Donald Trump's defeat was not the only election result that advanced the cause of liberalism in the world – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

There is something incredibly satisfying about watching a friend achieve a lifelong ambition.

By Alex Cole-Hamilton
Tuesday, 10th November 2020, 4:45 pm
President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday, as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris looks on (Picture: Carolyn Kaster/AP)
President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday, as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris looks on (Picture: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Even more so when that ambition is to win election to the office of President of an entire country and that election changes the course of a nation’s politics towards a more liberal and progressive future.

I’m not talking about Joe Biden, he couldn’t pick me out of a police line-up, I’ll come to his success in a moment. For now, I want to take a moment to congratulate my old friend Wavel Ramkalawan – who was elected as President of the Republic of Seychelles two weeks ago.

In 2002, I was a young campaign organiser for the Liberal Democrats and was dispatched to help our sister party fight their first-ever democratic, multi-party elections in that tiny archipelago off the East African coast. After years of dictatorship, Wavel, a young Anglican minister, had emerged as a leader of the underground resistance and became the leader of the opposition when global diplomats helped usher the islands into the light of democracy. It was an experience I will never forget.

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Seychelles is a country made up of 115 islands, and just under 100,000 people – about the size of a Westminster parliamentary constituency.

But for all its beauty and the charm of the Seychellois, it has struggled under dictatorship and political violence.

In the two weeks I spent there, there was brutality and intimidation by government forces and Wavel and I were, at one point, bundled into the back of his Range Rover by bodyguards when gunmen were spotted coming to his office to assassinate him.

A young Alex Cole-Hamilton with Wavel Ramkalawan, who was recently elected as President of the Republic of Seychelles (Picture: Courtesy of Alex Cole-Hamilton)

Wavel will govern with compassion and inclusivity. He has tried to reach that office with strength and resilience for 18 years and his success last month foretold a fresh and liberal wind blowing through global democracy. And so it was, on Saturday, that wind reached America.

After what felt like watching a thoroughly absorbing five-day test match as absentee ballots were painstakingly tabulated, Joe Biden was finally declared 46th President of the United States on Saturday afternoon. You could hear the world sigh.

After four years of President Trump denigrating women, othering minorities and indulging in the corruption of the office of the President, it feels like there is a grown-up in charge once again. Someone who might restore the promise of America – “that shining city on the hill” in the words of Ronald Regan. I can’t stop smiling.

Biden’s acceptance speech has such resonance for us here across the Atlantic. He spoke of lowering the temperature, the need to heal divisions, to “see each other again”. That last phrase really got to me.

Of course, there is the obvious link to the social privations of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. To see each other again would be a fine thing, but he was going for a deeper meaning.

Considering we have spent the best part of the last ten years at each others’ throats over independence and Brexit, I want to down tools and see people beyond their politics again.

The Biden/Harris win is a beacon of hope in an otherwise coal-dark year. Theirs is a partnership that will lead a global recovery that will be felt in continents and sun-drenched African archipelagos alike.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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