Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Americanization of Labour

The political exchange across the Atlantic continues. (See previous comparisons of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.)

Why Ed Miliband’s lot are so besotted with Uncle Sam
WHEN opposition leaders visit the American president, folk back in Westminster pay close attention…

This is curious. Pro-Americanism used to be the badge of the Labour right, and as leader Mr Miliband has moved his party to the left…

Mr Miliband… prefers to read RealClearPolitics, a Chicago-based website, rather than British newspapers and fires off e-mails to aides containing American speeches and articles…

This enthusiasm runs through Mr Miliband’s party… Party members quote mantras from Mr Obama’s presidential runs. When Labour hired the consulting services of David Axelrod, the chief strategist on those campaigns, one party blog described him as a “deity”.

Obama (l) and Miliband (r)
So dazzled is Labour that it has outsourced much of its planning for next year’s general election to America. Mr Axelrod is based in Chicago. Matthew McGregor, another veteran of the Obama campaigns who is running Labour’s digital operation, lives in Brooklyn. Arnie Graf, its grassroots guru, is in Baltimore.

Party officials and shadow cabinet ministers regularly shuttle across the Atlantic to visit their hires and heroes. Favourite ports of call are the Centre for American Progress in Washington and Harvard University…

That Labour is so besotted with America is partly a quirk of personal history. Almost all of the party’s top figures have close transatlantic links. Six members of its front bench have lived there for a year or more (the equivalent figure for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government is two)…

More than in the past, then, Labour looks to America not just for campaign ideas but for policies. The party’s anti-austerity stance was largely conceived by Ed Balls, now its shadow chancellor, while visiting friends on the east coast in 2010…

The flow of ideas and inspiration is, however, mostly one-way: British politics does not inspire the feverish excitement in the United States that Washington’s razzamatazz does in London…

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