The UK: Cool American Politics
Regarded as something of an anglophile, Barack Obama has said that it is time to “recalibrate” the relationship between the US and the UK, and to end the “poodle status” of the latter. The relationship will be a more equal one. Obama also favors the EU, which, he believes, is a democratic union of countries, brought together by the will of the people. This month, despite massive opposition, and the British public being denied a vote on the issue, Britain’s unelected Prime Minister Gordon Brown signed the Lisbon treaty, relinquishing more of Britain’s sovereignty to the EU. What will this mean for Britain’s and the US’s relationship?
Contradictions of political beliefs aside, Obama is the man of the moment, and his presence has been very much welcomed by the most visible figures of British politics, who are clambering to improve their public image. Brown is particularly in need. A few days ago his Labour party lost the Glasgow East by-election to the Scottish National Party (SNP). One of the most deprived areas of the United Kingdom, Glasgow East has also been one of Labour’s safest seats, and its loss has triggered much talk of a possible coup to oust Brown from power, or his possible resignation in the coming months. It also makes Scottish independence – or at least greater autonomy for Scotland – more likely after 2010, when the SNP plans to hold a referendum on the issue, though the SNP’s electoral gains in Scotland and the Conservative Party’s in England are a clear signal at the electorate’s increasing dismay at Labour, and not enthusiastic endorsements of the other parties. The voters have, in effect, switched to their second choices.
The Prime Minister has said that worries over the economy have created the backlash, but no sensible person can believe this. Mass immigration, a divisive “multicultural” ideology, failed hospitals and national health service, an inept, politicized police, the emergence of organized criminal gangs from Eastern Europe, an explosion of violent crime, and the belief that Labour will do nothing to reverse this downward spiral, accounts for the voter’s reaction. The Conservatives have been looking to the US, and to Obama, for solutions.
According to the latest Home Office figures 130,000 knife crimes were recorded last year in Britain, averaging one every four minutes. Cameron wants to see a ‘zero tolerance’ policy based on the approach that the NYPD took under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Police chief Bill Bratton, who was instrumental in tackling crime in NY, will now act as advisor to London Mayor Boris Johnson. The carrying of knives, the presence of gangs, and antisocial behavior such as drunkenness or drinking on the streets (a common sight in Britain), are the initial targets.
Cameron is also talking of a “responsibility revolution;” but to what exactly? He has repeated Obama’s recent call for Black fathers to take responsibility for the upbringing of their children. Since then Britain’s Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) has issued a report [pdf], noting the positive effect of male role models on specifically poor White boys, who are not only often without a father, but who, academically, fall well below ethnic minority (including Black) children of similar economic backgrounds. The “responsibility revolution” seems to be “multiculturalism” repackaged: half-baked British ingredients, American label. But, this is not new.
Europeans and Americans have long wanted to mold their own countries on their perceptions of the other, though these perceptions have generally been wildly inaccurate. Europeans want to emulate their imagined liberal, modern, ephemeral, multicultural Hollywood America; Americans respect old world tradition. “Our [the US’s] founding institutions were profoundly shaped by the English tradition,” Obama announced on his visit to the UK, doubtlessly unaware of how embarrassing a phrase “English tradition” has become in England. Doubtless, he was also unaware that parliament disposed of Habeas Corpus in June of this year.
Cameron’s enthusiasm for emulating NY and Obama will not yield fruit, because he ignores the fact that the US has become, and remained, a great country because its leaders have continually reverenced legal ‘tradition,’ as well as cultural tradition, and the history of the nation. New York recovered in part because the city had the American tradition still in its social foundation. Americans – even NY liberals – believe their country is a great country, respect its founding fathers and Constitution, and are overwhelming religious and well mannered. Britain, which seeks to adopt the fashions and ideas of the US, has no such basis. Similar criticisms of the EU might also be made.