Great Britain, the "Mother Country" of the United States, is watching the American presidential elections, albeit with somewhat less interest than in 2008, when a black man was elected the leader of the Free World.
International Business Times spoke with a British academic to discuss how the media and the public in United Kingdom view the battle for the White House between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Dr. Victoria Honeyman is a lecturer in British politics at the University of Leeds.
IB TIMES: Do you sense a great deal of interest in the 2012 U.S. presidential election among the British public? Or has it waned since 2008?
HONEYMAN: There is no doubt that interest has been substantially reduced in the American presidential election since 2008. The British are still very interested in the presidential race, as it could have a very large impact upon not only us, but the rest of the world, too, but we are not in the same place as 2008.
In 2008, many British people were keen to see the back of [George W.] Bush, but also the back of the Republicans who were tarnished by the impact of the war in Iraq.
Obama looked like a new hope -- younger, attractive, clever, lots of charisma, nice family, etc. Hopes were high on this side of the Atlantic as well as in the U.S.
IB TIMES: Does the British press heavily cover the U.S. campaign (i.e., debates, polls, speeches, gaffes)? And if so, is this a relatively new development since the onset of Internet and 24-hour media?
HONEYMAN: Yes, the British media cover the key events. The American presidential race is covered far more than other elections, such as those in neighboring EU states such as France or Germany. I am not entirely sure if it has increased since the onset of the Internet and 24-hour media coverage.
U.S. elections have generally always been covered by UK media, although the Internet and 24 hour media, having so much space and time to fill, might well have increased such coverage.
IB TIMES: David Cameron seems to have a pretty good relationship with Obama, despite their ideological differences. Has Cameron said anything about the Obama-Romney race, or is he discouraged from making any such comments?
HONEYMAN: As far as I am aware, Cameron hasn't said anything publicly. That isn't surprising. No leader wants to back the wrong man and then have to try to build relations with them. However, there was a piece in the Telegraph [newspaper] that the Republican Party were unhappy that Cameron has been so keen to meet Obama when he was last in Washington, but had not met with Romney.
That, coupled Romney’s comments over security at the Summer Olympics in London, probably hasn't encouraged warm relations on either side between Cameron and Romney. However, if Romney wins, Cameron will attempt to improve relations between them, as most British prime ministers do.
IB TIMES: Do the Conservatives in UK feel a kinship with U.S. Republicans, or do they feel that the GOP in the U.S. is too far-right-wing and has too much of a religious focus?
HONEYMAN: It depends on the individual MP. The Republicans, in a very general sense, sit to the right of the British Conservative Party, and therefore only those on the right of the Conservative Party would really have a kinship with them, such as [Secretary of State for Education] Michael Gove perhaps. In terms of religion, it doesn't seem to currently play as big a role in British politics as it does in American politics, and that seems set to continue.
IB TIMES: Similarly, does the British Labour Party believe it is analogous with the U.S. Democratic Party?
HONEYMAN: The kinship between the Labour Party and the Democratic Party is, like for the Conservatives, dependent on the individual member or MP. Strong ideological similarities could be seen in some policy areas between [former Prime Minister Tony] Blair and [former President Bill] Clinton, for example, but those on the left of the Labour Party particularly would be likely not to have a great deal in common with the Democrats in America.
IB TIMES: Does Britain have any real “stake” in who wins the U.S. presidential race? For example, would it change future plans for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan?
HONEYMAN: Yes, we have a very serious interest. I don't think it would necessarily impact troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, although it might. However, if Romney begins to look seriously at [attacking] Iran, for example, then that action would necessarily be concerning to the British. Would we be expected to participate? Would we be asked to? How would that impact our relationships in the Mideast region?
The decisions made by an American president are extremely important for the British and for many other nations as well.
IB TIMES: When Obama was elected in 2008, how did the British media and public react?
HONEYMAN: Overwhelmingly positively. His victory really signaled the end of the Bush years and hopefully an end to the kind of hawkish foreign policy which was associated with him. Obama was cast in a very positive light, as perhaps no other presidential candidate has since John F. Kennedy. He [Obama] was seen by many as the new hope, both at home in the U.S. and overseas.
IB TIMES: Romney made some foolish comments about Olympic security during his trip to London this past summer. Is he disliked by the British press?
HONEYMAN: I'm not sure he is universally disliked, but he isn't helping himself in Britain. His comments about the Olympics were inaccurate and really struck at the pride of the British people, not a popular move. He is also somewhat gaffe-prone, making the British public and media wonder whether he is like Bush -- that is not necessarily a positive thing for Romney.
IB TIMES: Politically and culturally, do the British (people, media, government, etc.) feel closer to the U.S. than to continental Europe?
HONEYMAN: Yes! Opinions vary depending on who you ask, but the majority seems to feel closer to the U.S. than continental Europe. The common language certainly doesn't hurt.