Category Archives: diamond jubilee

Our Special Relationship

Prime Minister on US TV

Now now. I’m not here to talk about why my public school education has left me ill equipped to answer questions about British culture. That’s for my researchers. (Photo taken from BBC News site)

For the life of me, I cannot see what David Cameron was thinking. Stiff as a waterboard, there he went, onto Letterman to face an audience of my compatriots, supposedly to “bang the drum of British business”. Did he not think that BP had done enough damage? He was very worthy and neither likeable nor wholeheartedly dislikeable, just affirming to America that, like the perception of British food, this country’s people are as insipid and as humourless as salty Scottish gruel. So worthy and so bland.

Somewhat bizarrely, much like his first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons — not as Prime Minister but in opposition facing off against Tony in his last days — he seemed to come off very left of centre, which may suggest he knows how to play a Letterman audience after all. Facts of existence in the UK like the absence of gun usage and the thought of carrying a gun being incomprehensible drew cheers from the live audience, as did the fact that political parties are not allowed to advertise on British TV. Period.

But the point of the exercise still baffles me. Letterman controlled the banter and all the best lines were his, as they should be, so the only motivation one can possible detect is that this appearance is the latest in the bizarre oneupmanship contest between Cameron and the more affably charismatic Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who also appeared on Letterman in June, and who, unlike Cameron, took an equal share of the best lines and drew a much better reaction from the audience with all his bumbling and foppish Freudian slips (Letterman: Would you ban giant sodas [as Bloomberg has done]? Johnson: I I I… We’re not that… We’re not that… Whilst I am certainly bigger than Mike [Bloomberg], as a city, we’re not that… … fat. YET. [hearty and appreciative, self-deprecating guffaws from the audience]).

Much as it kills me to admit it, Boris is one conservative that I don’t wholeheartedly disagree with on all policies. He opposes a third runway at Heathrow, is pro-public transport, pro-cyclist, and stood up to Romney over the summer when Mitt paraded his blustering ignorance in the field of statesmanship doubting out loud that the capital could handle the Olympics. He’s very far from perfect, but his interview is well worth watching and quite entertaining.

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Diamond Jubilee Weekend: Republican Three Ways

We’re just coming to the tail end of the long weekend commemorating HM the Q’s diamond anniversary as head of state for The UK and it feels timely and appropriate to mention my friend texting me on Sunday to say, ‘Watching the royal flotilla on TV. Really makes me feel proud to be British.’ You cannot really do indignant in a text message and I suppose with some people’s upbringings, you can’t help the particularly unsavoury shape your patriotism takes, but it was difficult to imagine feeling some sense of pride welling up in your chest for a symbolic gesture of what has brought millions of pesky subalterns, colonials and orientals to heel as an empire on which the sun sets is acquired. One does not feel amused. 
Of course, in America, we tend to hold ourselves sceptically, righteously and disdainfully above unquestioning royalism and the notion of the monarchy in general, for a number of reasons, including among them that it seems a tad unjust to siphon off tax money into supporting an anachronistic institution leading a charmed existence within which individuals have had to do nothing of any merit in order to earn the privilege that is bestowed upon them every day of their lives. Poke or prod a bit into recent American political history, say around 1 May, 2003, the presidential election of 2000, The Watergate scandal etc… and you start to scrape away very quickly at the crumbling integrity of the moral high ground on which we Yanks like to stand. 
Neither here nor there. What I found funny was that my naval proud friend was the exception amongst our set this weekend. Probably because of the nature of my own political leanings or the general tendency of expatriates, perhaps because of the inevitable direction in which the zietgeisty wind is blowing, most of the friends I spoke to were keen to assert their antipathy for the royal family as an institution. Of course, the British say it much more concisely, but not more simply. If they are anti-royalist, which many are at pains to point out, they say, ‘Oh well, I’m republican.’ This claim still induces a double-take because the British can’t be simple. They can’t be like Cromwell’s Puritans during the English Civil War and call themselves Parliamentarians. And I do get it. They support the abolition of a costly and useless sham of a national tradition in favour of a completely representative 
democracy. But why use one of the most confusingly connotative words in history? 
When I think of Republican, I think of people who are likely to subscribe to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the economic theory of Frederik Hayek and the rock-solid belief that if you are unemployed and living on food stamps then you are simply as lazy as sin; and you are likely to misquote Patrick Henry.
Then again, when Gerry Adams thinks of a Republican, he thinks of a freedom fighter who would like an ideal Irish-speaking paradise in which the Irish live in a Catholic Socialist society. But generally, there are quite a few who wouldn’t assert themselves as Republican in many parts of Ireland any more, which is in stark contrast to many Irish Americans, who swear loyalty to the IRA, without a thought to what it might mean or who it might offend.

Don’t even get me started on what the term Republican might mean to an ancient Roman or a Frenchman circa 1789.

So, I support my liberal British friends in their Republicanism, but wouldn’t be easier and less confusing to declare anarchy in the UK? 

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