I’m an American in the UK. Brits don’t realise how good they have it

I’m an American in the UK. Brits don’t realise how good they have it

It’s tiring having to explain how my country ended up with two candidates who can’t seem to string a coherent sentence together, says Sarah (Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

When this year’s snap General Election was first announced by a soggy Rishi Sunak in May, I knew my first ‘Genny Lex’ in the UK would be quite the experience.

Having first moved from North Carolina in the US in 2021, the majority of my UK political experience while living here has been an awkward handover of prime ministers – Boris Johnson to Liz Truss and then, Sunak – so an election was new territory for me.

Following a few hectic weeks of campaigns and publicity stunts – Ed Davey’s water slide was a personal favourite – the UK finally had a new leader on July 5: Sir Keir Starmer.

But as I watched Sunak leave through one door and Starmer arrive via the other, I couldn’t help but think just how different the process is back home and how lucky the UK is to have some legitimate – albeit controversial – candidates.

Yes, even though I’ve experienced four PMs in as many years since moving to England, I still think the political atmosphere is better than the States right now. 

In fact, my family friend in the US last week asked me what the UK has thought about our political atmosphere as of late. And I hate to say it, but the state of our politics for this latest election due to be held on November 5 have been embarrassing.

People can tell I’m an American in London – and I don’t usually care. But around the election season, it’s tiring having to almost apologetically explain how my country ended up with two ancient candidates – Donald Trump and Joe Biden – who can’t seem to string a coherent sentence together.

A convicted felon and an elderly man, who is noticeably struggling to keep up with the demands of his position. 

Sarah Hooper covering the US election in 2020 (Picture: Sarah Hooper)

What gives? Many of my British friends have criticised both of the UK’s top candidates this year. Starmer was too ‘stiff and boring’, while Sunak was an ‘out-of-touch’ posh boy. 

Both valid points, but I couldn’t help but laugh because at least the UK has competent candidates. 

I know America has loads of brilliant, younger politicians ready to take on the challenge of running for president – on both sides of the political spectrum. So witnessing this year’s UK election – as entertaining as it was – was a stark reminder of how dire the situation is back home. 

Take, for example, differences in the transition of power. During his first speech as Prime Minister, Starmer congratulated Sunak for being the ‘first British-Asian prime minister’ and his ‘dedication and hard work’. Sunak then went on to congratulate Sir Keir for his victory. All very civil.

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When Trump lost in 2020, insults were thrown about and accusations of a ‘stolen election’ riled up a crowd of his supporters to storm the capital on January 6. So much for civility and peaceful transition of power. 

On top of that, political ads are ramping up back home – with one pro-Trump video actually querying whether Joe Biden will even survive long enough to continue in office. 

In the UK, outside of strictly monitored party political broadcasts, political advertising on TV isn’t allowed – so in the unlikely event Keir Starmer wanted to speculate that Rishi Sunak might kick the bucket, he wouldn’t be able to. 

I also noticed that, in comparison to the slow political system of the US – which has a nearly three-month long handover between presidents – the idea of Sunak being fired at breakfast and replaced by lunchtime was a welcome quick change. 

I’m proud to be American, but something has to change, says Sarah (Picture: Sarah Hooper)

MPs who were voted out didn’t have a grace period – they were out of their offices and replaced on Monday before they had a chance to make things harder for their successors. 

Spending limits are put in place for parties running in a UK Parliamentary election. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars each election cycle. 

Surely money raised to spend on political ads bashing the other candidates and on rallies can be put to better use?

These are obviously two different countries with vastly divergent political systems, but seeing up close how Britain does things after voting in and covering the 2020 presidential election has been revealing.

What do you think about the UK’s political system? Have your say in the comments belowComment Now

It’s led me to conclude that, as much as the average UK voter likes to slag off the political system and candidates here, at least you’re not the laughing stock of the entire world when it comes to your politicians. 

I’m proud to be American, but something has to change. How can a country that claims to be the greatest in the world have Biden and Trump as the only two feasible candidates?

Last week, Americans were celebrating Independence Day on July 4. We’re proud of casting aside British rule all those years, war, and tea parties ago. 

But when it comes to our political system maybe – just maybe – there’s a case to be made that we look back across the Atlantic for guidance on manners and basic principles of our political candidates.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Ross.Mccafferty@metro.co.uk. 

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