A Political Hot Potato
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th April, 2007
As a change from the now commonplace (though often delightful) Pizza and Politics, Hackney LibDems hosted a ‘Political Hot Potato’ this evening, at which I led a lively discussion on the topic “America: Friend or Foe?”. For a long time now, the British have had a love-hate relationship with the United States, which is not surprising, considering the history. (Incidentally, I’d love to be a fly on the wall of the bedroom of the Queen as she tours the Land of the Free.) Oscar Wilde famously said that the British and the Americans are two people divided by a common language, but it is true that we are completely different in character and in our attitudes. Think championing the right to gun ownership, saluting the flag, and believing that your country knows better than anyone else in the world, and you’ll see what I mean. The thing is, we can criticise the US from experience. We’ve been there, done that, worn the imperialist T-shirt — a century or so ago. We were too big for our boots and subsequently got some nasty shocks, but I believe we are a better nation for it. So we can see what the USA has coming. And I have no doubt (as several people at the Hot Potato themselves averred) that America is starting on an inevitable slide down in global terms, economically and politically. One just hopes that George W Bush doesn’t decide to bomb Iran as his (and his country’s) swansong.
One problem is that talk of this kind quickly leads to one’s being branded ‘anti-American’ — and that is not a stance that I espouse. What we have to recognise, nonetheless, is that there is no special relationship between the US and Britain (in fact, the Americans never believed there was; they don’t have permanent allies, they have interests). However, Tony Blair’s slavish following of Washington’s lead (re Iraq, last summer’s battering of Lebanon, etc) has done colossal damage to Britain’s standing in the world, by no means only among Arabs. We need to redefine our relationship with America, not as a foe, certainly, but as a critical friend. We need to fortify our links with the other members of the European Union, strengthening the EU in the process, making it a powerful force for good on the international stage. New Labour isn’t going to do that, even with wee Gordie at the helm. Nor will the Cameroons, despite young David’s recent statements about redefining the trans-Atlantic Alliance. Only the Liberal Democrats can stand up honestly and give this country the correctly-oriented and openly stated moral and multilatalist foreign policy that this country needs. Over to you, Messrs Campbell and Moore.