What it feels like to be in England

I’m an American who’s lived in England for a long time (but all of it post-Thatcher). All this time, I’ve found that bad American politics upsets me more than bad British politics does. There are lots of good reasons for this, like the power the US to have to do harm in the world. There are also some less good but understandable ones, like the fact that my identity was formed in America. But now I’m startled to find myself frightened by a bad UK government in a way that I was never frightened by a bad US government. I still think a bad US government has a lot more power to do harm in the world– obviously. But a bad UK government can do a lot more harm a lot more quickly at home. In the US, as we’re all too aware, the Senate rules make any changes desperately hard to make. And even when laws can be pushed through the House and the Senate, much is still controlled by the states, which means lots of separate battles. Here, a bad government, even one with a patched-together coalition and a narrow victory, can simply put laws through. And these laws affect all of England (though not Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland). It’s a vertiginous feeling.


2 thoughts on “What it feels like to be in England

  1. vertiginous.

    yes, i think that’s the primary feeling that has characterized life as i know it since i graduated college and planes crashed into buildings. that’s what being a “grown-up” in the 21st century feels like, apparently. thanks for giving it a word!

    the changes coming to the uk though are especially shocking, because the safety net there is much stronger, but it can, as you note here, come apart much faster. the institution of parliamentary government makes that easier, but the idea that anyone would want that is so hard to get my head around.

  2. What exactly do you think should be done that is not being done? And what should not be done that is being done ? I take it that you accept that we have a ludicrously large budget deficit run up by the Labour government, that needs to be reduced – so cuts of one sort of another have to be made..

    As for the last comment, there is still a generous welfare safety net in this country. There has been a lot of talk about reduction of benefits, but the government will still spend up to £20,000 pa (£400pw) to house an unemployed family, for instance. That is a lot of money, and pretty generous in most people’s book. And the benefit changes have been designed to ensure there is no increase in child poverty.

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