Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Across the pond, political prowess bloody great!

LONDON ? Across the pond, the phrase ?she?s a head-turner?
has taken on an entirely new meaning.

Although I have been here for a few weeks now, I?m still getting used to
strangers turning around and staring when they hear my accent, which, I?ve been
so kindly told, is ?abrasive.? I?ll be the first to admit it ? I stand out in

To be fair, it?s difficult to blend in when traveling en masse with 40 other
American students. In addition to providing a memorable number of strange
looks, my inevitable label as the wide-eyed tourist has given me the
opportunity to hear, invited or not, the opinions of Brits on American
politics. On one of my first nights out in London, I was practically tackled by
a student at the Imperial College Union when he heard my accent. Not
surprisingly, the conversation quickly turned to politics.


When I commented on Tony Blair?s recent conversion to Catholicism ? a big story
in the United Kingdom, which is predominantly Anglican ? his eyes popped. ?You
know about that?? He laughed, sipping a rather large mug of lager. ?My best
friend didn?t even know! How would a bloody American know that? I?m impressed!?
I was a little confused by his reaction, but I asked him if he knew anything
about the American primaries. He just laughed and told me to pick up tomorrow?s

As it was approaching 2 a.m. by the time I got home, I couldn?t get my hands on
the next day?s paper, so I turned to the Internet instead, and very quickly
made sense of the reaction of my slightly intoxicated British friend. British
media ? print, television and Internet ? is saturated with coverage of the
American elections. It doesn?t surprise me that the U.K., or any other major
commercial nation, keeps tabs on our elections; we?re a large country and an
even larger world power. What surprised me is how much average people here ?
not the media ? know about the election, the candidates and everything in

I asked another British student about the American elections. ?I really like
Obama,? he told me. Really? I couldn?t name a current British politician
outside Gordon Brown. He continued, ?I just wish he would elaborate more on his
policies and actually tell us what he wants to change. I think he?s got some
real potential, but I think I?d go for Hilary instead.? I know Mr. Brown is
part of the Labour Party, but I couldn?t even begin to elaborate on his

How could it be that I knew so little about British politics, one of the United
State?s closest military allies? It wasn?t just me either; I asked several
other people studying in my program here ? what do you know about British
politics? How do you feel about Gordon Brown? Do you know when the mayoral
election is? Shrug. Shrug. Shrug. I won?t pretend I?m an expert on anything
political, but neither were the Brits I spoke with ? they?re average students
watching football at the union. They not only knew more about our elections
than many Americans, but even had favorite candidates!

I decided to ask one of my professors for his opinion on the matter. ?I think
Brits are so interested in what?s going on in America because it affects us so
directly. The next American president will very likely influence our presence
in Iraq at the very least, if not our economy too.? I asked him if he thought
Londoners were well-informed on world politics, and his response made me laugh.
?I don?t know, I suppose we are. Aren?t Americans?? I know many, many people
who know their politics, but compared to those who don?t? well, there isn?t
much of a comparison. In one of my classes last semester, when asked about
French president Nicholas Sarkozy?s view on the war in Iraq, a girl replied,
?Didn?t he marry a supermodel??

I suppose part of this might be culture shock; London is, after all, a busy
cosmopolitan city and a huge financial and governmental hub ? I know nothing
outside of London to compare with what I?ve experienced here, and political
interest could be very different elsewhere. The United States is also much
larger, with a lot more news to cover, and it can easily get lost in its own

Yet I feel it is our responsibility for that very reason ? that we have so much
influence on the rest of the world ? to be better informed on world politics,
and especially those of our close allies in Britain. I?ve been inspired, and
hope to inspire others as well, to keep up with important stories like the
U.K.?s health care crisis. Even though it might mean you miss today?s
headline ?Incredible, Shrinking, Post-Pregnancy Celebs,? consider giving the
BBC a try once in a while.

Laura Brennan ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in
communicative disorders.

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