Monday, May 03, 2010

UK Election: The Americanization of British politics

Originally released April 30 - With the British election less than a week away, Americans may not have to wait until November to see which direction the political tide is moving in the United States. Voting results overseas may portend results here later, says David Coates, author of the new book Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments, and a political science professor at Wake Forest University.

Coates, a former Brit, says the parallels between the U.S. and British elections are striking. "A moderately progressive Obama-like government is facing off against a party of compassionate Conservatives and a third party parading its concerns for individual liberty," Coates says. "Like voters in the United States next November, UK voters will be choosing between 'Big Government' and 'Big Society.'"

Britain also is contending with many of the same issues that are facing this country - from the economic slowdown and unemployment to immigration and crime. "Will the Labour Government survive?" Coates adds. "It is the question of the hour, certainly for the Brits, and possibly even for us."

Coates says there are a number of other reasons why the UK election is important for the United States. For starters, Britain is a major NATO ally, with troops in Afghanistan. In addition, the UK is Europe's leading financial center, strongly linked to Wall Street.

"The links between our political parties and theirs are close and ongoing. Where the UK moves today, we might move tomorrow," Coates says.

Currently, the opinion polls are giving the Conservative opposition a single figure lead, but no matter who ultimately wins, the closeness of the election is indicative of the deep unpopularity of the Labour Party under Gordon Brown, Coates says.

"That unpopularity is partly a product of Brown's own poor performance as prime minister. But it also represents another chapter in a growing alienation with Labour that began with Tony Blair's decision to invade Iraq," Coates says. "It also tells us how deep the recession has been in the UK since the financial crisis struck in September 2008. British electorates traditionally reward governments for good times and punish them for bad. Times in the UK right now are very bad indeed. "

Since the last election in 2005, incomes are down, job insecurity is up, and debt and foreclosures have increased. Says Coates: "All New Labour's considerable achievements on the economic and social front - unbroken economic growth, reduced unemployment, less child poverty, bigger spending on health and education - have been swept away in 18 traumatic months."

Source: Wake Forest University

See also Sydney Irresistible and Mike Hitchen Unleashed
Putting principles before profits