The city of London is alive with history. Contained within are castles, monuments, subway systems, and glass high-rises that chart the development of human history and architecture over the past thousand years. Literally fused are the clean cut edges of modern glass and steel with the centuries-old stone foundations supporting buildings that have watched countless generations pass.
The Georgetown students travelling across the pond to experience politics in an entirely new environment got a sense of both the old and the new through meetings with contemporary political operatives and tours of the haunts of historical leaders; we learned the ways of politics in the UK as they are now and how they developed over time.
Touring the Churchill War Rooms brought recent political history to life. Seeing the places where strategies were formed, leaders lived, and enemies targeted their bombs made a war fought across the ocean from my home feel like more than a story learned in school.
In the Old Firehouse in Tonbridge, a village just outside London, the Hoyas in UK learned from Conservative Member of Parliament Tom Tugendhat that the most important tool in politics is a decent pair of shoes. His comment referred to the extremely local nature of elections, in which not just campaign volunteers but the candidates themselves spend more time knocking on doors and handing out leaflets than any other form of campaigning. TV advertising isn't permitted at the large scale that it occurs in America, and because there are only local elections rather than a national executive election there is little sense to investing large amounts of money in spreading a political message far and wide as is common at home. This meant that we had to seek out political information rather than be bombarded with it incessantly as we are in the States for even the smallest elections.
Meeting with researchers Tom Clarkson and Julia Ridpath at Britain Thinks pulled back the curtain on some of the projections to explain how and why the results could be expected. By conducting focus groups in person and online, their research charts the political attitudes and intentions of voters in Britain. We met with Britain Thinks during the second half of our trip, having gotten our bearings on the overall political system we were able to appreciate the organization’s insight into the mindset of the electorate participating in the snap elections.
I personally found it incredible that following the campaign, election, and results, the level of uncertainty for the country’s future was still so high. Which coalition would form a government, who will lead it, and what strategy will be taken in the imminent Brexit negotiations are questions left unanswered following the general election. I’m excited to continue following the twists and turns of UK politics and am grateful for GU Politics and the School of Foreign Service to have given me the educational foundation and opportunity to develop this interest.