Almost 29 years ago, the world was enchanted by the fairytale wedding of Lady Diana Spencer to Charles, Prince of Wales. The opulent event was broadcast globally, and Americans hung on every detail from the flowers to Diana’s beautiful gown. Flash forward to today as the gossip shows buzz at the possibility of another royal wedding. The Daily Beast’s reports that Diana and Charles’ eldest son, Prince William, may be set for a June announcement of his engagement to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton. Americans are, as usual, fascinated with the royal family.
Another big UK event passed this week with a perhaps a bit less notice on this side of the pond. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with the Queen to request that she dissolve parliament, formally scheduling a national election for May 6. Brown’s poll numbers have notoriously sagged for the past few years, and he waited until the eleventh hour to call the election. The polls indicate that his Labour Party will likely suffer a narrow defeat, losing grasp of leadership for the first time in over thirteen years. In this event, the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, will come out of the wilderness.
So why should Americans care? At face value, an election in far-off Europe might not seem as exciting as a storybook royal engagement. And our own President Obama doesn’t seem to place much stock in our relationship with the United Kingdom. After all, he removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office which had been given to us as a gift in the aftermath of 9/11. He gave Prime Minister Brown a set of DVDs as a gift upon their first meeting, whereas Brown gave the much more thoughtful gift of a desk set made from timbers of a Victorian anti-slave ship. On the UK side, a group of members of parliament recently released a report suggesting that the close British partnership with the U.S. needs to be reexamined.
Just how close is that partnership? In the days following World War II, Churchill made a speech in which he described a “special relationship” between the U.S. and UK. He was referring to our two nations’ shared history, culture, and language. But more importantly, he was invoking our shared security and prosperity and the fact that the two transatlantic friends have stood firm together in times of peril for generations. We continue to do so today in places like Afghanistan.