With the first Presidential TV debate over and a few weeks to go before polling day, what will the US election mean for people living in the UK and how do Brits view their cousins across the Atlantic? Interviews by Neil Hudson and Rod McPhee.
‘The economy is the biggest cause for concern’
DR Dan O’Neill lectures in ecological economics at the University of Leeds and is a member of CASSE, the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, which campaigns for changes to the present capitalist economic model.
He is also co-author (with Rob Dietz) of Enough is Enough, due out in January.
He said: “Typically, whatever happens in the US has an impact globally, so whoever is elected, it is likely to affect something but what that will be we don’t know yet.
“Certainly, in the past Democrat presidents have been more willing to engage with the rest of the world, whereas Republicans are more of the mindset ‘America will do what America wants to do’. A good example of that was George Bush, who, before he was elected president, had not been out of the country.
“In terms of the economic impact, I think Obama is more open to the kind of things we are pushing for but my feeling is at the moment most politicians are unaware of the arguments we are making, which basically try to include the environment as a sub-system of the economy, instead of ignoring it altogether, which is what happens at the moment. I know someone from CASSE met with one of Obama’s economic advisers a couple of years ago and they were pretty much unaware of the idea of a steady state economy, which is one which exists without the need for growth and thereby boom and bust.”
‘What happens in US affects the world’
Shannon Oxley, 34, is an American-born graduate now living in Morley, Leeds.
She has lived in the UK for the last five years.
She said: “I think whatever happens in America certainly has an effect on people over here.
“People are concerned about things like being dragged into another war and the economy is also a big talking point.
“I think the West is war-weary at the moment. Obama is going down the road of pulling troops out of foreign countries and certainly that’s the stance here in the UK too. I think people are concerned that if Mitt Romney gets in, then possibly things that may need sorting out in the world can be done so without the need to go to war.
“Certainly, if he gets in he has indicated he will spend more money on the military, so that’s something Britain might be concerned about.
“I think the people who vote for him may be doing so because of the current economic situation rather than anything else. He has been quite gaffe-prone but I think he did well in the televised TV debates.
“It’s difficult to say just how it will affect people but one thing is for sure, whatever happens in America usually affects the rest of the world.”
‘What’s important is how the debates are made’
Bernard Ingham is the former chief press secretary under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and a Yorkshire Post columnist.
“I abhor these televised election confrontations. They are artificial, concerned entirely with perception, not practical policy. I see no reason why anyone should subject himself to them, especially given our interrogatory Parliamentary system unlike Obama’s executive presidency that keeps him away from Capitol Hill for 364 days a year.
“It is not the function of Government to provide entertainment for the television class, run by the television class with its television class objective of screening an hour of blood sport to satisfy its lusts. It is now a serious question whether, in the ever more complex world confronting Obama and Romney, politics everywhere is suffering from over-exposure, dumbing down, trivialisation, gross over-expectations and the inevitable failure of politicians themselves to rise to the occasion. The time has come to call a halt and try against the odds to inject serious purpose backed up by serious explanation into the political process.”
‘US elections could herald foreign policy changes’
Dr Christine Harlen, lecturer in US politics and international political economy at the University of Leeds, has lived in the UK for the last 15 years.
She said: “It should interest people here because it could end up changing things like foreign policy in that Romney has a very similar position to Bush – he wrote a book called No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.
“How much of a statesman he is remains questionable as he’s made a number of gaffes, including when he visited Britain and appeared to criticise the preparations for the Olympics.
“It’s not fair to say he is just another Bush because he’s much more hard-working with a business background.
“Another thing which US elections have an effect on is the World Trade Organisation, which essentially shuts down during the elections to avoid being dragged into them.
“The election is surprisingly close considering Obama has an unemployment rate of about eight per cent, which is very high, but Romney is seen as very business-like and since the collapse of Enron, Americans have had a distrust of that.”
‘It’s not US we should watch, it’s China’
Dr Ron Wiener, a former lecturer in psychology at the University of Leeds who now teaches across the world, said: “The obvious answer is we in this country continually look to the US and copy their example. The whole direction in which the health service is headed is based on the US model of private ownership, the privatisation of prisons is the same.
“The US economy has been one of the big drivers of the world economy but at the moment it’s just bumping along the bottom. Culturally, we’re more like the US than Europe. We are very provincial in this country, evidenced by the fact most of us only speak English. How many films or TV shows you have seen recently did not come from Hollywood?
“Having said that, while our eyes are on America, there are also elections taking place in China and one could argue that while the rest of the world’s economy is growing at less than one per cent, theirs is growing at about eight per cent, so what happens there is arguably more important.
“We have always looked to the US and we still do, much more than we look to Europe, which some people are trying to get us out of.”