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Britain is turning into America’s 51st state

Rishi's presidential campaign style is just not cricket. Credit: Getty

May 30, 2024 - 3:45pm

In yet another sign of chronic America brain in our leadership class, Rishi Sunak is supposedly planning to run a “presidential” election campaign. Centering his party’s election chances on the personality of their leader; demanding more TV debates than anyone would want to watch; leaning into ad hominem attacks on his opponent. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, perhaps the most obvious shortcoming of this approach is that my Labrador — who rolled in fox poo this morning — has more presidential gravitas than our current prime minister. But snark aside, the broader significance of this development is that it’s only the most recent in a longstanding tendency among Britain’s great and good to act as though the country were already the 51st state.

I’ve long found it grimly amusing to note, despite the wall of post-Brexit media class screeching about “European identity”, the dispiriting poverty of reporting on European politics — and the correspondingly slavish fixation on every twitch and tremor in America. Here, you’ll find only the most occasional flicker of awareness concerning (say) European migration politics, or the geopolitical proxy war in Georgia, interrupting the regular diet of Netflix and Never Trump.

If we take the BBC as a bellwether for class consensus in these circles, we find that most current international news concerns contemporary US foreign policy priorities in Ukraine and Israel. A quick count at the time of writing across the BBC’s reporting on news from US & Canada revealed no less than seven Trump articles, all hostile. Further back, too, the 2020 BLM riots prompted weeks of culturally incongruous sackcloth and ashes at this august establishment. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Britain’s press largely treats the country already as a blue state, and that for some reason it isn’t allowed to vote in the real elections.

But if they do, this is because by and large this is actually what we are. Perhaps you can think of a recent, significant deviation in foreign policy between Britain and the US. I can’t — even where following the US is not obviously in Britain’s national interest. Similarly, on state-approved morality — which means, these days, identity politics — we are just as aligned, or at least no more divergent from the American federal position than the rest of that nation’s sometimes-fractious states.

This British elite realism on where power actually flows is in no way confined to those Democrat-aligned British progressives. It’s reflected across the political spectrum, and acted on too: Nigel Farage, for example, announced last week that he’s not even bothering to stand in this election. “Important though the general election is,” he wrote, “the contest in the United States of America on November 5 has huge global significance”.

As a result, Farage plans to “help with the grassroots campaign in America”. Why waste energy on a provincial contest when the big time is calling? The real election is the imperial one, and the former Ukip leader has parlayed his modest success in provincial politics into a role of some kind on the battlefield that actually matters.

We can make two inferences from this. Firstly, that these “presidential” airs and graces increasingly affected by Britain’s would-be leaders have a cargo-cult quality. In seeking to inject energy and independence into this election, by adopting this culturally very alien styling, it succeeds mainly in acknowledging Britain’s vassal-state reality.

And secondly, we can infer that Farage is right. What happens on 5 November is hugely significant, not just for 50 states but for the 51st one too — and by extension for the rest of the imperial provinces. Will the world get “dormant Nato” or another four years of LGBT imperialism? Next to this question, the current contest between would-be provincial governors pales into insignificance — no matter how slavishly they imitate the register of the imperial centre.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
23 days ago

Centering his party’s election chances on the personality of their leader
So in other words he’s trying to lose.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
23 days ago

MH certainly has it in for the UK election, hasn’t she. Maybe her dog rolling in fox poo has further darkened her mood.
In one sense, she’s right, and i’ve commented that i’ll be taking little notice of the word vomit in the media – unless someone tries to properly grasp the complexity of our democratic malaise. On the other hand, i’m not sure she can sustain this attack for another few weeks without becoming part of the malaise.
With regard to her “51st state” claim, it’s a process that’s been ongoing since WW2. Even two of our greatest cultural exports, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, took their inspiration from earlier US rock and blues. Rishi “Sanook” will soon be concerning himself with the 50 existing states, which has been his pitch all along… faux baseball outfit included.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
13 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

We kind of see the UK as the Romans viewed the Greeks, to be frank. You’re our ancestors, culturally, at least for now, and you bequeathed us much worth keeping.
But your later politics should serve as a warning. Decades of postwar socialism will destroy any society, which is a lesson our left wing refuses to acknowledge.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
23 days ago

The article on LGBQT imperialism is spot-on. Acceptance of homosexuality is the barometer by which cultural Marxists divide people into friends and enemies – not only domestically, but also abroad.

They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error (Rom. 1:23-27).

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
23 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Shame none of it actually happened isn’t it? You may as well quote a Mr Men book

Phil Day
Phil Day
23 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

There are so many assumptions necessary for your post to be true Julian that Ockham’s razor pretty much guarantees it is false.
Doubt UnHerd is a good forum to find people who will be influenced by you citing ‘God’s word’ as if that makes it true, you might have more luck at Westboro Baptist Church

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
23 days ago
Reply to  Phil Day

It’s a warning not a condemnation. A nation ruled by sin and immoral lusts eventually collapses under the weight of its own internal consistencies. This is not about hating the gays; this is a civilizational pattern we see repeated throughout history. The people of biblical times knew that it is through their vices that people become subjugated. In our arrogance we have come to believe we who are living today are far smarter and wiser than all those living in the preceding thousands of years of science, religion, and history.

What particularly concerns me about LGBQT ‘rights’ is not just the pretense of increased freedoms, but that they are being used as a pretext for growing government surveillance and even more invasive social policy, and now as an excuse to wage war.

In our desire to welcome all we abandoned G*d and lost our way.

Phil Day
Phil Day
22 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I can support what you are trying to say in this post Julian although l don’t necessarily agree with all of it. I’m old school and believe people should be able to do whatever they want so long as it hurts no-one else.
What l won’t respond to is being preached at. I respect everyone’s right to follow their own beliefs but think it should be a private thing that should never be forced on others. It’s not personal but throughout history ‘true believers’ and zealots, especially from the various Abrahamic religions, have been responsible for more human misery than anything else l can think of.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
22 days ago
Reply to  Phil Day

“Throughout history ‘true believers’ and zealots, especially from the various Abrahamic religions, have been responsible for more human misery than anything else l can think of.”

First, I think fascism and communism probably gave the Church of England a run for its money in creating “human misery”. Although I concede that some of our coffee mornings can be heavy going.

Second, if you’re going to mention the “misery” we Christians generate, you might also mention the good deeds accomplished by folk like Mother Teresa, the Salvation Army, church homeless shelters, and countless, unsung men and women working for free to better their neighbour’s lot, now and throughout the ages.

Editorial balance, and all that.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
21 days ago
Reply to  Damon Hager

Wasn’t Mother Theresa a horrible person by all accounts?

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
21 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, that’s what I had heard. By no means the saint that she was portrayed. Vatican propaganda I think.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
13 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

Her sisters treated lepers, beggars, and the disabled who were starving on the streets of Mumbai, but yes, they weren’t able to put them all up at L’otel Crillion.
Hitchens, whom I’m otherwise a fan of, believed she and her nuns mistreated these people, and published a book saying as much.
Much of those alleged atrocities occurred well before I was born, in an area of the world I haven’t examined with journalistic dilligence. (I much prefer the mountain trails of the Himalayas to India’s huge teeming cities, as I’ve seen plenty of huge teeming cities in the Americas and the Continent. Like the rest of Asia, India’s cities are much like ours, but are also much moreso urban and sometimes very unpleasant.)
In other words, I have no idea if Theresa was a sinner or a saint. I suspect like all human beings she was a combination of both.
And on the whole, religion indisputably does more good than harm. Hospitals, universities, parochial and religious order schools, and charitable religious organizations have been far more beneficent than most secular governments, or political parties. The Vatican doesn’t have an army, for example, nor do their police forces arrest dissidents, heretics, or other pariahs. Neither Anglicans nor rabbis nor Buddhist monks have armed forces, either. (Islam arguably does in certain societies, but that’s a separate discussion.)
At worst, the Church is an organization run by people, with the expected foibles and failings of all human beings, but tempered by a genuine belief in a loving God. The Church’s relief missions, scholarly efforts, and personal codes of conduct for believers more than make up for its occasional corruption, and this is also the case for nearly all mainstream religions. Religion is not only a comfort to the suffering, nor only a simple check on the wicked, but also a real contributor to human progress.
Hitchens frequently confused religion – a private experience of mysticism, reflection, and personal morality, based on faith – with politics, which is the pursuit of power and wealth, based often on the coldest of rationality. (Which is also how one should explain militant Islam, which is also at bottom a political phenomenon, not a religious one.)
On the whole, religion is one of humanity’s better inventions, from the Bhagavad Gita to the Torah to the Book of Matthew, and on to Dante, Handel, and Michaelangelo, as well as Angor Wat or Notre Dame Ille d’Cite, and so on.
Hitchens blithely ignored these things, incensed as he was by the irrational. Politics, which Hitchens should have realized is at the base of his objections to religion, is neither worship, nor charity, nor culture. Politics is a means of pursuing material, worldly goals, and is generally preferable to war, but not to much else.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
13 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I personally don’t much care what people do in their free time. Victorian Britain was also very lusty, they just hid it well, and didn’t talk much about what people like Oscar Wilde were doing in private moments (until of course Wilde unwisely sued his boyfriend’s father, but that was itself very unusual, and therefore very newsworthy).
More concerning by far is the relentless desire for state control from so called “liberal Democrats,” who are both very illiberal and very undemocratic.
You can’t have western society without free market capitalism, and we won’t have an Empire left at all, nor even a nation, nor even western society, if the sophomoric radicals in Biden’s Administration get another four years at the helm.
There’s no reason at all why homosexuals need to support communism. Ditto women, blacks, or environmentalists. Freedom is for everyone, no matter who they are.
The devil, if he exists, lives in the lies of Karl Marx, and if there was an anti-Christ it was Lenin. And this devil preys on jealousy, sloth, wrath, pride, and gluttony – not just on lust.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
23 days ago

I’d like to know what the major foreign policy alignment is that the author would rather us not to be on the US side – especially where it wpuld not be in our interest to be so. It seems a bit cowardly not to put any flesh on the whole thrust of the article. That our domestic policy doesn’t differ is a preposterous argument that even the examples she cites don’t lend weight to.

John Murray
John Murray
23 days ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

In the recent past, not invading Iraq or Libya would be obvious ones where we would have been better off telling the Americans they’d had one too many and they should let us call a cab for them, would have been better for us and better for them.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
23 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

Were we really going to let the USA go it alone in Iraq after 9/11? In Libya it was us and the French who were gunning for more intervention while the Americans said “No” to us. For me Libya was the first nail in the coffin for the French in West Africa so not all bad.

Rob N
Rob N
23 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

Don’t forget Syria. Or the use of Ukraine as a sacrificial goat to trap Russia. Strange, neither of those projects worked out quite as intended!

Robbie K
Robbie K
23 days ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

The UK and most of the world are aligned with US foreign policy, so agreed, I’m uncertain what Harrington’s gripe is. I would also go further and suggest many European and western nations are far more invested in identity politics than the UK, but when Starmer replaces her object of ire then she’ll really have something to write about in that sphere.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
23 days ago
Reply to  Robbie K

The problem the USA now has is that most of the world is NOT aligned with US foreign policy, and the USA can do nothing about it.This has come as a shock and the USA is still in denial.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
23 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

You know who else is in denial?

An Egyptian who won’t admit his feet are wet.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
13 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

I am not convinced the entire world wishes to appease militant Islam and allow a second Holocaust “from the river to the sea.”
But then again the bumbling kleptocrats of the global south – South Africa’s gangsterish ruling parties being a good example – seem to identify with that sort of “liberation” favored by the Khymer Rouge, or Carlos the Jackal.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
23 days ago

One advantage of joining the States is the great wealth of humour that would potentially unlock. On the other hand, pretending to be independent of the US may end in our becoming merely the brunt of jokes? It’s a risk but…

David McKee
David McKee
23 days ago

Sigh. The 51st state?
The ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ types have been harrumphing this since 1942. It was no truer then, when nice British girls were flinging themselves on American GIs, than it is now.
I know this is a election with all the cliff-hanging suspense of a Jilly Cooper novel, but honestly… How about writing about someone else’s election for a change?

Chris Bradshaw
Chris Bradshaw
23 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

Technically, in 1942, they’d have been complaining we were the 49th State.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
22 days ago
Reply to  Chris Bradshaw

Touché.

Utter
Utter
22 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

Indeed – ‘Britain is the 51st State of the U-ooh-ooh SA’ – is a lyric by The The. 1980’s post-punk oeuvre is not where I look for current political insights, though Mark E Smith was sharply amusing.

John Tyler
John Tyler
23 days ago

A bit OTT methinks!

John Murray
John Murray
23 days ago

As far as PM’s trying to talk like they’re Presidents, Blair definitely carried himself like he thought he was a President. However, Boris trying to bang on about “his personal mandate” to be Prime Minister was the first time I really noticed it beyond stylistic flourishes.

Phil Day
Phil Day
23 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

Didn’t May state she wanted to make the election more presidential before prattling on about ‘the British dream’?

Pretty sure that speech helped her (very nearly) snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Corbyn.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
23 days ago

The UK lapdog rolling in Yankee poo.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
23 days ago

Sounds like Canada, despite the land mass, unable to build homes. The rot is everywhere

Duncan Wright
Duncan Wright
23 days ago

Isn’t Rishi primarily focussing on himself because all of his ministers and party are keeping their heads below the parapet for what is likely to be a massive loss?

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
23 days ago

Turning? Lol

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
19 days ago

Farage is right, but not for the reason Mary states. It’s a bigger issue than how closely aligned the UK is to Europe vs. the US. That isn’t new. The UK, being an island nation whose wealth and power were built on global trade and global empire, have always been more externally focused than other European powers. The fixation on the US is new, but much has been made of the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK. It fits one of humanity’s oldest narrative tropes, the prodigal son who once rebelled returned to aid the ailing father in a time of need and inherit the family estate after all. I doubt Farage cares much about that.
No, Farage cares about the election because he’s a populist with an agenda similar to others, that is defeating globalism and a return to national sovereignty. He knows, as most any intelligent person should, that there is only one place globalism can be defeated conclusively, and it isn’t London. It’s Washington. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. Globalism cannot survive without a global hegemon. Without an unrivaled hegemon to enforce compliance by fear or coercion, the international organizations that we think of as globalist become simply another battlefield for the powers to leverage against each other, rendering them even more ineffective and useless than they already are. The US is the linchpin. American elites, multinational corporations, and American banks, underpin the entire system. The US Navy guarantees freedom of the seas. The dollar is the international currency. If those conditions fail, the whole thing falls apart. Farage knows that, and he knows that for one reason or another, a second Trump presidency will be another nail in the coffin of globalism in general.
Trump isn’t a real populist, and I suspect Farage knows it. Trump won’t defeat the globalists himself. Even if he has the will, which I doubt, he lacks the skill. That hardly matters though. A second Trump administration would see an about face on dozens of diplomatic and international policies, reducing confidence in and support for international organizations. It would reinforce the notion that the USA can no longer be relied upon to have a consistent, stable international economic policy. Finally, it would set the country against itself in a more profound way than a second Biden administration. Farage knows all this. If Farage becomes PM and takes over the UK, what can he realistically do beyond restricting immigration? The answer is probably not much. However, by helping get Trump elected, he undermines the entire globalist system. At best, he gets an ally who is dedicated to re-orienting the US towards a more nationalist path. At worst, he gets an inconsistent incompetent clown who undermines US power through his embarrassing antics and his politically divisive presence. I can understand why Farage is focusing on the US. The reality is that the UK, independent of the EU, is a relatively weak country with too little economic, political, and military power to accomplish anything against the establishment. The American election will be close, and a small number of votes may make a tremendous amount of difference. Whatever little Farage can contribute to that, it’s probably more meaningful towards his ultimate purpose than anything he can do in his own country.