The Americanisation of British Politics
The Americanisation of British culture, music, food and everything else has long been present and ever more far reaching not only in Britain, but also parts of central Europe and the Middle East in particular. It is only until recently that we are starting to see real change in our politics and in the way our elections are constructed and conducted. For example increased social media participation, televised election debates where image appears to be of late, a defining factor in ones opinion of who should head the government and of course, eloquent question dodging that appears to be a natural talent for politicians these days. We are also seeing change in the way politicians are branding themselves and also in how elections are won. Since Tony Blair’s election win, when he first employed American campaign specialists, we have seen an ever increasing move towards an American style of election campaign. Ask yourself this question, if Obama did not have access to the social and other media outlets would he have won in 2012? Remove his image and message of hope that many Americans “compared…..to the 1960 campaign of America’s beloved slain president, John F. Kennedy” (Okoli, 2014) and it becomes clear that they played the defining role in who won the election instead of differences in policy. The astronomical amount of funding spent for online adverts and social media also was a major factor, which far surpasses anything we have seen in Britain to date. As a Huffington post writer explains “Obama’s victories were just as much attributable to the candidate himself and the way he connected with voters.” (Okoli, 2014)
The Americanisation of British politics can also be identified, as mentioned earlier, with the introduction of American campaign managers and advisers. The “Conservatives have hired Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, to advise them ahead of the 2015 general election.” (Post, 2013) Introducing American social media strategies and slick media productions. Moreover, Obama’s latest victory was achieved with a price tag of just “$2 billion ….including congressional races, topped $7 billion” (JF, 2014) is this model we really want to, or can afford to replicate?
Another trend being introduced is mayoral primaries, where “Londoners will be able to vote in American presidential-style primaries to choose Labour’s next candidate for mayor” (News, 2013) and most noticeable, our televised debates, which are considered the bread and butter of American politics. One member of the public explains to a BBC reporter on the topic of the televised debates, to “stop trying to convince us of anything other than your genuine integrity and selfless wish to bring this country up off its knees. The hiring of these presentation experts to gain one over the opponents reeks of more spin to come.” (Wheeler, 2010) He’s right, we are following the lead of the American machine when our own system of government is completely different.
The Celebrity and media that puts figures like David Cameron and Ed Miliband under the spotlight and ultimately leads to the blame game has of recently been a factor in why so many are turned off by politics and can be attributed to low voter turnout. If you’re a fan of question time or have even seen five minutes of it, you’ll know personal attacks and petty comments are the foundation for the programme 90% of the time. It’s the move towards the individual being the centre of attraction rather than their party. Do we want to see presidential candidates or a cabinet government? When MP’s are more interested with popular culture and the latest trends in attempts to boost their ratings, what chance is there for the country? One last example that sums up this change towards the American way is with Gordon Brown. “Who found time to appear on television to discuss the progress of X Factor, but was unavailable for comment in the days that followed the release of the Lockerbie bomber?” (Rifkind)
(2014, Feburary 9th ). Why American elections cost so much. Retrieved April 3rd, 2015, from The Economist : http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/02/economist-explains-4
News, I. (2013, July 8th). Mayoral selection change. Retrieved April 3rd, 2015, from ITV News: http://www.itv.com/news/london/story/2013-07-08/london-candidate-selection-probe/
Okoli, I. E. (2014, September 27). The Americanisation of British Politics. Retrieved from Huffingtonpost : http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ijeoma-e-okoli/british-politics_b_5628079.html?
Post, H. (2013, February 8th). Jim Messina, Obama Campaign Manager, Hired By David Cameron For 2015. Retrieved April 3rd , 2015, from Huffington Post : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/02/jim-messina-david-cameron_n_3698141.html
Rifkind, S. M. (n.d.). Does the media focus too much on personality? Retrieved April 05th , 2015, from Total Politics : http://www.totalpolitics.com/print/148387/does-the-media-focus-too-much-on-personality.thtml
Wheeler, B. (2010, April 14th). How are the leaders preparing for the election debates? Retrieved April 3rd, 2015, from BBC News : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8561683.stm