Good morning America! James has kindly allowed me a slot on his blog to bring you discussion on the European political scene. And I think this is going to be fun...
You may be aware that us Brits like to sneer at the American political climate: With its semi-literate president, corporate democracy and environmental naval gazing ("Do you know how much Kyoto will cost?!"), America is an easy target.
We patronise you don't we!? And we forget to mention that we lap up your popular culture, borrow your nuclear bombs, and here's my own pet favourite; could learn a lot from America about immigration.
While America had it's open door policy, its melting pot, we Brits were empire building, oppressing and trying ever so hard to sustain Kipling's White Mans Burden. America, very wisely wanted no part in this absurdity. Now we're all Little Englanders: The empire is gone, we've retreated to our island and pulled up the drawbridge. We have a general election in a month and the main issue is immigration. Let me re-phrase that: We have a left of centre government following a pre-emptive war doctrine, an uncertain relationship with the European Union, a crumbling national health service, under-funded schools, an ageing population, a fatter population, and inadequate environmental policies, but the main issue is immigration.
We seriously need to grow up. America realised long ago that a culture is enriched when subject to outside influences. He may be a chimp, but even Dubbya embraces the diversity of America in his administration. The melting pot produces a tasty soup! Britishness is not under attack, it's evolving each day as it must, augmented and tweaked by Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Nigerians, Bosnians.
So far, so simple.
Now the contentious bit. Globalisation has helped keep Britain and America rich. A single global system of finance and culture is taking over the world. That system is our system, the American and British system, and we haven't given it for free; we sold it to the rest of the world. From Manchester United Football Club shirts through BBC World and CNN to Baywatch and Friends, we sell our shiny comfortable institutions to poorer countries (Evidence? The most watched TV program in Beirut during the war was... The A-Team). We sell them an idealised view of our culture, put the money in the mpv fund, then wonder why the untapped markets, I mean poorer countries want to sample the real thing for themselves. No western democracy seems to be entirely comfortable with this notion yet, but Britain seems years behind the US.
I say "Immigrants, come one, come all!" : You're welcome to sample our country, if you can stomach the hideous tabloid press, constant rain and tiny, tiny minds.
To quote West Side Story: "Smoke on your pipe and put that in!"