
The will of the people is invariably ignored as parties scramble to do deals that will benefit themselves and their supporters; no principle is too precious that it cannot be sold to the highest bidder.
A new low in Irish politics was reached after the 2007 general election when the chancer Bertie Ahern spent unknown millions of taxpayers’ money in a secret deal to buy the support of a cabal of independents.
There is no way the people of the UK or any other self-respecting democracy would allow such mafia type deals be hatched behind closed doors with the details remaining a state secret.
My whole impression as I watched power being handed over today in the UK was of a nation proud and watchful of its democracy.
Of course, like all democracies the UK has many problems and failings but its people are in possession of that most valuable of democratic assets – political intelligence.
They are fully aware that it is the people and not the politicians who ultimately own and hold power.
The tragedy of Ireland is that its people are nothing more than docile voting fodder who long ago handed over power to a corrupt political system for the price of a few cheap favours.