The Special Relationship: Uncovered

BBC Radio 4

Peter Hitchens re-examines the relationship between the USA and UK, suggesting that – instead of an intimacy based on their shared histories, cultures and language – the real relationship is one of tactfully-concealed hostility.

Since French military and naval intervention won America its independence, the new Republic has been Britain’s most consistent real rival with the Burning of the White House its most potent symbol.

The first half of the 20th century was characterised by unprecedented hostility between the two nations and American support for Britain in both World Wars came at a price. Peter Hitchens argues that Lend-lease during the war was not an act of friendship, but a cynical subsidy, and much was demanded in return – our gold reserves and bases in the Caribbean. At Bretton Woods, he suggests, Britain came under irresistible pressure from the US to abandon Sterling’s position as a major reserve currency, ceding it to the US dollar.

After 1945, the ‘help’ stopped. The post-war years saw the Suez humiliation, brutal (however well-deserved) pressure on Britain to submit to the European Union, and a series of events which show that the United States only observed the Special Relationship when it suited – treating Britain as a junior rather than an equal partner.

With pro-active argument and surprising revelations, Peter Hitchens challenges the received wisdom and attempts to show that Uncle Sam was always out to replace the British Empire with its own global leadership.

Producer: Kati Whitaker.
A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.