Political Promise

The Wider Issue of British Foreign Policy

In Charlie Edwards on June 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

By Charlie Edwards

How other countries view Britain has always been a mystery. We are a proud nation, slightly embarrassed by our oppressive periods in the history of the ’empire’, but on the whole ready and able to get on with everybody. Of course, with a sly mention of the Beatles, ‘we once owned a quarter of the world’ and of course, the 1966 World Cup, the world’s agreement of Britain’s likeability occasionally suffers a few blips. There are times where it is en vogue to hate the British. The USA happily rolls out the ‘Special Relationship’ cliché, but also celebrates numerous festivals of American independence from British rule. Anti-Britishness is rife in backward redneck areas of America, and there is a similar story to be told in other former colonies.

The British Petroleum oil disaster has reignited some of this bitter sentiment. British Petroleum, you ask? Oh that’s what we used to call BP like a hundred years ago, but is what it voluntarily changed its name to; in order to distance America from any blame for this crisis, that happened on their turf, with three other American companies involved in the drilling and funnily enough, a BP board largely populated with Americans. Yes, this very British crisis has led to frictions between Obama (remember him?) and Cameron just weeks into the new British government. Gordon Brown was close to Obama, they used to put on their capes and go out saving the world together in the dead of night, saving the world one ‘bigot’ at a time. Obama was closer to Brown, he was safer with Brown. The Conservative Party, thanks mainly to Thatcher and Reagan, have a strong relationship with the G.O.P. in America, and allying with anyone associated with the Republicans could prove costly in the ballot box for Obama in the upcoming midterm elections in November.

Barack Obama was quick to criticise the British, and the preservation of the US/UK ‘special relationship’ should be of paramount importance for Cameron and his government. A vital trading partner, a close NATO ally and currently in tactical command of thousands of British troops in Afghanistan. Britain’s foreign policy towards America under Bush and Blair was of a “Jump” “How High?” model. Obama’s comparison of this oil spill to 9/11 was overtly political; he insinuated British pre-meditation or influence behind this nefarious natural disaster. BP have men down there trying to stop the flow of oil, the Chief Executive is unlikely to last until the next BP shareholder’s meeting and there is a $20bn slush fund for those affected by this disaster. There’s no more we can do, and let’s leave it there. Crisis over.

The US are presumably a little put off by the new UK administration. There is no denying that Hilary Clinton loved all of the attention from Hugh Grant-wannabe David “Dashing” Milliband. US/UK relations should now be based on a mutual trust and respect, we expect more than a few festivals celebrating this country in the USA every year for the effort we have put into the war in the Middle East since 2001.

In contrast, yesterday was the 70th anniversary of De Gaulle’s appeal to the ‘Free French’, and was commemorated by David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy, the French Prime Minister, together at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. They looked like old friends, Sarkozy and Cameron, the two most powerful centre-right leaders at the moment. Establishing a strong relationship with the French, whilst admirable, is arcane and irrelevant now. Obama, the Chinese and other ‘BRIC’ nations, economically speaking, are far more worthy endeavours.

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