How Britain and America influence each other

American and British politics have indeed tended to mirror each other. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair; Reagan and Margaret Thatcher; before them, Eisenhower and Macmillan, and JFK and Wilson: the two countries’ political cycles have often overlapped, and like-minded leaders (albeit less schmaltzy in Britain) have coincided. There is a longstanding transatlantic trade in tactics and policy ideas, and in consultants, pollsters and other political mountebanks. Mr Brown and his fellow New Labourites are known to have studied Mr Clinton’s victorious 1992 campaign; but the phenomenon goes back at least to the influence of Nixon’s 1968 advertising on the Tories. (It is not exclusively west-to-east: witness the Tory-influenced Republican attacks on Mr Clinton in 1992, and, maybe, the speech his wife made on a John Major-esque soapbox in New Hampshire.)

Further down in this piece, Bagehot lauds the “impressively eclectic” collection of British political leaders in the last two decades. This is a counter to people who say British politics is bland. Bagehot (and Jackie Ashley) misses the bigger problem: the pool from which our political class is drawn has been narrowing over the last few years.


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