A Yank in London Critiques the Parliamentary System

by John Fund

If you take an American political reporter and move him from the Beltway to London, he just might gain some valuable perspective. Take Ari Shapiro, the former White House correspondent for NPR, who is now based in Britain covering events in Europe. Living in Britain has certainly altered his perspective on some things.

Before coming to London, Shapiro thought the U.S. government would be much more productive with a parliamentary system like England’s. That’s changed.

“Being here. I’ve realized that the drawback to having a parliamentary system is voters really don’t choose their political leaders, the parties choose their political leaders,” he said. “As a result you have political leaders here who most British people find completely uninspiring — David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Milliband — people are not motivated by those guys in the way people tend to be motivated by American politicians of either party, and I think that’s a direct result of the parliamentary system.”

Kudos to Shapiro for recognizing the constipated nature of many parliamentary systems, by which parties carefully screen out rebels and political entrepreneurs from their approved list of candidates. It’s a process which promotes conformity and hackery. As a result, most such systems never see a Ted Cruz or Sarah Palin on the right or a Bernie Sanders or Al Franken on the left ever reach public office.

Shapiro also says he detects a few other differences in Britain: “My impression generally is whether it’s journalists, sources or otherwise, people drink a lot more here.”

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