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Can David Cameron take lessons from the U.S. Presidential Election?

9th November 2012

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The comparison between the Conservative party in Britain and the Republicans in America may be a cause of concern for David Cameron. Can he learn lessons from the Republican defeat in time for the next general election in Britain?

Comparing the political systems of different countries is difficult. From differences defining the left and right of the political spectrum to differences in voting systems and opposing views on the role of government, as far as political parties go the U.K. and the U.S. hold many comparisons.

The British Labour and Conservative parties are often aligned with the American Democrats and Republicans respectively, the liberal left against the conservative right. Whilst this may be a tad unfair due to the confusion of the political spectrum in America, their left endorse policies that would be viewed as right minded in Britain.

So if this comparison is the case then Labour will be rejoicing, as indeed they were, at the reelection of their ‘sister’ party and the Conservatives will be looking on with worry. But with the British election still three years away, are there lessons for Cameron from the U.S. that could save his job in 2015?

Cameron has had a troubling time as Prime Minister. Working in a coalition government has meant the unforseen imposition on some policies and adoption of some others. Add to this the massive deficit facing him when he was elected alongside Nick Clegg and much like President Obama the Prime Minister has had to make some difficult decisions.

These difficult decisions have resulted in his and the coalition's popularity falling. Labour have found themselves around 10% ahead in polls for a long time now and as a result Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative party has been put into question.

This has coincided with the increase in stock of Boris Johnson on the back of the Olympics as well as the rise in popularity of UKIP, which has resulted in David Cameron facing a fair few problems, problems that he must address before the 2015 election.

The American election saw the hardline conservatives beaten by the reformist left and David Cameron must look at this fact and portray to the tough conservatives at home that they must update their ideals if they stand a chance of winning the next election.

Romney’s Republican party is very similar to Cameron’s Conservatives, a small number reformists open to fresh ideas being dominated by a strong, hardline conservative core and this is the main issue Cameron must address - he must lead his party to the centre ground.

At this year's Conservative Party Conference the most popular seminar was Anne Widdecombe’s anti-gay rights talk which discussed same sex marriage and how it should remain illegal. This fact epitomises Cameron’s problem: his party appear out of date, out of touch and close-minded.

The list of issues and similarities goes on. Romney appeared nationalist at times and came across as though he wouldn’t work with international organisations. At the same time Cameron saw the biggest backbench revolt over the EU, which makes it appear that his party might align themselves with the defeated Romney on international relations and aren’t keen on putting their fair share into international bodies.

Cameron must take these lessons from America and warn his party, he must express to them that Western liberal democracies aren’t crying out for right wing conservatism like the majority of his party is currently offering, France is another example of this with the victory of a socialist party in their most recent elections.

It is modernisation that Cameron must seek out for his party before the election campaign starts up in Britain. He did this in part before the 2010 election but with other problems arising since the coalition government formed the issue of rooting out the close-minded hardliners is probably be the last thing on his mind. But the U.S. election result should bring it to the fore once again.

Another problem for Cameron is what path to take in terms of portraying the hard decisions he’s had to make in regards to the economy. Obama showed that it was possible to win an election whilst in the grips of high debt and deficit and Cameron may try to copy Obama’s approach of portraying policy along the lines of ‘right track, hard road.’

The issue in this is that Obama’s handling of the economy has been far different to Cameron’s, Cameron has imposed spending cuts, which have been hard for the country to accept, whereas Obama has spent out and encouraged stimulus packages from the government, so if he is to mirror Obama’s approach to explanation of economic issues continuing he might find critics retorting from across the political sphere.

So Cameron may find it hard to relate himself, and his party, to Obama’s victorious Democrats and at the same time he must dealign the partys ideology with the Republicans. Otherwise he will be find himself the leader of a party who have been marginalised due to their inability to possess an open mind to change.

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