As London literally warms up for the greatest show on earth, Governor Mitt Romney will meet Prime Minister David Cameron amidst last minute preparations for the Olympics Romney himself led ten short years ago. But if guest and host alike will be grateful for clearer skies, it is also clear that Britain's economic glow has yet to return. The headline on the newsstands greeting our visitor: 'Double-dip recession officially longest in modern history'. Observers agree, Britain's financial problems are compounded by a sense that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has not been able to gain traction. There have been stinging accusations of aloofness and amateurism in Cameron's inner circle. Then only this week the sprawling phone hacking scandal resulted in the indictment of Andy Coulson, Cameron's former Director of Communications, as well as other politically friendly figures in the Murdoch empire. What's more, greeting Governor Romney is a potentially a tricky issue for the Prime Minister, coming so soon after lavishing the highest praise on the President but yet having criticized his own predecessor for not rolling out the red carpet for then-candidate Obama.
In fact, Cameron and Romney share a pedigree far beyond mere affiliation to the right-of-center parties of their respective lands. And the Romney campaign's warm, if misinterpreted, initiative to celebrate the Atlantic relationship could have repercussions far beyond the shirt sleeve chat our leaders will have in the sun of Downing Street's modest garden. With at least an even chance of winning the Presidency, Romney could well be the most outspokenly Anglophile President since Ronald Reagan. This is not least because he can trace those prized conservative values of family and faith back to the United Kingdom. The Romneys visit Wales, where Ann's grandfather was born and meet with very ordinary, somewhat incredulous relatives who report Mitt is charming. The BBC also claims it was in England that Romney's ancestor was baptized to become one of the first British Mormons, 175 years ago on the River Ribble in the northern English town of Preston. These, surely, are the ties that bind.
But the Atlantic relationship is much more than sentimental. At the very least, it reminds Britons of everything Europe is not. The European Union is bureaucratic and regulation-bound, while Anglo-American cooperation is goal driven and voluntary. Europe centralizes and imposes government power, but American freedoms remind us of our older English liberties. European countries are net recipients of military spending, generally contributing far less than the two percent of GDP NATO asks for the common defence, while the US fronts up four. Even now, Britain is about to enact the most savage reductions to its armed forces in memory. Yep, when Mitt comes to town he isn't just bringing the weather with him, but a fundamentally different world view.
For today at least that view offers Cameron and British politics the glimpse of a new direction, away from the domestic spending that made austerity inevitable. It instead moves us towards the keenly awaited growth that has yet failed to materialize on either side of the Atlantic. Take Romney's platform on energy, for example, promising to become the world's leading producer by leveraging horizontal oil drilling and shale gas production. A 2011 Price Waterhouse Coopers report estimates this alone will add 1 million jobs to the US economy. He is aided by Congressional Republicans who have just defeated Obama's plans to limit offshore leasing. Cheaper energy means more money in the budget of every household, and more demand. A similar boost to the UK economy could happen tomorrow if Her Majesty's government took the action recommended in their own report of this month to expand regulated 'fracking' in the natural gas sector.
Next is trade. A commerce friendly British administration could cooperate to an unprecedented degree to remove barriers to trade with a premier in Mitt Romney who could not be better qualified to boost the international economy. Expanded commerce is one of the few causes of prosperity, along with natural resources, that is not hostage to the roller coaster of City capitalism that chases the same money around the circuit. Instead it grows the real economy and creates real jobs.
It is not only on the economy that even the most seasoned observers have had to tear up the rule book, but in world affairs. Here too, an Atlantic, conservative alliance offers a practical approach. This is because Cameron and Romney are more than just fellow conservatives; they are both profoundly pragmatic conservatives. Cameron has made no secret that he heralds from the liberal wing of the Conservative party but carries his party's right in Parliament. Romney cut his teeth as the Republican Governor of America's most liberal state, but will still be endorsed by even the Religious Right come Election Day. Both men have refused to be bound by strict ideology throughout their careers, but instead apply conservative principles to the circumstances at hand. Today's reality is a world not of partisan armed camps but jostling interests and daily emergencies like the crisis in Syria. This suits a foreign policy that defends democracy and projects power where it must, but not everywhere it can. And the US can count on British support.
The special relationship Mitt Romney wishes to rekindle is based on more than 'Anglo-Saxon' heritage. It is based on the universal value of freedom Tony Blair parsed in his Address to Congress as 'the ability to do pretty much what you want, as long as it does not harm others'. Because the Governor is visiting essentially as a private citizen, perhaps it is time to reflect on an aspect of patriotism the British and those who settled America have shared, uniquely, since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. That is love of country is much more than love of its government.
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