Hang ’Em High
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The decision of the Britons to hang their parliament will, among other things, make us Yanks savor a little more lovingly our presidential system. The British voters unambiguously revoked Labor’s mandate, though the hapless Gordon Brown is trying to hang on. They delivered to the Conservatives only a plurality of the parliament. The Liberal Democrats were disappointed in their own showing. So the sorry spectacle of parliamentary negotiations is under way. Which Americans can enjoy from a distance. We may have had a bit of suspense from time to time — in, say, that little flap in Florida in 2000 — but at least we haven’t had to watch either our outgoing or our incoming leader haggling with the losers over which principles to chuck overboard in exchange for a mandate.
Not that all is lost. Things may be a bit messy, says a cable from our erstwhile man in London, Daniel Johnson, now the editor of Standpoint, “but at least we have not been seduced by Eurocrat Clegg.” It’s a wise point, to focus on the Europeanist flaw of the British liberals, all the more so because, from our remove, it looks like Britain is on the brink of a decision over whether it is even going to exist as a distinct nation in a generation or two. The Liberals and Labor seem intent on taking Britain ever more irretrievably into the European Union even as rioting in Athens reminds us that Europe’s mechanisms may yet lead to the kind of violence that has so often soaked the soil of the continent in blood.
The Conservative leader, David Cameron, has made an offer to the Liberal Democrats, but we’re in the camp that hopes Mr. Clegg & Co. slink off. “If Cameron is wise,” Mr. Johnson writes us, “he will offer no deals or jobs to the Liberal Democrats but dare them to defeat his program and trigger another election.” He notes that Mr. Brown has been defeated, but says “a stake through the heart is needed.” We’ve got a long record on what we think Mr. Cameron ought to do — turn his back on Europe, reclaim and restore sterling, and look West to America. It may be, in the case of Mr. Cameron, little more than a hope, but we’ve held this general view for years. We still think of Prime Minister Thatcher’s celebrated speech at Bruges, Belgium, when she demurred on Europe and held out for a strong Britain.
Of course, America’s leadership hasn’t been exactly holding out a welcoming hand to Britain. President Obama is famously uninterested in any “special relationship.” This has been noticed in the British Foreign Office, which the other day actually issued a report calling for the end of the use of the phrase “special relationship.” This has been occasionally set down as relating to the fact that Mr. Obama grew up in Hawaii, but what made the relationship special was not the blood ties but the ideological commitment to liberty and capitalism and the kinds of things that are thrown into sharp relief by the light of Sinai. So in seconding Mr. Johnson’s advice, one can only express the hope that come the elections in November there will be on the rise in the Congress a more welcoming party and leadership, prepared to embrace a turn by Britain to the West.