By David Blunkett, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David Blunkett is a British Member of Parliament and former Secretary of State for Home Affairs in the cabinet of Tony Blair. The views expressed are his own.
Like the United States, Britain is, in the words of 17th century English author Jonathan Swift, a “mongrel nation” made up of people drawn from across the globe. Our country is enriched, sometimes infuriated, but always renewed by the flow of those seeking a better life, fleeing persecution or just curious about this island off the coast of Europe that punches above its weight internationally.
And yet, just as in America, immigration is a controversial issue. The British are, on the whole, a suspicious people – warmhearted at an individual level, but worried about change and frequently wedded to the idea that things were better when we did it the old-fashioned way.
To an extent, this is understandable in a country that so values tradition. We have a limited land mass, and the economy and population are skewed toward one region – the southeast. Britain is therefore bound to be more suspicious of incomers than a vast nation literally built by “incomers.”
By Nicholas Walton, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Nicholas Walton is the communications director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.
The first notable dissenting voice came from a familiar figure, that sensible German woman with her reasonable manner and head full of common sense. “Let’s talk,” said Angela Merkel, in response to her British counterpart David Cameron’s speech on Europe, in which he pledged a referendum in the next parliament on whether Britain should leave the European Union.
The wider European response to Britain’s perceived wrecking tactics had ranged from scorn to anger; Merkel spoke instead of reaching a “fair compromise” with the perfidious Brits. Although this left plenty of future room for Merkel to be able to twist British arms towards her own Europhile viewpoint, it also spoke to a wider concern about the direction the European project might be taking: while some worry that the Brits are turning away from Europe, others worry that Europe is turning away from the world.
By Lord Chris Smith, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Chris Smith is a member of Britain’s House of Lords and a former Secretary of State for Culture and Media in the Tony Blair government. This is the second in a new series looking at how the world sees the U.S. election, and what the Obama presidency has meant for ties with other countries. The views expressed are the author's own.
When Barack Obama was running for office four years ago, and then being triumphantly elected that November, the overwhelming view in Britain was that he was exciting, intelligent, inspirational, and offered the chance to move away decisively from the dark shadow that George W. Bush had cast over virtually the whole of the rest of the world. Polls taken here regularly showed between 70 percent and 80 percent favorability for Obama, a view shared right across the political spectrum.
The Bush effect should not be underestimated. We had all watched with fascinated horror as the Florida ballots were counted and re-counted back in 2000. We had been shocked and moved by 9/11, and had wanted to stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends. But we had been appalled by the decision to go to war in Iraq, and the mishandling of everything that followed. We were already puzzled by the close affection apparently demonstrated by our own prime minister, Tony Blair, towards Bush; but when he plunged into Iraq alongside him Blair’s popularity and support in Britain took a nose-dive – and has never really recovered. Obama offered something very new and different, and we loved what we saw.
By Fareed Zakaria
As Americans watch the London Olympics, commentators filling airtime have speculated on the decline of the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. Mitt Romney took a few swipes at Barack Obama for being responsible for this decline when he was in London two weeks ago. Actually, the bonds between the United States and United Kingdom remain very strong. Why?
Well, first – whether or not Romney actually said it – he simple fact is that Britain’s heritage is a crucial component of the United States. The country was founded by Englishmen seeking liberty along English lines. The institutions are so similar, the cultures are so similar, the values system is so similar that in a sense there’s an almost symbiotic relationship at the structural level.
George Clooney was arrested this morning for protesting about the situation in South Sudan. I interviewed him earlier this week. My interview will air in full this Sunday at 10a and 1p Eastern on CNN, but here's an excerpt from Clooney on why the crisis in Sudan affects your wallet:
"China has a $20 billion oil infrastructure in the Sudan. They get 6% of their oil imported from the Sudan. And the South Sudan has the oil and North Sudan has the refineries, and North Sudan was taking that money from the oil and not giving it back and buying weapons to hurt the South. So about six weeks ago, the South said, 'OK, we're done.' And they shut off the oil.
So China suddenly is getting no return on their money. That gives us a unique position, as opposed to looking to them as humanitarians or to do the right thing, we can meet with China - not we, but a high-level government official - could meet with China and say 'Let's work on this together, because we both, economically, would benefit by a resolution, a cross-border resolution.'"
"Right now, our gas prices go up as the president said in his press conference because when the Chinese aren't getting their 6% from the Sudan, they're getting it from somewhere else and that raises the price for all of us. So it's something that's mutually beneficial."
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron affirmed their countries' joint commitments to NATO operations in Afghanistan during Cameron's state visit to Washington D.C. The allies vowed to withdraw combat troops by 2014 (NYT), in line with their current strategy, despite a wave of recent violence in Afghanistan. Cameron and Obama also pledged to work toward a diplomatic solution over Iran's controversial nuclear program, while pushing for a leadership transition in Syria to halt the year-long crackdown against opposition forces. FULL POST
Editor's note: Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for The Daily Telegraph. He is the author of the new book"The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan."
As a Brit living in America, I remember the Blair/Bush "special relationship" of the early 2000s with great fondness. It seemed that our two countries might remake the world. With Britain providing the vision and America the military muscle, a liberal axis would flex its way through the War on Terror. The U.K. hadn't had such a sense of purpose since the Second World War.
This week, Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in the United States with the express ambition of reviving what he and President Barack Obama now call "an essential relationship." So far the meeting has been cordial. Aside from agreeing to the need to draw down Western forces in Afghanistan, Cameron did his best to look interested in a basketball game in Ohio. He admitted afterward that he didn't have a clue what was going on and promised to explain cricket to Obama. Actually, cricket is very simple: Whoever doesn't fall asleep wins.
Nonetheless, there is an air of anxiety about the visit. While Britain is still broadly committed to the neoconservative vision of George Bush and Tony Blair, Obama is not. The tensions between the two countries have been exacerbated by a British suspicion that Obama simply doesn't like us, that his coolness betrays a mild contempt for us and our utopian visions. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following article comes from Worldcrunch, an innovative global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. This article was originally published in Die Welt.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent veto of changes to the E.U. treaty has generated some seriously bad blood among E.U. politicans, one of whom – former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt – has gone so far as to boycott the English language.
Rather than address the Strasbourg-based European Parliament in English, as he normally would have done, Verhofstadt chose instead Tuesday to stick with his native Flemish. “Today, I shall be speaking my mother tongue. English is out of style,” said Verhofstadt, who heads the Parliament’s Liberal faction.
On GPS this week, a truly global show: Guests on Israel and Iran, the Arab Spring, the Euro Zone crisis, and Fareed's take on China.
First, Fareed asks Israeli Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak whether Israel is planning a pre-emptive strike on Iran. Then, a political scientist who uses game theory to predict when a dictator will fall: A conversation with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita.
And finally, Fareed’s visit to London: He has a special panel discussion with three British thinkers: Former Foreign Minister David Miliband, the Financial Time's Chief Economics Commentator Martin Wolf, and the Editor of Prospect Magazine Bronwen Maddox. FULL POST
By Andrés Velasco, Project Syndicate
Visit London nowadays and you will notice something strange going on: the worse the British economy tanks, the more fervently Prime Minister David Cameron’s ministers and Tory economists insist that draconian spending cuts are good for economic growth.
Some observers see this as an act of faith (presumably in the virtues of the unfettered market). Others, such as the economist Paul Krugman, see it as an act of bad faith: the Tories just want smaller government, regardless of the consequences for growth.
The question remains whether there is a non-faith-based argument for cutting back spending to stimulate an economy. The answer is yes. In fact, there are two. Academic research has shown them at work in the past – for example, in Ireland and Denmark during the 1980’s. Unfortunately for the Tories, neither case for stimulative spending cuts fits Britain’s predicament today. FULL POST
It has been dubbed the war on waste – London'stalking trash cans designed to discourage street litter. They sing opera or Abba, say hello, and sometimes even burp. Twenty-five of the specially designed trash cans will be dotted around central London and five in Liverpool from October, Sky News reports. Keep Britain Tidy is running the campaign along with arts organization Sing London, it reports.
Sing London's director, Colette Hiller, told Sky News: 'Its ambition is to actually make people care about the place where they live and we want to do that by using fun as a way to bring the best out in people.' Interactive bins have already had success in parts of Europe. In Sweden a talking bin collected three times more rubbish than a normal one nearby. FULL POST