As an American and an outside observer of the United Kingdom and its happenings, the British elections are a curious thing to me. Living in a country where elections are an exhausting marathon, even just for the audience members, makes the elections taking place in some other countries seem closer to a walk in the park.
Candidates for British elections are perhaps more polite to each other than American candidates, who appear consumed with mud-slinging and attacking one another in their scathing and expensive political advertisements. The English are well-known for their proper demeanour, easily displaying themselves as more “buttoned up” than Americans. This is a generalisation of course, but nevertheless what is gathered from casual observation.
The first thing I, and I believe many other Americans do, when observing the British elections is to ask: “How well will the next prime minister work with our president?” Fond memories of the Thatcher-Reagan pairing make us yearn for a similar outcome, although that’s mostly just wishful thinking. Whether we like it or not, there is no Reagan waiting in the wings on the American side, and I suspect the term “Thatcher-esque” hasn’t been applied to any recent British parliamentary leader.
The best we can hope for is a good working relationship. Our countries are seen as being on friendly terms, and the definite desire is that this continues. Although there are many obvious differences, cultural similarities between American society and British society are numerous. It is much more substantive than that, though. Presenting a united front on a dangerous, threatening, and muddled world stage is beneficial to both our countries. Even in the case of a liberal-leaning US president, one hopes for a conservative-leaning British prime minister whose influence might sway a particular stance in question and provide a clear distinction between our current leader and the possibilities for a future one.
Secondly we ask ourselves: “How do the terms conservative, liberal, and labour correspond with our American definitions of same? Do they closely resemble? Are they very different?” For the casual observer, we see British politics in general as more left-leaning than our American political system. Conservatives in the UK might be the same as American conservatives in name, but would still be slightly to the left of what is considered “conservative” in America. Labour is seen as perhaps the Bill Clinton-era type Democrat. Not as radically left as many American liberals are today, but definitely not to the right side of the spectrum. Finally, the Liberal Democrats could be considered the odd third party, being far left and less mainstream than the other two. Since the American political system is comfortably a mostly two-party format, parties of less popularity and appeal are seen as up-and-coming, but not much of a real threat. At least not yet.
We’ve all heard the names David Cameron, Ed Miliband, and Nick Clegg, and wonder at the relationship they would have (or already do have in the case of Cameron) with our current (and future) leader. It’s imperative that a strong bond is maintained between the countries. That much is certain. The specifics are still somewhat foreign to us, as we are immersed in American politics and its murky waters.
Our next presidential election will take place on November 8, 2016. Although that is more than 18 months away, polarising names of senators, and even a former First Lady, have already been included in the mix. Our next election will be quite crucial, considering our country’s current condition after two terms of Barack Obama. With new or renewed leadership on the horizon for both British and American citizenry, the hopes are that each country will move in the best direction possible, both individually and collectively. We certainly shall see.