In the American presidential election, it is traditional to have one televised debate on domestic affairs and one on foreign affairs. The Brits like to think of themselves as more outward-looking than the Americans, but in this UK election there are going to be three televised debates and just half of one will be devoted to the rest of the world. That half took place tonight.
There were no particularly startling announcements or arguments, but I thought the debate did give an interesting snap-shot of what global issues matter in the British debate. There were five big questions raised: the European Union, Afghanistan, the war on terror, nuclear deterrence and climate change. Russia, China and India were barely mentioned – even though Britain has had a terrible relationship with Russia in recent years and the rise of China and India is the most important long-term global development. If this debate had taken place in the Bush years, you might have expected an agonised debate about Britain’s relationship with America. As it was, Gordon Brown made a half-hearted attempt to lable Nick Clegg, anti-American. And Clegg responded with a sprited defence of a more independent attitude to the US. But the argument over America never really caught fire. Read more