Britain and America no longer share a Special Relationship
By Walter Ellis
- Was there ever a Special Relationship between America and Britain?
- Britain and America are two countries separated by a common language
- America is a great country, and a natural ally
Was there ever a Special Relationship between the U.S. and UK, and is there one now? The answer is yes and no. Yes, there used to be. Now there isn’t. Get over it.
Barack Obama pays us no heed. One of his first acts as President was to remove the bust of Churchill from the Oval Office. His view of the British is predicated on our treatment of the Mau-Mau in Kenya. Donald Trump, who recently engaged in a slanging match with Alex Salmond over planning rights in Scotland, may (absurdly) end up exluded from Britain on the basis of his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Marco Rubio, the Republicans’ “dark horse,” supports UKIP and favours the UK leaving the European Union, which he sees as the weak link in his country’s ongoing conflict with Russia. Fellow Republican contender Ted Cruz, who believes in bombing Iraq “until the sand glows in the dark” and once cooked his breakfast on the barrel of a machine gun, sees a role for the UK alright – as a U.S. aircrcraft carrier. Hillary Clinton, who is at least sane, prefers the company of Gerry Adams to any British politician other than David Miliband. She thinks David Cameron is an aristocrat.
How do we deal with this? There is a strain of Brit that, deep-down, yearns to be American, or at least to bathe in American approval. Our diplomats relish the Georgetown party circuit and the sensation – rarely justified – that they are insiders in the Great Game. British academics who have gone to America enjoy the big money, the deference and the facilities that are heaped upon them: once given tenure, they almost never return to the UK. Journalists, having spent four years in Washington in the 1980s or ’90s, when they were occasional guests at fashionable dinner parties and got to sit at the back at Presidential press conferences, become convinced that, in the manner of the famous New Yorker cartoon, the White House is the centre of the universe, beyond which there is Capitol Hill, Georgetown, the Beltway and then … nothing.
For such analysts, most of them beneficiaries while in Washington of the misapprehension that they were posh, the idea of Britain as Greece to America’s Rome is as much as Brits should hope for and more than we deserve. They would kill to get on to a Senator’s Christmas card list. To be greeted by name by a Presidential adviser is very heaven. They adore the movies and American television; they follow American sports; they are in awe of the American military and the power of Wall Street. Most of all, they are hypnotised by the notion that they have seen the future and that someday, if all goes well, everyone will live like this.
Well, that’s as maybe – though tell that to the 50 million or so Americans who live below the poverty line orstill cannot afford healthcare. But what about the reality of the Anglo-American relationship? Here are some thoughts garnered from nearly 15 years of living in New York:
1. Americans only ever refer to the Special Relationship when the Queen or British Prime Minister is in town. They do the same for the French, the Mexicans and the Canadians – even the Japanese. When they refer to us as limeys, it is not a term of affection.
2. They think our armed forces (which they once found useful) are tin soldiers, more at home in a Busby than a bayonet charge.
3. They resent the continued assertiveness of the City of London – which they use to assume was run by Captain Mainwaring, wearing a bowler hat – and will do everything in their power to bring it to heel.
4. They only like British television if it’s Doctor Who, Doc Martin or costume drama. They can’t understand British regional accents and require subtitles for anyone north of Watford.
5. They laugh at our teeth and our warm beer.
6. They think we’re either toffs, criminals or perverts.
7. They think the UK is made up of London, Downton Abbey and Scotland.
8. They think we’re too clever by half. They marvel at the charm and fluency of David Cameron and Tony Blair, but don’t consider them real, unlike Hugh Grant, who they think is adorable.
9. They denounce Royalty, but slobber over the Queen and her family.
10. They have been shocked to learn that most Hollywood actors are in fact British. They find this un-American. In fact, they find Britain un-American.