Only a few years ago, the only people actively involved in tea parties were kids, inviting Mr Bunny and Barbie to sip imaginary drinks round the dining room table.
Now, the Tea Party has been hijacked, with Mr Bunny and Barbie replaced by Glenn Beck (a popular American TV presenter, who has said that the ‘socialist’ President Obama is racist against white people, and Sarah Palin (inventor of the word ‘refudiate’, and the next Shakespeare (according to herself). This Tea Party is a collection of right-wing Americans who see the Obama administration’s stimulus packages and plans for healthcare reform to be a threat to the American way of life.
A lot of Tea Party members are middle-class Americans, who have seen their own American dream turn sour after the credit crunch, and fear that increasing state intervention is detrimental to their way of life, and unconstitutional. Some Tea Party activists are simply Americans fed up of the old ‘Democrat vs. Republican’ battles, and wish to make their concerns heard. Other members, are, to put it lightly, a little delusional. They believe that Obama is comparable to Stalin and Hitler, and that America has become a ‘tyranny’ under his administration. I’m sure that’s a comparison that flatters Kim Jong-Il and other tyrants. One interviewee in the BBC’s This World series compares Obama, Churchill and Hitler, simply as they all supported gun control. The question is could a Tea Party-esque movement, that is a movement with socially-conservative and economically-liberal views, ever really start in the UK?
My answer would be no, not quite yet. The UK has always been more ‘left’ than it’s transatlantic cousin, and the majority of British citizens are determined to protect some facets of state intervention that are regarded as ‘communist’ by Tea Partiers (i.e. the NHS, social welfare systems, etc). The UK is also a lot more secular than the USA, with a poll for the Guardian in 2006 stating that 63% of people in the UK considered themselves to not be religious. But, the UK has not been exposed to media as politically biased as in the USA. In the UK, all broadcasters must report the news impartially (even Sky News, despite some people’s concerns), and have a separation of news and opinion. In America, this is more relaxed, and has led to the creation of networks such as Fox News, who, despite claiming to be ‘Fair and Balanced’, have been unashamedly pro-Republican, reflecting the political interests of Rupert Murdoch. Were Britain to relax its regulations, this would allow for the rise of ‘Fox News’ type channels, and the loss of integrity in our news broadcasters, as news channels output would simply become a 24-hour mouthpiece for large media moguls and opinionated zealots. They could be able to whip up enough fear to create our own (probably less brash – we’re still British after all) version of the Tea Party. Which is why the Conlibsercrats should defy pressure on them from the right-wing media, and maintain a range of independent news outlets and ensure that at least broadcast media remains really fair and balanced, not the Fox News ironic version of ‘fair and balanced’.