For those of you who follow international politics, you may be aware that there is a general election taking place in the UK in two days, on June 8th. Sadly, the last couple of weeks in the UK have been overshadowed by the horrific terror attacks in Manchester and London. Those that perpetrated these attacks would have liked nothing better than to change our way of life, and postpone or delay an important election. But the terrorists are messing with the wrong country, because the UK will always remain a great and open democracy, which values the principles of liberty and freedom. The election is going ahead.
Today, you will get two blog posts on this subject. Because for countries which are such strong allies, share so many traditions, and a common language, the United States and United Kingdom sure are very different as well. None more so than in their politics and collective way of thinking.
Here are 5 political differences between the UK and USA:
1. Electoral System
In the United States, we can vote directly for the President. In the United Kingdom, citizens vote in general elections only for a political party and their local Member of Parliament. Only if the party secures a majority in parliament, does that party’s leader then become the Prime Minister.
2. Hot button issues
There are certain subjects like abortion and guns, which are huge issues in the United States. These topics are basically non-existent in the United Kingdom (especially the issue of guns). Abortion as a controversial topic was dealt with decades ago, and the country is fiercely pro-choice.
3. Influence of religion
Interestingly, despite America officially being founded on being a secular Republic (and the UK still officially a Christian country), religion is much more important in the US political discourse. As an example, the UK had a Jewish prime minister in the 1800s, and within the last decade has had both a Jewish and an atheist candidate for the highest office, which barely raised an eyebrow.
4. Societal divides and terminology
The UK is still a very class-based society. In the media, you will constantly hear talk about the “working class”, “middle class” and “upper class”. In the US, there is more talk about the large American Middle Class to which most people aspire, but generally the debate is based more on income than societal “class”.
5. Left versus Right
I remember shortly after I arrived in America over a decade ago, a colleague told me that the political differences could be summed up by the following: “In Europe, everyone tends to look at things from the left, whereas in the United States, people look at things from the right”. I think there’s an element of truth to that, and it’s interesting that many of the right-wing political parties in Europe and the United Kingdom, hold viewpoints that would actually be considered quite left-wing in the United States. Conversely, the mainstream left-wing parties are well to the left of Bernie Sanders!
In any country, people are generally the same, and vote according to a number of different factors including their personality. Political polarization is entrenched both in the UK and USA, and only a few “swing districts” decide elections in both countries. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating that two countries that are so similar, can be so different as well.
Suneel Dhand is a physician, author, speaker and consultant. Learn more about him at suneeldhand.com