The view from across the pond!

The power of unanticipated outcomes.

I am referring to the result of the British election that was held last Thursday.

Now I am well aware that many readers will not have the same relationship with the outcomes of British elections as your faithful scribe. But I am also aware that we live in a very connected world. I am also acutely aware that for many, many years I was a devoted listener to the 15-minute weekly radio broadcast on the BBC by Alistair Cooke Letter from America.

So for me, and many others I don’t doubt, the views of America as to what goes on across the pond are just as fascinating today as they have always been.

But in the absence of dear Mr. Cooke (20 November 1908 – 30 March 2004) passing on his experienced assessment on what the outcomes of British elections mean for America then I turn to a recent item on The Conversation site and republished here within the terms of that site.

ooOOoo

How populism explains May’s stunning UK election upset: Experts react

June 9, 2017 6.04am EDT

Editor’s note: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s election gamble failed badly as her Conservatives lost 12 seats, leaving them with 318, shy of a majority. It was a stunning loss for a party earlier projected to gain dozens of seats. Without a majority, the Conservatives will have to rely on another party to govern – known as a hung Parliament. If they’re unable to forge a coalition, rival Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – whose party gained 31 seats – would be able to give it a go. We asked two experts to offer their insights on what Americans should make of the election and its results.

May had a bad night and may face a struggle over her party’s leadership

Tories’ growing populism begets a power struggle

Charles Hankla, George State University

The results of this election show how similar, and yet how different, British politics are from what is happening in America.

As in the United States, there has been an explosion of populism in Britain, most recently evidenced by the Brexit referendum. This new political force is translating into less liberal policies from the major parties.

In continental Europe, the new populism is mostly embodied by the resurgent far right. But in Britain, as in America, it is being filtered through the existing two-party system – though the U.K.‘s smaller parties do complicate the electoral map.

To accommodate the political winds, May and her Conservatives decided to shift their electoral strategy away from Margaret Thatcher’s pro-market economic approach toward a greater focus on immigration, security and economic nationalism.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, deserted the more centrist “New Labour” ideas of Tony Blair in favor of a more robust form of social democracy.

The American left, like its British counterpart, has also become increasingly skeptical of unbridled markets. But among Republicans, a traditional hostility to “big government” makes pro-worker redistributive policies, some of which the Tories have adopted to win votes, hard to stomach. For this reason, populism on the American right has mostly taken the form of protectionist and anti-immigrant policies, as embodied by Donald Trump.

Yesterday’s results were devastating for May and indicate that the Conservatives were ultimately unable to balance their new populist message with their traditional support for neo-liberal policies.

Corbyn, for his part, will use this unexpected victory (of sorts) to solidify his hold over the Labour Party and to move it further to the left.

It remains to be seen whether the election will result in a minority or a coalition government, or whether the parties will be well and truly deadlocked. Whatever happens, the British electorate, like its cousin across the pond, has shown itself to be highly polarized.

Still, at a minimum, Britain’s parliamentary structure, along with the ability of the Labour leadership to co-opt disillusioned voters, seems to have spared Britain the fate of America – the takeover of government by a populist insurgent.

Corbyn and his Labour Party had reasons to smile on election night. AP Photo/Frank Augstein

For US companies, it’s business as usual

Terrence Guay, Pennsylvania State University

So now that we know the results, what are the implications for U.S. business interests in the U.K., America’s seventh-biggest trading partner?

May took a calculated political risk and lost. While the market reaction has been severe, with the pound plunging, it’s nothing new to companies, which take calculated risks like that every day – some pay off and some do not.

So first of all, U.S. corporate executives will need to take a deep breath. Assuming a combination of other parties do not cobble together at least 322 seats – despite winning seven seats, Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein will not send MPs to London – the Conservatives will dominate a coalition government and have considerable sway over policy.

This means a “hard Brexit,” as outlined by May in January, and as seen in the European Union’s tough negotiating guidelines, is unlikely to change. But this is what most U.S. companies have been planning for anyway since last June’s Brexit vote. Many companies, particularly banks and financial institutions, are already planning to move some of their U.K. operations to other EU countries to take advantage of the single market rules.

This process will continue no matter who’s in power, since only the low-polling Liberal Democrat and Green parties promised a Brexit revote.

Second, a weakened Conservative Party will need more foreign friends, and that includes U.S. companies. Since Brexit, some foreign businesses have threatened to downsize or close their U.K. operations as leverage for obtaining government subsidies. Expect more companies to use this strategy with a weaker U.K. government.

As I argue in my recent book, the business environment of Europe is much more than the U.K. market, and U.S. companies have become increasingly aware of this since Brexit.

In other words, it’s business as usual, and that means the continued segmenting of companies’ U.K. and EU strategies, regardless of who is governing in London.

ooOOoo

Expect things to continue to be interesting for some time. Or as more eloquently put by Tariq Ramadan “Times have changed; so must the lenses through which we see the political future.”

Back to Alistair Cooke. There are many of his broadcasts available on the BBC Radio website and on YouTube.

I’m closing with just a small part of Charlie Rose interviewing Alistair Cooke in May, 1996.

Uploaded on Sep 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 7, 1996
Charlie Rose: An interview with Alistair Cooke
Alistair Cooke celebrates the 50 year anniversary of his BBC broadcast, “Letter from America”, a 15-minute talk about life in America for British listeners.

Recorded some twenty-one years ago. Somethings don’t seem to change!

16 thoughts on “The view from across the pond!

  1. I found the results (and even the calling for a snap election) rather stunning. However you feel about Brexit and its impact, this was a stunning defeat for May. She willow have to line herself with an extreme party who have as its core some despicable thoughts on governing. I think she may also have diminished her hand when formulating a strategy on terms of the exit. It’ll be fascinating to see how it bodes for the Tories. Just goes to show politics everywhere have taken a strange turn. Happy weekend.

    1. Well at least we have two responses from you!

      Yes, your reaction is how I feel, especially in terms of the Brexit negotiations. Frequently I find that articulating clear views about the next few years, let’s say the next five, beyond me. It’s not from a lack of interest, far from it, just …… you put it well …… politics everywhere have taken a strange turn.

      You, too, have a lovely weekend.

      Don’t read the weekend newspapers!!

  2. I’m not bothering to think about what might happen in the next few years. At the moment I can’t even predict what will happen tomorrow! I get up in the morning and check the news in case there’s been some kind of revolution overnight that I wasn’t included in. 😂😂😂 It’s interesting to read about it from a different perspective though, so thanks for this post!
    Tess, and Monty and Chicken the greyhounds 🐾

    1. Just read your comment and had a quick chuckle! It’s not original but I love the idea of an author outlining his next novel to his publishing agent, A fictional story about a world that reflects the times we are now living in.

      You know what the agent said in response: “Come on, Paul, don’t be absurd! It’s completely off the wall, too far-fetched, and no one would find it a credible plot!”

  3. I used to be a regular listener to the wonderful Alistair Cook too, Paul.
    Re the U.K. Election, it should be remembered that until just a month ago, the Conservatives were well ahead in the polls. Having listened to London Radio talkback station LBC (http://www.lbc.co.uk/national/radio/player/ ) most days for the last few months, my belief is that Theresa May made some big mistakes during the campaign. First there was the suspicion that May decided to hold the election, not really to confirm Brexit as she stated, but because she simply wanted to be elected as PM by a large majority in her own right.
    Re Brexit, I don’t think it had a great deal to do with the reason why the conservatives lost seats. My impression has been that many ‘remainers’ had come to accept the result of the referendum last year. (In any case, it was not as though the Labour Party campaigned on the basis of having another referendum to reverse the result.)
    Neither do I think that the recent terrorist incidents had anything to do with the result.

    However the announcement by the Tories of a proposed policy requiring that expenses for in-home and institutional elder care be recovered from the sale of the family home
    ( the so called ‘dementia tax’ ) caused great concern and had to be rescinded. Also, the ongoing concerns about the possible privatisation of parts of the NHS and other Government bodies, the cuts to disability and other welfare payments, the high costs of renting and tertiary education, the inability of younger people to get into the property market, as well as the general cost of living, were the recurring topics that I heard from talkback callers.
    Theresa May’s poor responses to questions and failure to appear at one of the television events didn’t help her. Neither did her announcement that her Government might consider re-introducing fox hunting.
    Meanwhile, I noticed from talkback callers (to this generally even handed radio station) that people were starting to respond more positively to Corbin’s picture of a more equitable society and to the promises of the Labour manifesto compared to the Tory manifesto.
    Whilst there was still some uneasiness existing about the possibility of Labour being too radical under Corbin, it’s interesting to note that some computer and social media – savvy Bernie Sanders campaigners flew in from the U S after the election was announced. They apparently helped greatly in getting the young and tertiary student vote out, which went mainly to Labour.
    We spent the day here in Tasmania, Australia, listening to the results come in, which was very interesting – although none of us are British.
    Even our last federal election here was very very close, although the conservative Government did manage to just retain its absolute majority.
    It all goes to further show the rising levels of discontent in western democracies and how polarised politics is becoming.

  4. You know Paul.. it has been such a campaign by both major parties.. Yet no one really knows what the outcomes of Brexit will be.. So I try not to worry, for what will be Will Be.. either way.. as we little people put our X’s where we felt it would do the most good. I think Mrs May upset alot of the ageing population in her indirect dementia tax, taking away winter fuel allowances for some.. And to stop the triple lock on pensions.. She really did shoot herself in the foot I feel, as I think alot of the populations swung to the opposition who promised the Earth. 🙂

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