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Foreign Affairs

The Americanization of British Politics

The most striking feature of Britain's up-coming election has not necessarily been any substantive issue, but rather the adoption of "American-style TV debates." While perfectly comfortable haranguing and harassing one another in the cozy quarters of Parliament, it is quite another thing to clean-up and present one's self between the evening news and re-runs of Monty Python skits.

Yet U.S. influence is not restricted to procedure. May 6 seems likely to usher in a (somewhat) new age in British politics, as David Cameron's Tories are set to oust the ruling Labor government. Ross Douthat's NYTimes op-ed argues "Cameron is campaigning on a vision of government that owes a great deal to the American conservative tradition," noting promises of decentralization and limited government. (NRO's Deroy Murdock dissents.)

Should Cameron prove successful, a ripple effect could lead to a center-right revival across Europe. To our discredit, however, Douthat observes that "the American experience is not encouraging. From Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, almost every modern Republican president has pledged to decentralize government and empower local communities. But their successes have tended to be partial, and their failures glaring."

The world continues to look toward America for inspiration and ideas. It's a shame that U.S. conservativism, like Chesterton's famous lament of the Christian ideal, "has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

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