Friday, October 23, 2009

Breaking News: Labor Advocates Defeat of Tories!

Roger Cohen, in this op-ed in The New York Times, has provided an excellent example of the "dog bites man" vs. "man bites dog" concept of news, that I described here.

No, it's not really breaking news that the Labor Party's David Miliband, foreign secretary in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, wants the British electorate to maintain his party's majority in the House of Commons in the general election that must be held by next June, rather than putting Conservative leader David Cameron in 10 Downing Street in place of Brown.

To be fair to Cohen, there is more to his column than that. But he does seem to want us to accept Miliband as an unbiased authority on the question.

As to President Obama's position on the matter, that's a more complicated question.

Other countries' leaders need to be careful about perceptions that they're meddling in another country's election. Two reasons for that, one theoretical, one practical:

On a theoretical level, such behavior can be criticized as undemocratic, and disrespectful of the other country's independence.

The practical concern is that all countries' leaders will have to work with whichever candidate wins the election. In other words, a foreign leader who, however subtly, favored party "A", might have a difficult working relationship with the leader of party "B", if party "B" wins the election.

Even though the US is not a member of the European Union (EU), we have a stake in its policies. And we have a stake in the nature of the relationship that a major country such as the UK has with the EU.

Cohen praises Obama for pushing Britain in the direction of a Europe policy that fits America's interests. It would be naive to think that an American administration would absolutely not do that. But there could be a backlash on the part of Britain's voters and/or its leaders, if that is pushed too strongly.

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