Ted Yarbrough is studying law, and blogs as Texan Tory. He has written a thesis on Thatcherism’s effect on British culture.
America and Great Britain share a special relationship. We speak the same language, have a similar system of laws, have similar (quasi-)capitalist economic system and even often share a system of weights and measurements. As America is a former colony of the United Kingdom, we owe much to Great Britain.
Nevertheless, some things we don’t get about each other. Generally, Americans don’t understand Britons’ reverence for monarchy, and Britons don’t understand Americans’ fascination with guns. Politically, our countries do some things right, and some wrong. I follow both countries’ politics closely and I thought I would offer some constructive criticism in order to help conservatives, on both sides of the pond.
What American Republicans can learn from British Conservatives
The Republican Party is leaderless – and it shows. Their message is jumbled. The Conservatives, in contrast, are a party with plans for the country and, publicly at least, support their leaders. I suggest the Republicans follow the Conservatives in three ways.
Many Republicans are very angry but have few solutions. Rage has allowed for demagogues to infiltrate the party. Ted Cruz, one of my Senators, is becoming the face of right wing demagoguery in Washington. He does almost nothing for Texas and suggests very few reforming ideas other than politically tested buzz phrases: “repeal Obamacare” (health-care); “promote freedom around the world” (foreign policy); “defend the constitution” (domestic policy) etc.
Unfortunately he is not alone. Others include Sarah Palin, who has made a fortune on books, reality shows and now her very own TV network, and Rush Limbaugh, a man I used to enjoy listening to, but who now peddles rage, children’s books and a tea business marketed to Tea Partiers. If Republicans follow the likes of Cruz, Palin and Limbaugh, they will become a party like UKIP – filled with rage but few policy ideas.
The Conservatives, in contrast, are implementing ideas to improve the United Kingdom. I loved George Osborne’s latest budget, especially giving pensioners control of much of their own money. Because they have capped welfare, cut corporate and income tax, and reduced spending, Britain is the fastest growing G7 economy, has record employment (which for the first time in 35 years is rising faster than the US) and is on course for a balanced budget by 2018. This happened because the Conservatives are a party of ideas. Instead assuming office and merely complaining or being complacent about what Labour did to the country, they were pro-active. Republicans should follow their lead.
Republicans have many potential leaders. Unfortunately, the party is very fractionalised. There are many in the party full of big ideas who could revitalise it, such as Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and even Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. However, unlike Conservatives who have set roles in the party to enforce discipline, the Republicans are plagued by infighting from policy to personality. Yes, the Conservatives back stab and jostle for power like in House of Cards (such as Michael Gove’s unwelcome comments about Etonians and their influence in government) but at least their roles are set. Republicans should establish more concrete positions in party leadership.
Lastly, Republicans should learn from British politics and adopt a party manifesto. This would solidify a Republican platform and turn it from the party of “No” to the party of “Solutions”. If there are no solutions there is no point in being in the conversation. America cannot afford to have the Republican Party sidelined when the Democrats are doing a poor job governing.
What the Conservatives could learn from the United States
Meaningful reform in the United Kingdom is hindered by a mindset of reliance on the central government. There are three ways in which Britain could reverse that, looking especially to the United States’ values of localism and self-reliance.
Often, when I listen to British radio or watch British parliament, for many people, for every problem, there is an assumption national government can fix the problem. There is a strong socialist “cradle to grave” mentality among many Britons, despite socialism having been discredited.
Conservatives should preach self-reliance, like Thatcher did, to move the culture in the right direction, and towards supporting the Conservative Party. Interestingly, polls show that individual freedom is valued by the young. However, reducing reliance on central government is difficult unless stronger local government is implemented.
Obviously, not every decision can be made locally. In an earlier blogpost, I proposed a “four corners” idea paid through a simpler tax system. I’m not opposed to Westminster helping councils when they are financially strapped either, for example the government spending £200 million toward fixing potholes was necessary help for councils. But so much should be handled locally that isn’t currently. Education, police, and the majority of costs for upkeep of infrastructure, should be mainly handled and funded locally. Why? Because towns, cities and counties are more familiar with their own needs than Westminster government. They can also solve their own issues quicker.
In America, until perhaps recently, most decisions were made by states and localities. The states are considered “laboratories of democracy” because they test and see what policies work and which don’t. Comparing states’ policies has saved American people considerable grief because many bad policies were “weeded out” at the state level. (Unfortunately not enough of them were though). Conservatives should advocate greater local powers and allow for a similar “laboratory of ideas” in the United Kingdom.
David Cameron should bring back the Big Society idea. The Big Society would work in the UK; there should be a greater emphasis on local control and volunteerism. For proof of its success look no further than much of the history of the United States, where charitable donations are more common and larger. Cameron should encourage a culture of self-reliance and caring, the greatness of individual action, and the fallacy of the cult of the state. Republicans should learn policy specifics, leadership roles, discipline, and should articulate ideas to voters.
America and Great Britain should learn from each other to make our nations even greater.