21 January 2010

Labour or Conservative: A Break from the Action.

"Oh, so that's David Cameron? He's lovely. Much handsomer than your current Prime Minister."

For a moment, I was reduced to an interested party who cared only about good looks and a better speech.  The BBC was televising Mr. Cameron's latest remarks on the state of education in Britain and I must say, I was quite engaged.  He addressed the iniquities that some poorer British children have suffered in the face of poor education and poorer educational institutions. He then numbered the difficulties plaguing the primary and secondary educational systems in the UK.  I must admit that the problems he listed are endemic to the US school system as well.  He then made a terrific rhetorical turn, softened his demeanor a bit, and emphasized both the government's and family's role in educating the young of that country.

He talked about his own role as a parent, and admitted that he has been more fortunate than most citizens in his abilities to provide for his children, but encouraged his audience to believe that that with reducing the suffocating and ineffectual help from the state, families of Britain could certainly produce brilliant, capable children who will go on to have productive lives within the country.

And I was beginning to be sold.

                                           (Another of my photos from Bath. Edited 1960s style.)

I knew that Mr. Cameron is a Member of Parliament (MP) and the Leader of the Conservative Party and The Leader of the Opposition. I could see that he was handsome, articulate and seemed to have a genuine interest in the welfare of the people in his country.

I know that I liked Tony Blair--but most of that liking was the result of my watching of The Queen,  my cursory comparisons of him to George Bush, and my love of his partnership with his wife.  But then I thought about some of the programs he initiated that I might not necessarily support now that I would have years ago.

At that very moment, I realized that perhaps, at times, I am more conservative than I am willing to admit to myself.

But then, dear readers, I breathed a little easier and remembered that there are fundamental differences between British and American Conservatives, and it was perfectly acceptable that I was slightly infatuated with the terrifically educated,  wonderfully articulate David Cameron.  I was drawn into Modern British political theater.  Before my visit this year, if it happened after 1660 in Britain, I wasn't terribly interested.

Mostly decent man that he is,  Mr. H revels in all things political. He spent a lot of time asking me questions about President Obama, what I really thought about him, why I voted for him, what Americans see in him...ad nauseum.  I answered him to the best of my ability without really engaging in a full argument. I was on holiday after all.  At times, I think that Mr. H enjoys casting me as the Other--his complete opposite in all things so that he has a foil against which to espouse his agenda.  Even though he may call me a Socialist or Lefty or some other name in an attempt to inspire rage in me,  I'd think (and hope) that Mr. H has a healthy respect for my political outlook--however naive he claims to find it to be. (At least I'm not doe-eyed and in my early twenties telling him how damned clever he is all that time.  I have that, I suppose, right?)

Every moment that it was appropriate, Mr. H found it important, nay, necessary, emphatically to inform me about the state of Britain today. He listed what he found to be utter failings, he seethed about the Labour Party, and he explained to me how much better the world would be if it simply embraced truly Libertarian values.

And I must say, I am terribly grateful for his lectures and blustery rants.  These occasions gave me opportunity to begin seriously to consider and reconsider my own political philosophy.  I know this much after hearing Mr. Cameron's speech: I would like for every person who wishes to have a fantastic education enjoy that opportunity, and I think that it would be interesting to see what would happen in the American education system if public schools were given the autonomy that private schools have. As for my own political leanings, I think that I am an Independent for now because I can't ascribe to any party line.  And I'm not sure that will change.  I do not and will never regret my voting for the current President of the US. (Mr. H, I do hope you read this part especially.)

Escaping from the world of American politics was rather refreshing, but I clung to my own citizenry when asked my political affiliation after several minutes of talking with Mr. H's adorable and politically saavy  98-year-old grandmother.

"Are you Labour or Conservative?" she asked directly.

"Well, madam, I am an American. I don't have to choose."

"I suppose that's a good answer."

It was also at that moment that I realized that however much I love Britain and could certainly live there for a long time, I could never become one of the Queen's subjects and renounce my US citizenship. Because being a citizen of this country is a ticket to awesome.

But that, my dear readers, is an observation for another post.


Jenni said...

"Because being a citizen of this country is a ticket to awesome."

That, it most probably one of my favorite sentences you have ever written, MA.

I hear you on the whole Independent deal. I have friends who are die hard Republicans, and I have friends who are die hard Democrats and they all try to get me to come over to their respective sides. Election time is fun...I never have to buy a drink!

ma said...


Aww thanks! I think that the statement is totally true. I have this friend who used to accuse me of being obsessed with Britain. I'm not. I just really like trying to know everything about a place when I go there more than once.