Every Wednesday while Parliament is in session, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is subjected to a merciless grilling by opposition minsters. Known as “Prime Minister’s Question Time,” this verbal jousting session reveals a significant difference between American and British politicians: In the UK, you learn how to argue and debate or you risk facing a weekly public humiliation.
British journalists are also known for asking tough questions of elected officials. The BBC’s Jeremy Paxman once famously repeated a question twelve times to an elusive politician.
These kinds of confrontations just don’t happen in America.
In the USA politicians instead surround themselves with like-minded cronies, sometimes removing by force, or putting into cages those likely to publicly disagree with them. And American journalists are enablers: they engage in puffball questions, meaningless “gotcha” politics and idiotic and irrelevant speculation. As a result, US politicians are never really put in the position where they have to learn how to defend their positions or ideas.
And the result is kind of awesome.
Unchallenged by, and ultimately perhaps even unaware of contrary points of view, American leaders often become more and more unhinged in their beliefs as they rise through the ranks. The British system, where constituents vote for a party rather than an individual, means that UK politicos apply pressure to their errant peers, for the collective good. But US politicians have no such collectivist obligations and are unhindered in their journey towards extremism. And that is wrong… but it’s also, well, entertaining.
Who cares if UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband looks awkward eating a sandwich? US Vice President Dick Cheney once shot a man in the face, then refused to apologise. In fact the man he shot apologised to Mr Cheney, for causing him “trouble.”
So what if Boris Johnson once got stuck on a zipwire? Bill Clinton had sexual relations with an intern in the Oval Office, lied about it, and then in his defense, engaged in a debate about what the word “is” means.
But it’s not just that American politicians get entangled in juicier scandals. It’s that their core beliefs are so much more extreme, and watching them stick up for these principles often resembles watching wrestlers hit each other over the head with steel chairs while a referee looks on helplessly. It makes for amazing spectacle:
- American congressman Paul Broun believes evolution and the big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” And he sits on the America’s congressional science commission.
- Florida Governor Rick Scott enacted a ‘cost-saving’ law requiring all recipients of state aid (welfare) to be drug tested or thrown off the rolls. Few drug users were found and no money was saved by the state. It was discovered that Gov Rick Scott had owned the company that administered most of the drug tests. But don’t worry, he transferred ownership to his wife, to eliminate any conflict of interest.
- Senator Michelle Bachmann suggested that Swine Flu was a Democratic party plot. That census takers were laying the groundwork government concentration camps. And that there should be investigations of congress members who she found to be “anti-American.”
- Former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has claimed several times that health care reform will lead to government-run death panels.
- Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo recently “threw around the idea” that the USA should drop nuclear bombs on Mecca if America was the victim of any nuclear attack by Muslim fundamentalists.
- In 2012, a half dozen Republican congressional candidates made the news for debating whether rape was really as bad as women made it out to be. The most famous point was made by congressman Todd Akin, who believed that women could not get pregnant from what he called “legitimate rape.” He said: “The female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.“
- Georgia Representative Hank Johnson opposed stationing more troops on the island of Guam, out of fear this “overpopulation” would cause the island to “tip over.” He wasn’t joking.
- Likely 2016 presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson recently called health care reform the “worst thing to happen to America since slavery.”
- Former presidential candidate and ongoing religious leader Pat Robertson claimed that the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti was the result of the country having a “pact with the devil.” He wasn’t being metaphorical.
- Perennial “almost” presidential candidate Donald Trump’s immigration reform platform involves building a huge wall to separate the USA from Mexico. The wall’s perimeter would be patrolled by predator drones.
- Racial demagogue Al Sharpton once led a protest to force a Jewish store owner out of Harlem, calling him a “white interloper.” The protests ended after the shop was fire-bombed, resulting in several deaths.
- New York politician Michael Grimm threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony during a live interview, for the audacity of asking him about felony charges he was facing (he was later convicted)
So by comparison, British politics really is a dull affair. But it needn’t be.
George Galloway is one UK politician who provides some much-needed comic relief. When he’s not denying that the Tianamen Square massacre ever took place, or pretending that gay people aren’t persecuted in Iran, he can sometimes be found lapping milk from a saucer like a cat. Bravo!
But for my money, if you really want to invest in Britain turning into an American-style idiocracy, there’s really only one choice – vote UKIP.
- David Silvester, a UKIP councillor blamed “gay marriage” for an increase in flooding in Britain.
- UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom suggested British foreign aid should not be sent to what he called “Bongo Bongo land.”
- And UKIP Leader Nigel Farage recently spoke out against public breast feeding, and is also on record as stating that women are “worth less than men.”
Sadly, I’m not a British citizen, so I can’t vote. But if I could- I’d punch my ballot for the anti-foreigner UKIP party. Maybe they’d run immigrants like me out of the country, but it might be worth it to see some Brits finally give the Yanks a run for their money in the “crazy politician” sweepstakes.