30 October 2008

What does Britain want from a US President?

-- Originally written: 18th October

The US Presidential election is always big news here in the UK. We take a vested interest in US politics. Mainly because what happens in America ultimately shapes what happens in Europe. The events of the last few weeks, where the global economies have collapsed, all started in the US and the reverberations were felt across the globe. Not only that but because the USA is the leader of the Western World. Like it or not, but that is true. The USA leads NATO; they lead the democracies of the West. This has been the case ever since the Second World War.

It is not only the USA’s economy that has a great effect over the UK but also the military. In the past ten years, Britain has assumed the role of the key ally to America in the face of global terrorism and the fateful venture into Iraq. We have followed the US into Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is possible that any future military activity against Iran would involve Her Majesty’s Forces as well.

It is only right therefore that the people of Great Britain should look intently across the Atlantic to see whom the next President shall be. So what do we, as a nation, want from the next President of the United States? It is often the case that as a whole, we generally side with one candidate over the other. And if I am honest, it is usually the Democratic candidate that gets the nod from the British public. Clinton or Dole? Clinton was favourable. Gore or Bush? We went for Gore. Kerry or Bush? Again, we looked to the Democrat. This year is different though. The British public do not just side with Barack Obama, they are infatuated with the Illinois Senator. Obama’s summer tour to Europe not only highlighted in popularity with the Germans and the French, but also here in the UK as well. 52% of the UK said they preferred Obama, with only 15% saying they would like to see John McCain in the White House. This is a staggering show of support for Obama.

So what is it about Obama that appeals to the British public? And what is it about Democrats that we endear ourselves to? As a society the British people have always voted in the Conservatives and then they will always give the Labour Party a try as well. So why do we not see British voters feeling more sympathetic towards John McCain this time around? It seems to me that as a nation, for all our faults we do remain a much more liberal society than America. I think that goes for the whole of Europe as well. Therefore we back the Democratic candidate because he is seen as the most liberal and socially conscious, which is always a winner for European voters. However, there is really very little to choose between Democrats and Republicans, as there is say between Labour and Conservatives, or SDP and Christian Democrats in Germany, for example. But Barack Obama still gets the nod over McCain by UK citizens.

After eight years of George W Bush and Dick Cheney policies, the 2008 election is high on the agenda for a lot of British people. That is why Barack Obama has surged ahead in the polls here, because he does represent great change for the chaos of the Bush administration. He also offers stability, and I think that is what we like most about him. It is not that John McCain is as bad as Bush, far from it. It would be wrong to suggest so, but he does not represent sufficient change for the British people. He reminds us too much of the old order. He sings about bombing Iran, he threatens to expel Russia form the G8 instead of engaging Medvedev and Putin. He wants American forces to stay 9in Iraq for one hundred years. And he is not willing to engage the Palestinians, as he proved on his tour of the Middle East. This smacks of Bush foreign policy, which to be frank, has been disastrous.

Obama’s core message in this election has been change. I am of the opinion that this is what the British people want the most from the next US President. That is why Obama is so popular in the UK and across Europe. However, Barack Obama will learn that if he becomes President of the United States his stock here in the UK could fall as quickly as it has risen over the past year. His foreign policy decisions are what will make or break him in the eyes of the British public.

By Stewart Munn

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