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  • Five Reasons the UK General Election Matters to the United States

    British voters go to the polls on Thursday in the tightest political race in the UK in a generation. Several opinion polls have indicated the strong possibility of a hung parliament, with a Conservative minority government led by David Cameron as prime minister. In order to guarantee passage of legislation under this scenario, the Conservatives would be forced to negotiate with other political parties, significantly weakening the government’s power. Other polls, concentrating on key marginal seats, have pointed to a small Conservative majority, which would give Cameron, if elected, a far stronger mandate to lead on his own.

    Here are five key reasons why the United States and American foreign policy may be directly affected by the outcome of this week’s election in Washington’s closest ally on the world stage.

    1. The British Economy

    Britain is facing a massive deficit crisis, which the next government will have to deal with. Unless the UK implements huge cuts in public spending, it could eventually face a Greek-style economic meltdown. The U.S. and British economies are closely interlinked through investment stock worth over $800 billion, with about a million American jobs depending on British companies and vice versa. UK direct investment accounts for a fifth of all foreign direct investment in the U.S. A hung parliament this Friday, which is a distinct possibility, would make it significantly more difficult to bring about much needed economic reform in Britain, and would have an immediately negative effect on the world’s two biggest financial markets in London and New York.

    2. The “Special Relationship”

    Under Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, the Anglo-American “special relationship” has reached its lowest point on a political level since the Suez Crisis of 1956. Rebuilding it will be a priority for a Conservative government, and David Cameron is likely to seek a strong partnership with the White House, even though President Obama has been indifferent, and at times even hostile, towards Britain. It remains to be seen of course whether the Obama administration will shift this stance, which has come under increasing fire in the British media. If Gordon Brown survives as prime minister, there is little likelihood of a recovery in the “special relationship,” with significant tensions and a distinct lack of chemistry between the PM and his U.S. counterpart. If left-wing Liberal leader Nick Clegg plays a role in the next British administration, he will press strongly for a pro-European approach, which downplays the alliance with Washington as well as the broader transatlantic alliance.

    3. The War in Afghanistan

    Britain has 10,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan, and is the largest contributor to the NATO-led mission after the United States. At present, all three main parties are against an immediate withdrawal of forces, despite strong public opposition to the war. However, a hung parliament with a minority government in place would make a firm long-term commitment to the war a far more difficult proposition for the public. In addition, if the Liberal Democrats have any role or influence in the next government, they are likely to press for a more rapid exit strategy for Afghanistan. It is also important to note that NATO is not even mentioned in the Liberal party manifesto, a clear sign of where their thinking lies on the Afghan mission.

    4. The Iranian Nuclear Crisis

    The Iranian nuclear threat is likely to be the top foreign policy issue confronting the United States and Great Britain over the next two years. The Conservatives are notably more hawkish than the other major parties on Iran, and have made it clear they will support the use of force if necessary against Iran’s nuclear facilities. David Cameron is likely to seek a prominent leadership role for Britain on the world stage on the Iranian nuclear question. In contrast, the Liberals are adamantly opposed to any military action against Tehran, and have been almost completely silent on the Iranian issue. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been relatively low key on Iran, unlike his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, and if he remains in Downing Street he is unlikely to play a leading role in addressing the Iranian threat.

    5. The War on Terror

    The British election will have important implications for the UK’s national security strategy. The Conservatives are likely to back most aspects of the U.S.-led war on terror, and of the three British parties they are by far the most committed to addressing the threat of Islamist terrorism in the UK, which has a direct impact on U.S. national security as well. David Cameron has pledged to outlaw some Islamist groups operating in Britain such as Hitzb ut-Tahrir. On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Nick Clegg is strongly opposed to the war on terror, and has accused his own country of complicity in the “torture” of terror suspects. Neither the Liberals nor Labour have made the fight against terrorism a priority issue in their manifestos, and have almost completely ignored it as a campaign issue. If the Liberals play a key role in the next government, especially on national security, there may be significant, negative implications for Britain’s intelligence services and their ability to collaborate with their American counterparts.

    Cross-posted at The Corner.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Five Reasons the UK General Election Matters to the United States

    1. Tim Az says:

      I agree the UK is fast becoming a liability that we can not afford if we are to save ourselves. America must cut ties with the UK in order to save ourselves. If America allows itself to be pulled down with EU members. Who will be left to set the example of humanities ability to achieve greatness through individual liberty? America is under no obligation to fall on the sword because of bad decisions made by other governments and their people through out the world. The world is served best by an America who demonstrates man's greatness through individual liberty not martyrdom for a cause that is not what our country was founded upon. Or we could just give up and trade our individual liberty for the chains of socialism. Where every decision is made for us and ordinary people are reduced to the status of livestock waiting for the slaughter.

    2. Tom Smith says:

      How much lower has the Special Relationship fallen since the close of the previous administration? Even David Cameron (as was pointed out by Messrs. Gardiner and Holmes in the WSJ some time ago) was pulling away from Washington thanks to our results in Iraq (results that seem to haunt UK citizens based on the polling).

      Additionally, I don't think it's terribly prudent for this administration to rely upon the supposed "hawkishness" of the Conservative party when it comes to Iran. Perhaps the author might consider the reason above for why that may not be a terribly wise idea.

    3. Jim Ward, Scotland says:

      Tim Az – what a typical, narrow-minded, ill-informed, American. Do you even have a passport? Most of your country don't, even though you have such a love of at interfering in other countries politics – even Democratically elected ones, such as Venezuela.

      Chains of Socialism? I guess you live in the Southern states. Socialism is not some kind of anti-Christ. Socialism is a moral obligation to feeling responsibility for fellow human beings – something I know that is alien to most in the US through history. It us actually a movement of good – a feeling of community, joint responsibility.

      Learn then preach!


    4. Pingback: Five Reasons the UK General Election Matters to the United States | Pitts Report

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    6. Drew Page, IL says:

      We see what is happening in Greece. They have spent themselves into poverty. They can't meet their obligations to their bond holders or to their citizens, to whom they have promised so much. When the government promises to provide all your necessities for you, why should you work? You can see on the telecasts, from those news networks willing to show it, what happens when the citizens who rely on the government for everything are confronted with having their sustenance cut-off. Anarchy and riots in the streets.

      The inability to pay its bills and support its social democracy isn't limited to Greece. Spain and Portugal are finding themselves in the same positions. Germany and the U.K. realize they are not far from being in the same predicament. In Germany, the income tax rate is at least double what it is here in the U.S. and even that's not enough taxation to pay the costs of its social programs.

      The problem is becoming too familiar even here in the USA. Several states like California are bankrupt, or close to it and can't pay their bills. Yet there seems to be no end to the cries of the liberals for more social welfare programs. In truth, there will never be enough welfare programs to satisfy the liberals. Even if we were to provide for all the necessities of life for every single person in this country, it wouldn't be enough for the liberals; they would insist that U.S. citizens provide for the necessities of life for every person on the planet. After that, well, there is always outer space.

    7. Tim AZ says:

      Dear Jim if socialism is so great why has it failed every time it has been tried. We will be looking forward to hearing from you during the next potato famine brought to you by your socialist utopia that is sprinting towards bankruptcy as we correspond.If only you could have learned something from the Ireland experience. I'm sure this will instill a feeling of community and a movement of good. All because you wanted someone else to be responsible for yourself. If you had grown up and accepted personal responsibility for your own life and achieved a small amount of prosperity how many of your fellow men could you have possibly saved along the way besides yourself? You see when you place your life in the hands of an almighty government and that government perishes you must perish with it because you didn't have to do anything for yourself. And now you must learn to provide for yourself before you starve to death. Lessons learned they don't come cheap.

    8. Jason Greenwood, ID says:

      I believe that the UK and US must keep our relationship close,This Obama won’t be in office forever. (THANK GOD) Our future in the world is dependent on a strong relationship as we are ordained by God to uphold the moral values from Bibical principals. (of which we have failed in past years).
      When we return to Gods principals as nations, we WILL prosper. If the US and UK will return to the conservative values that made our counties great we will win. In fact I have it on good authority as I read the last page in the BOOK and we win and they lose. As far as these other nations they always turn to US and UK for help.

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