We are divided by a common language

Theresa May, like virtually all her predecessors as Prime Minister, clearly believes there is a special relationship between this country and America.

Thursday, 9th February 2017, 6:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2017, 11:31 am
George Bernard Shaw

Although this might be true of the leaders of our respective countries - think of Tony Blair and George W Bush - the average American doesn’t know, or even care, where Great Britain is, apart from knowing that it is somewhere in Europe.

George Bernard Shaw famously said that our countries were divided by a common language, but that’s not all that divides us. A quick check of the history books reminds us that we were the hated colonial power that it took a revolution to overthrow. The US did not join in either the First or Second World Wars until their own interests were threatened and, in the case of the latter, only because Roosevelt happened to be President.

No one should be surprised at the election of Donald Trump as President or of the popular support for his ultramondane policies. After all, this is a country where slavery persisted almost into the twentieth century and which it took a Civil war to end. Even then, black people continued to be treated as second-class citizens until the 1970s.

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It is a country where, even in its more liberal states, capital punishment is still in use and where the biggest threat to most citizens comes from some gun-toting fellow American. Understandably, during the Cold War period, we saw our interests as coinciding with those of the USA. However, things have moved on and the world is much more complex. The principal threat is now from Islamist terrorists. That will not be beaten by depending on American military superiority. The countries of Europe have to work together to defend themselves. If an unintended consequence of Brexit is that we have to cosy up to the United States, David Cameron’s blunder in calling a referendum will, if possible, have been even more disastrous than many of us first thought.

Paul Kenny