Americans in London

Just what influence do American voters living in London have over the US Presidential primaries? Wel

In the midst of the inflated rhetoric, the hours of media coverage, the mind-boggling volume of money, the spats it is often easy to forget we still have not started the actual American election campaign.

In fact, pundits and politicians alike have been running hard now for more than a year, and still have many months to go until Election Day on 4 November.

The reason for this endurance competition is, of course, George Bush's exceptional power to alienate. Poll after poll has showed in many different, nuanced, and complex ways exactly how much the world thinks America is screwing things up.

It has been "a weary eight years living here" says Louise Ford, an active London-based Republican who helps as events co-ordinator for the Republicans Abroad.

Unlike their Democratic counterparts, the Republicans Abroad have no funding or official structure and are instead a loose networking organization that hosts regular get-togethers for likeminded Americans living abroad.

They provide a forum for discussion of Republican politics and are organizing a black tie dinner sometime later in the year with a guest speaker from the US (still to be decided) and when President Bush came to London, they did an event on the side with adviser Karl Rove.

While they have no official standing within the party, those "who recognize their value, seek them out" Ms Ford points out and they regularly host visiting Republican legislators for events.

Their value to the primaries campaign on the Republican side, however, is hard to calculate at this early point. Republicans living abroad who want to vote in the primaries have to send in absentee ballots to their home states in the United States (so if you are from a caucus state, tough luck), and often these ballots arrive late, get lost or are ignored. This year may be different given the tight nature of many of the races, but at this point the question is moot.

On the Democratic side it is quite a different picture, and not just because they lack the Bush albatross around their necks. Democrats Abroad are a fully recognized and funded subset of the Democratic National Party, who are able to elect delegates, who get seats at the party's national convention.

Their big primary event was held at the Porchester Hall in London on Super-duper-tsunami-Tuesday where the tally, according to the oracular London Paper, was Obama 971, Clinton 422. The event itself was something of a restrained zoo, with Obama supporters making the most noise as calm queues of displaced Americans wandered in to cast their votes in a secret ballot.

For Sarah Feurey, a young New Yorker who has stayed on in London after completing post-graduate studies, the whole experience was her first time voting abroad. She was surprised by the amount of people who were at Porchester Hall, and ultimately threw her lot in with Senator Clinton, whom she describes as "the most Presidential candidate". Both of the friends who went with her, however, chose Senator Obama.

The reality, however, is that in both cases, the actual impact of the votes themselves in questionable. While there may be six million Americans living outside the United States, the volume of them who can and do vote is negligible - the clear exception to this rule is of course the military, who vote with a due precision. Hence the reason why not many of the campaigns have bothered to leave American borders thus far.

However, they are clearly here in spirit for other reasons. This weekend, Hillary Clinton's campaign is hosting a "global conference call" with none other than former President Bill Clinton, who will provide thoughts on "the race, discuss issues of particular interest to overseas voters, remind us all to vote online in the Global Primary and tell us why Hillary is in it to win!" Priced at a minimum of $50 and being held in Notting Hill, the call is an example of one big thing that the parties can gather from this corpus of displaced Americans: money.

According to the Financial Times, "Americans living in London alone contributed $326,993 to presidential campaigns in the first three quarters of this election cycle ... more than came out of Alaska, Montana, North Dakota or South Dakota." And this is probably an underestimate, as "some expatriates contribute using domestic addresses or leaving off addresses entirely."

Now that the Republicans have chosen their candidate, the Republicans Abroad are freer to start really engaging on this campaign and raise money for their party's election coffers. On the Democratic side, however, the battle goes on, with both Obama and Clinton looking like they will be slugging it out all the way to the convention. For the rest of the world, however, we get to continue to watch this match up without any voice.

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times