Oh Say Can One See: How British politics are starting to resemble their American counterpart

A call to recognise (and adapt to) the Americanization of British Politics is issued.

Ross Bennett
9th March 2022
American Flag and British Flag. Image Credit: Pixabay
It was George Bernard Shaw who famously said: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language”. Ever since the blunders of George W. Bush, we Brits have often snobbishly stuck our noses up at the Fox News ridden cycle of the American political world. Can we really say it’s that much different on our side of the pond?

The foundation of American political thought revolves around the following statement entrenched within the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Almost every debate in modern American politics turns into a boxing match between the rights of the people and the right of the government. Common debates concerning rights in the US are the right to bear arms, the right to healthcare and more recently the right to choose whether to get vaccinated or not. This differs somewhat from the British train of thought which often refuses to muddy the waters with discussions of what is the right of the citizen or not; until recently, with the arguments over lockdowns and vaccinations.

One way in which British politics have started to resemble those of the Yanks is that it is becoming increasingly obvious how much money is spent on a political candidate or agenda. It was no secret that the role of Prime Minister is often given to those who come from a place of (at best) privilege and (more often than not) back door dealings. Yet in the past ten years or so these dealings are no longer so back door. Look no further than the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, wherein Facebook users had their data harvested from quizzes which was then employed by the Leave campaign to target voters with political advertisements; is that not just a more tech-savvy version of what Roger Ailes and the Republican party were doing at Fox for years? And what about the huge advertising push behind the Brexit campaign, wherein the Vote Leave campaign was actually fined £61,000 for spending over £7 million? It is difficult to forget the over-the-top statements printed on the sides of buses from that era. Politicians no longer argue, they advertise – something that is bread and butter for American politicians.

Politicians no longer argue, they advertise - something that is bread and butter for American politicians

One train of thought that certain optimists possess is that corporations are less involved in British politics than American politics, or that concepts like the military-industrial complex play less of a role in UK governmental dealings. The PPE contracts given out during the pandemic tell a different story; according to Transparency International, twenty-four PPE contracts worth £1.6 billion were awarded to companies with known connections to the Conservative party. The connections between politics and corporations are as entrenched in the UK as they are in the US.

The answer to the question ‘Are British politics starting to resemble their American counterpart?’ can only be a resounding yes! Of course, they are, but that’s the way politics are done now. The old formula of British politics no longer guarantees a victory, but this new ‘American-method’ is more likely to win people over. And until it stops working, we’ll still be dealing with it. It’s the new nature of the beast, and we now have to acclimate ourselves to it.

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