Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Mrs G goes to Parliament

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by Bronwen

On a recent visit to the Houses of Parliament, I was struck by the differences in tone between British and American politicians.  Although there’s still the same rivalry and competition, and certainly in these times of ‘austerity budgets’, a feeling that the stakes are high, there  also seems to be more tempered feeling.  And in a totally admirable way, a sense of a government of novices.  Of course, this is not true, since as we know from Yes, Minister, government is really run by long-serving civil servants here.  But on the political side, the majority of MPs seem to have come to Parliament after another career, Cinncinatus-style, to serve their constituencies. Despite political differences, they can all have a drink together in the members’ bar.  They shout at each other in debates and Prime Minister’s Questions, but at the end of the day, they’re all trying to run a country.  Meanwhile, American politics seems to celebrate the fact that our politicians refuse to even talk civilly to one another.

As my friends here like to point out, the difference is also one of tone: in America, politics and the running of the country is a serious, dramatic business (captured in The West Wing) and in Britain, it’s the butt of jokes (Yes, Minister; The Thick of It).  I feel like this was probably the other way around in the early nineteenth century, maybe particularly under Jackson.  Or maybe that’s just me trying to hold onto an image of a scrappy, underdog America (and an evil British empire?) when in so many ways they have reversed.

But I can’t really do justice to the differences in the system, and how their perceived by both sides, as well as Armando Iannucci can:


Written by apini

January 20, 2012 at 07:46

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