Britain’s Waning Power in America

In the latest blog from the U.S. Martin Liptrot discusses how the American news channels view us Brits.

Martin Liptrot

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I normally write about events occurring here in America which may be of interest to readers back in ‘Ol’ Blighty’.

But what is of most interest to me are the things happening in Britain and how our American friends are – or aren’t – viewing them.

No doubt, I have a built-in bias. I’ve been a resident here for decades but I’m still British and what happens in the motherland counts for me.

Also, anyone who knows me or has read these utterings will quickly detect my political bias too.

Don’t get me wrong, if you do vote Tory or Republican, we can still be chums.

Some of my longest standing friends hold bizarrely different political views than me, but we are friends for bigger and more compelling reasons than simple political allegiance – school, sport, love, shared suffering – or just our remarkable collective experiences.

Equally, many of the people I bump into who are fellow travellers on my twisted political journey have none of the human characteristics I value in my friends. While our politics are aligned, they are some of the people I wish to spend the least of my available free time with, or, in the words of psephologists, ‘would want to have a pint with.’

So, looking for insights, opinions and observations on what is happening back in ‘Merry Old England’, I try to gather my news from a cross section of sources.

From afar, it seems the UK is rapidly racing towards a clear ‘us and them’ split.

Rich, Poor. Black, White, Left, Right, Young, Old, Rural, Urban, Northern, London.

You may disagree and think this may be me viewing affairs through my warped lens, but it may be more a result of my media consumption habits.

Stuck on this enormous continent – where weather is the number one news story, the UK – except for the Queen, Andrew, Harry or Ricky Gervais – is at best the 10th or 11th most interesting foreign news event.

We have to dig a little deeper to get our fix on what’s truly happening from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. 

I’m still a BBC fan, though I recognise that’s an unpopular position these days, being that it’s the bastion of leftie, middle class, opinion. Also, as a Merseysider, I steer clear of the S*n and, by extension, don’t have much truck with Murdoch’s news empire and its Fox News output.

But to balance these bleeding-heart Liberal stances I, like every news consumer in the US, am exposed to the all-reaching power of the DailyMail.com website, which is the number one source of UK news and content from sea to shining sea. After all it is attributed with making Amanda Holden an international star, for lord’s sake!

So, hopefully, having explained the background to my own view, and the news landscape I am consuming, here is what we in America are seeing, hearing and – why wouldn’t we – believing about the old country.

First up, our leaders.

Americans ask me with incredulity, “Is the guy with the hair really in charge?”

Resisting the urge to explain how money, class and vested interests really choose the leader of the Conservatives, I agree – “Yes, the bloke with the hair is in charge, and all the crazy stuff you are reading about is his doing.”

But while you and I are outraged by drinks parties, political interference in police matters, the fact that billions of pounds were written off for cancelled PPE contracts, the gifting of lordships, tax breaks and favoured status to those with good donor status, while national insurance and price rises are clobbering the working family – all this is just ‘to be expected’ for our American cousins.

When discussing current affairs in Britain, the dishonesty and dual standards so prevalent in today’s Government register little. It is how the game is played here.

Americans long ago gave up on the idea that politics is anything other than a get-rich-quick scheme for those who know how to play the game – ‘Hollywood for the Ugly’ as they say.

So, if our elected leaders fail to inspire, what about those born to rule?

Next up – The Queen and her rag-tag family of ne’er do wells.

As HRH celebrates 70 years in the top job, we all appreciate her personal commitment. But while Andrew’s run in with the law, Harry’s money worries and whether Wills can or can’t keep it in his pants are front page news on the supermarket tabloids – the same ones which have evidence of Elvis living on the Moon – true deference is retained for America’s own royal family – The Kardashians.

Kim K’s recent break up with Kanye and her new relationship with Pete Davidson are front page news from LA to NY. Hours of analysis have been poured into whether or not he had her picture on his sideboard before she left her rapper husband and father of her two kids – this is what has America on edge.

Meanwhile, The Andrew formerly known as Prince’s recent decision to pay off his accuser to make his troubles go away hardly made the gossip columns here in America let alone the front pages, so accustomed are we to finding “Out of Court” settlements for the rich and famous as part of the US legal system.

The reality is, Americans don’t look at us Brits as anything other than a source of entertainment – We’re funny, may have Hugh Grant’s floppy hair and bad teeth but that’s what is to be expected.

It’s kind of tough to be an Englishman in New York and beyond right now.

On the plus side, we are warmly embraced everywhere we go. Our accents and disposition make us a favourite at and get us into parties we should have no real expectation of attending. And we are afforded way more airtime and bigger platforms than we truly deserves.

But while I can live with all these positives – it’s what makes it a great place to live – it’s the dawning realisation that as a nation we no longer matter which hurts.

We are totally delusional if we think the world’s last Superpower looks at us as a serious player or cares for our views on Ukraine, Russia, China, Climate Change, Oil and Gas or any of the major issues of today.  

Hard as it is to swallow, on the World stage, we Brits are losing our clout. Like Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Sweden and France before us, we are losing traction.

Not that we don’t matter individually. After all, we Brits are creatures of American curiosity. My American friends are gracious, they will entertain my opinions and listen politely to my alternate world view, smiling graciously at my anecdotes and stories of yore.

But I know I would be mistaken to think this was somehow something more than it is: They are simply being, as they were brought up to be, incredibly polite.

I think there is great future for us as individual commentators – heaven help us, Piers Morgan, Gordon Ramsey and others have carved a career out of it – but we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking what we collectively say has any influence – we are having to get used to being seen as not particularly relevant to this part of the world anymore.

Martin Liptrot

Martin Liptrot is a Public Affairs, PR and Marketing consultant working with UK, US and Global clients to try and ‘make good ideas happen’.

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