British Politics and US perceptions


#1

Wasn’t entirely sure what forum to put this in but although it’s international it’s not news so figured I’d stick it here.

Anyway, was prompted by another post on here to wonder what the American perception of British politics actually is. I’ve seen some US media which refers vaguely to UK politics but the bits which feed back to us in a major way are slightly odd comparative assertions about the NHS or Islam. Both being evils which we’re apparently deeply harmed by (not true in either case) but I assume there’s a wider perception of our social and political landscape.

So, what do you think about UK politics? What’re the major issues from a US perspective? And the major political beliefs for that matter?


#2

Major issues from the perspective of a foreign student in Scotland, in no particular order

How much or how little to cut welfare, since the majority in every party believes the state should be either the main or a major provider of welfare, only 25% of Tory MPs (2007) think the family/individual should be the main providers.

What to cut and what to save in general, defence in particular (“scrap trident” posters were all around campus a while ago), education as well.

Immigration and what to do with the EU, as UKIP’s recent success in England/Wales shows.

And of course, independence vs devo max :stuck_out_tongue:

And an aside about the NHS: I’m for socialised medicine but some of the rules here are ridiculous. While I’m grateful that I can receive free healthcare without paying taxes, I don’t think that should be the case except for A&E. I’ve been waiting a couple weeks to see a private doctor because I need a referral from an NHS GP (ie. I need government permission) to see a private doctor and the NHS didn’t want to let me until it tried out some options. Do you know how enraging it is to be denied access to a specialist that you would pay out of your own pocket, so that some government-paid GP can take a cursory glance in an appointment capped at 10 minutes, and treat you via method of elimination?


#3

My perception is that the UK is much more left leaning then the United States.


#4

That’s a loaded statement…the left and right can have many different meanings depending on the country. Still I’d say most places are more left leaning than the U.S.


#5

Also what’s the deal with the Scottish Independence movement anyway?


#6

I read that it is mainly an anti-British movement not really rooted in the theme of independence, since they want to remain in the EU and most British laws are EU laws.


#7

I don’t have a great grasp of U.K. politics, but I like what I am seeing out of UKIP.

Poll: Ukip just two per cent behind Tories


#8

I wouldn’t say its not rooted in independence. They want to have full control of their country, without Westminster’s involvement. The only issue I see is that they would keep the GBP so they wouldn’t control fiscal policy anyway. Not sure what you mean about British laws being EU laws.

I would also vote UKIP if I could vote here. They haven’t got any seats on Scottish councils, Farage was recently harassed by a group of about 50 on High Street when he came to Edinburgh to start a campaign.


#9

I used to live in the UK!

I lived near Cardiff, Wales.

Britain is definitely more left-leaning than the US. The NHS is a case in point. Taxes are high, gas prices are excessive. Of course it’s nothing compared to Norway or Iceland, but it’s too much for me. I also would feel uncomfortable living there because I couldn’t own a gun.

Another thing I’ve noticed is a fear of immigrants. A lot of people think that immigrants from third world countries are destroying their culture and can never assimilate.

There is a lot of Patriotism (or maybe Nationalism?) among some of the Welsh people I knew. I know several people who genuinely believe in Welsh Independence.

Tony Blair was PM for most of my time their, I am not a huge fan of his. David Cameron seems pretty cool, though.

My favorite British PMs, as I posted in another thread are:
Churchill
Gladstone
Baldwin


#10

Oh, I agree. Most countries are definitely more left leaning. I wanted to expand on my statement but I didn’t have much time when I posted that and wanted to get involved in the conversation :stuck_out_tongue:


#11

Haven’t seen Drummond lately - we generally got a good perspective from him.


#12

[QUOTE=Volk;593396
And an aside about the NHS: I’m for socialised medicine but some of the rules here are ridiculous. While I’m grateful that I can receive free healthcare without paying taxes, I don’t think that should be the case except for A&E. I’ve been waiting a couple weeks to see a private doctor because I need a referral from an NHS GP (ie. I need government permission) to see a private doctor and the NHS didn’t want to let me until it tried out some options. Do you know how enraging it is to be denied access to a specialist that you would pay out of your own pocket, so that some government-paid GP can take a cursory glance in an appointment capped at 10 minutes, and treat you via method of elimination?[/QUOTE]

Everyone pays VAT if nothing else, there’s no way not to contribute to the system in one way or another.

Think your experience with the private specialist is particular to the case. No expert on the interaction between the NHS and private sector but you can go private for check-ups and there’s no reason why a private GP wouldn’t be able to offer a referral themselves. So shouldn’t be necessary to visit an NHS doctor, unless there’s a particular set of circumstances.

As for Scottish independence and the SNP - certainly wouldn’t classify it as an anti-British issue, simply one of self-governance. I think it’s become an increasingly prominent issue in line with the shift of the English party political mainstream towards centre right fence sitting with Blair, Brown and Cameron. Scotland’s always been one of the most Socialist parts of the country, the Tories have never done well there and as was mentioned Nigel Farage and UKIP are pretty much universally loathed. Add on the cuts and the marginalisation of the traditional left in England and you’ve got a political culture which drives a wedge between England and Scotland and to a lesser extent England and Wales. The Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru, their Welsh counterparts, have both tried to show off their Socialist credentials to reinforce that sense of division.

UKIP are, in my eyes, a media creation more than anything. Beyond being anti-EU they’re pretty much a random mash up of any right wing ideals they can steal supporters from the Conservatives with. Subsequently there’s been a fair few cases of UKIP members and councillors coming out with everything from racist to anti-semitic to conspiracy theory related rubbish. Nigel Farage has repeatedly made excuses for that sort of thing but it shows how sorely it’s lacking any coherent base by which to filter out the extremists and nutters. They’ve done well through protest votes, especially with the Tories fighting themselves on Europe and gay marriage but I can’t see that holding up at a general election when the bulk of their poached voters will return to the mainstream Tory party to rally against Labour. Which I suspect will leave them with only the crazies.

If you look at their economic policies for example there’s a pretty incoherent selection of things they’d like to spend huge amounts of cash on with no explanation at all of how they’re going to pay for it. Like the BNP (British National Party, far far right) and EDL (English Defence League far right/random hooligan street fighting types) they’ll be the media flavour of the month for a while to distract from the cuts and add flavour to the Conservative’s break down and then they’ll be replaced with the next thing. What happens if the Tories revolt against Cameron is probably more relevant to our right than Nigel Farage’s delusions of grandeur.

@ Lord Brennus - The fear of immigrants is definitely getting worse. Compared to mainland Europe I don’t think it’s been a major problem here for a fair amount of time now. But economic cuts + the media’s fetish for fixating on increasingly extreme right wing groups (more for the sake of news narrative than because they have any support) + the collapse of the traditional Left as an outlet for unrest have all come together to make things worse. Still nothing compared to somewhere like France though.

I think guns are an American obsession which the British will never understand. Our history is too different from your own and our resistance to the state has never taken that form, plus we’ve never accepted guns as part of our wider culture. Personally I can see some logic in the defence of gun ownership in the US, although I’d say the right to protect against tyranny would make far more sense in the context of a community arsenal than in everyone packing whatever they want. Sad to hear that you wouldn’t feel comfortable not having a gun, an alien concept to me. I remember one American I knew here who was working in a shop and a guy with mental health issues came in and rambled to himself for a while. He was well known locally and completely harmless but I could see why she might be a little shaken if she wasn’t used to stuff like that, first thing she said though was that she was scared he’d have a gun. Not a thought that would ever have dawned on me given how uncommon they are here.


#13

I submit that England prepared for that very thing when it established its original Bill of Rights, including “the right of the Englishman to bear arms in his own defense.” Is it even still technically a part of British law? I haven’t heard one way or the other; certainly it isn’t enforced.

As to community arsenals, that would make it easier for the Federal government to cut a deal with crooked local politicians. Many guns under the control of few people is more dangerous when it comes to tyranny than many guns in many hands; especially when the government doesn’t know who has what (I feel that registration is both a bad idea (most crooks use stolen guns anyway) and a violation of our 2nd Amendment).


#14

The 1689 Bill of Rights? Not one I’m particularly well read on but to my knowledge it contains no American style right to bear arms. It was more about the structures of power than the right to resist them, removing Royal privaliges in favour of Parliamentarian ones. It’s more a matter of gun culture though I think, we had no frontier, no wide spread gun ownership or sense of being alone in the wilderness. British resistance has always taken the form of organised community action, from peasant mobs to Unions, the idea of one man and his one gun standing up to the state doesn’t hold much of a role in our society. Plus our police traditionally aren’t given firearms, which is rapidly changing, but it’s still alien to our culture for the most part.

And I wouldn’t for a second say community arsenals should be under Federal control so much as strictly local associations. Open to corruption still of course - if one group or another can buy influence within their community in service of an external/central power but at least it’d be on a level where individuals could resist that. Within that individual gun registration would also be a bad idea, as would individual ownership for that matter, lest one person decides that they actually quite like the forces of tyranny and are going to stop participating and take their guns home. Get the feeling my sense of communal ownership and responsibility will be at odds with most people here’s opinions though.


#15

I have found that most of the liberties and freedoms we have in America are uncommon in most parts of the world. (i.e. Guns)


#16

I’m not sure many here would count gun ownership as a liberty or a freedom here. But as I said, very different cultural perceptions.


#17

We’ve had some Brits posting here who would.


#18

The point is that the guns are still in a centralized location, which makes them vulnerable to both dirty dealing and a military strike.

As a practical matter, I would point out that community action is what the Chinese tried in 1989. It only works as long as you have some respect from or power over the government.


#19

I would say that from my perspective, UK politics is a complete mystery. I see no evidence of any real conservatives in the mold of Thatcher, and it is astonishing to me how weak freedom of speech is in the UK.


#20

They yell at each other a lot in Parliment. They’re even more uncivilized than our congressmen.