The Americanization of British Politics

John Profumo, now he knew how to resign and stay resigned.

The old joke was knowing when a politician was lying by watching for any mouth movement. In recent history it’s not a joke anymore, it’s the accepted truth. It would be easy to blame it on the MPs’ expense scandal, but I think it goes further back than that.

As Peter Oborne, from a right wing perspective, is fond of pointing out, there is a lack of any sort of honour among our current crop of politicians. He places a lot of the blame on Blair and he is not totally wrong to do so, but even that is not the whole picture. Certainly truth takes a back seat with the heirs to Blair, Cameron and Clegg. They will quite happily talk about being the protectors of the NHS when we know that the US health companies have been lobbying senior Tories for years and have a lot of sway on policy. A year before the election when Osborne’s conference speech on the austerity he would impose didn’t go down too well with the electorate, it was dropped from their election platform. Let’s not even bother going into Clegg’s tuition fee pledge, the excuses are just too easy to see through.

Politicians no longer resign, or stay resigned, when caught being dishonest. Their skins have got thicker because the belief system no longer ranks personal honesty that high. Now politics is under the control of focus groups, the spin doctors and the marketing gurus. We have been gifted politics American style. Just look at the Republican Party presidential candidate race to see where honour is of no importance.

When did all this start? Well if we were honest, no matter what the far right of his party says, Cameron is no Heathite. There isn’t an ounce of ‘One Nation Tory’ in him. He may be the heir of Blair but he is definitely the son of Thatcher. The same can be said of Labour. There was nothing of Wilson in any of the New Labour leadership, they were a new breed. Yes, both parties have gone over to the Americans, lock, stock and barrel.

The neo-liberalism of Keith Joseph and Enoch Powell were only the start of Thatcher’s drift towards the new economics making headway in the US. Getting Milton Friedman’s blessing showed Thatcher her path ahead. For New Labour it was lessons of Bill Clinton. The style suited Blair perfectly. Appearance was everything, substance taking a back seat.

So now we have our two main parties and our politicians caring very little for being caught lying because it’s the sound bites that matter, not the truth. Cameron can’t even tell the truth on whether he had rode an old nag. When I heard about Blair talking with Ed Miliband my first though is that he must be lobbying for Murdoch. The danger is in us accepting that this dishonesty is the norm, that there’s no need to even pretend anymore. If we do we will end with an American political system with the government bought and paid for, whether by Wall Street, Big Oil or their British equivalents, before the voting even takes place.

  • Anonymous

    Terrible argument, logically flawed. About par for your course.

    Your logic is that low political standards are American, “neo-liberalism” is American; therefore “neo-liberalism” caused low political standards. That’s it. You make no show of how “neo-liberalism” lowered political standards. You can’t show that Thatcher was dishonest. Just that she had some ideological links with Americans. Quite how sharing an economic view with certain American’s means you are dishonest is a jump unsupported by any evidence, certainly none you provide.

    The fact is (an uncomfortable one you in Labour) is that the real decline in political standards of honesty occurred from 1994 when Tony Blair became Labour leader. He told his shadow ministers to lie about unpopular policies (see Chris Mullin’s diary). Thatcher didn’t do that, Major didn’t, but Blair did.

    You are right that Blair did look to Slick Willie and that might be the demon seed in modern political discourse. Those lying lefties again for you. But to blame “neo-liberalism” is wrong. You are just using “neo-liberalism” as a blanket term for all you think is wrong the world, not understanding what it actually is. Lazy.

    So to sum up. It is all Labour’s fault, stop trying to shift the blame and take it on the chin.

    • LesAbbey

       

       Ho-ho
      DC I’m beginning to feel like
      Clint Eastwood in Play Misty For Me. Have you taken up
      stalking? Better check with your Mrs. on the problems associated with doing
      that. You know, you really should get a blog of your own to let out all that
      pent up aggression. WordPress or Blogger will give you one and they are not
      that hard to get running. Anyway just one answer to your comment as I don’t
      want to get into one of those long threads with you which takes a month
      before you admit you were wrong.

      Let me sum up my argument first. I believe the big changes in the two main
      British political parties occurred as they changed to a more American style of
      ‘doing’ politics. In a way this shouldn’t be so surprising as we have seen the
      cultural influences from across the Atlantic affecting British life since the
      end of the WWII. I suspect the changes in politics are very much tied to the
      rise of the TV’s position in media importance which was very much under the
      influence of American ideas.

      I would date the major change in the parties thus. For the Tories it was
      Thatcher’s adoption of neo-liberalism and the break from the ideas of ‘One
      Nation Tories’ like Heath, MacMillan and Eden, who were of course Churchill’s
      followers against Baldwin and Chamberlain. For Labour it was the rise of New
      Labour with the likes of Hattersley suddenly finding themselves positioned to
      left of the party leadership, something that must have been a new feeling for them.

       

      I have not argued that neo-liberalism was a cause of dishonesty
      in British politics, just that it was a sign of the break from past traditions
      where possibly personal honour was regarded higher than it is now. While
      talking about neo-liberalism, I have to correct you on Bill Clinton’s economic
      beliefs. Many pro-neo-liberals and monetarists regard the Clinton/Greenspan
      combination as the high point in neo-liberal domination of the US government economics,
      whereas the younger Bush was a big disappointment for them.

       

      Now back to the argument, I would be quite happy to blame
      everything on Blair. That was when certainly the whole Clinton political campaigning style was taken
      onboard wholeheartedly. Problem is we know things were going downhill before
      Blair. Major’s government was imploding because of sleaze. And we mustn’t
      forget that Maggie’s Bernard Ingham was the first of our modern day spin
      doctors, although the US
      had had them for a while I suspect. Still, Peter Oborne and I aren’t a million
      miles away on the damage done by Blair and New Labour.

       

      Now in answer to the accusation of my xenophobia, I do hope that
      it isn’t so. You see I have a lot of time for Americans. As a young man I
      joined an American company, in fact two of them, and spent more than twenty
      years working around the world for them. I found their lack of class
      distinction refreshing. Having come from British companies where even the
      foreman was a Mister, to be calling the CEO by his first name was a new
      experience. I have a love of Texan country music to this day. What I don’t have
      is much respect for the American political parties either at national level or
      local. There is an immaturity in their politics which I find dangerous in what
      is still the most powerful country in the world. That Romney comes across as
      the most sensible of the possible Republican candidates is not at all positive.

       

      Still as I said DC, I will not add anymore comments to your
      thread after this one. There seems something strange in your reactions and I
      really don’t want to be Clint Eastwood, although I wouldn’t mind his money.

      • Ams1970

        I thought British politics had been linked to America since the end of the second world war. The Bretton Wood agreement effectively made America the world’s bankers. However it wasn’t until the early 1970s when the neoliberals took over and took America out of the Bretton Woods agreement that their influence grew. The IMF and the World Bank became neoliberalist/colonialist tools of America; spreading the mantra of monetarism throughout the world.

        Thatcher and Reagans (amongst others) adoption of Freidman’s economics set the tone for politics for the next 30 years. In effect, sovereign governments became the rent boys of large multi-national companies; company drive policy under the threat that they will take their business elsewhere if governments are not forthcoming. This was displayed in the ‘banking crisis’ of 2008, when the banking sector effectively took over the running of the world economy.

        Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clegg are just a side show, an irrelevance. British politics is personalised soap opera to keep us all amused whereas the real decision are being made in a boardroom somewhere not very near you.

        • treborc

          America British does not really matter, the problem is our education system has turned out creeps like Blair, Ed Miliband is a puppet or muppet, and the Tories will have the next thirty years to mess up the country before labour comes back and  helps to end it.

    • LesAbbey

      (I will try and post this comment again without all the extra line-breaks that appeared in my first attempt.)

      Ho-ho DC I’m beginning to feel like Clint Eastwood in Play Misty For Me. Have you taken up stalking? Better check with your Mrs. on the problems associated with doing that. You know, you really should get a blog of your own to let out all that pent up aggression. WordPress or Blogger will give you one and they are not that hard to get running. Anyway just one answer to your comment as I don’t want to get into one of those long threads with you which takes a month before you admit you were wrong.

      Let me sum up my argument first. I believe the big changes in the two main British political parties occurred as they changed to a more American style of ‘doing’ politics. In a way this shouldn’t be so surprising as we have seen the cultural influences from across the Atlantic affecting British life since the end of the WWII. I suspect the changes in politics are very much tied to the rise of the TV’s position in media importance which was very much under the influence of American ideas.

      I would date the major change in the parties thus. For the Tories it was Thatcher’s adoption of neo-liberalism and the break from the ideas of ‘One Nation Tories’ like Heath, MacMillan and Eden, who were of course Churchill’s followers against Baldwin and Chamberlain. For Labour it was the rise of New Labour with the likes of Hattersley suddenly finding themselves positioned to left of the party leadership, something that must have been a new feeling for them.

      I have not argued that neo-liberalism was a cause of dishonesty in British politics, just that it was a sign of the break from past traditions where possibly personal honour was regarded higher than it is now. While talking about neo-liberalism, I have to correct you on Bill Clinton’s economic beliefs. Many pro-neo-liberals and monetarists regard the Clinton/Greenspan combination as the high point in neo-liberal domination of the US government economics, whereas the younger Bush was a big disappointment for them.

      Now back to the argument, I would be quite happy to blame everything on Blair. That was when certainly the whole Clinton political campaigning style was taken onboard wholeheartedly. Problem is we know things were going downhill before Blair. Major’s government was imploding because of sleaze. And we mustn’t forget that Maggie’s Bernard Ingham was the first of our modern day spin doctors, although the US had had them for a while I suspect. Still, Peter Oborne and I aren’t a million miles away on the damage done by Blair and New Labour.

      Now in answer to the accusation of my xenophobia, I do hope that it isn’t so. You see I have a lot of time for Americans. As a young man I joined an American company, in fact two of them, and spent more than twenty years working around the world for them. I found their lack of class distinction refreshing. Having come from British companies where even the foreman was a Mister, to be calling the CEO by his first name was a new experience. I have a love of Texan country music to this day. What I don’t have is much respect for the American political parties either at national level or local. There is an immaturity in their politics which I find dangerous in what is still the most powerful country in the world. That Romney comes across as the most sensible of the possible Republican candidates is not at all positive.

      Still as I said DC, I will not add anymore comments to your thread after this one. There seems something strange in your reactions and I really don’t want to be Clint Eastwood, although I wouldn’t mind his money.

      • Anonymous

         What a wilting violet you must be to consider my posts as aggressive. You should try Liberal Conspiracy or the comments of the Guardian to see real aggression.

        Poor logic and unjustified moral arrogance deserve to be called. I leave comments on LabourHome. As you are rather obsessively posting on LabourHome your posts get comments from me. I post comments on Alex’s posts and those of others who occasionally post here.

        So you can lose you delusions of grandeur. You aren’t worth stalking.

  • Anonymous

    Labour home has died a death then….

    • LesAbbey

       Only me Robert, and I can only do about  one a week on average. Hope LabourHome can get some more writers soon.

      • Anonymous

         Only works if you say something interesting, not more Murdoch and morals

        • LesAbbey

           And for that special young lady out west here’s a request.

          • Anonymous

             Ah bless, he thinks somebody is interested in him.

  • http://thepeoplesflag.blogspot.com/ Andy Williams

    very accurate summary of the state of affairs.

    Now that Leanne Wood is boss of Plaid it will be interesting to see how Labour react.  She is more than capable of and fully intends to take them on head to head in their own turf f the Welsh southern strip and the valleys.

    • LesAbbey

      Thanks Andy. It was interesting to see a ‘Welsh learner’ becoming head
      of Plaid. If I have that right it does show a jump from where they were
      at, and where they were upsetting treborc ha-ha.

      Anyway my brand new grandson is half Welsh and eventually his home will
      be up in the north, (I refer to it as the Liverpool suburbs), but I’m
      already calling him the Prince of Wales, and with the blood mixture he
      has I’m sure he will be a genius and a Welsh forward;-)