Brits In U.S. Weigh In On Prime Minister Debates

Britain's heated campaign for prime minister has generated some American-style television moments, like Gordon Brown not realizing his mike was on when he called a woman a "bigot." But it's hard for some Brits in the U.S. to tune in.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Great Britain's lively race for prime minister has produced some American-style TV moments. This week, there was Gordon Brown forgetting he was wearing a mic and calling a woman he had met at a campaign stop bigoted. And there have been the first-ever televised debates in a prime minister's race.

While that generated a lot of buzz in the U.K., NPR's Mandalit del Barco found that Brits in the U.S. had a hard time tuning in.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: In England, Brits have been glued to the telly, watching candidates Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

Unidentified Man #1: Each of whom wants to be our next prime minister.

DEL BARCO: But on this side of the pond, it's hard to call the debates must-see TV, especially when it's only carried on C-SPAN3. Who gets C-SPAN3?

Unidentified Man #2: It's supposed to be on here.

DEL BARCO: They tried to get it at the Ye Olde Kingshead Pub(ph) in Santa Monica, a favorite enclave of the city's large British expat crowd, but yesterday's debate was overwhelmed by another British obsession, soccer.

Ms. DIANA YOUNG(ph): Soccer's more interesting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DEL BARCO: Diana Young and her husband Dennis, visiting from Southampton, grumbled about the American-style debate.

Ms. YOUNG: It's a bit of a laugh, really, watching them. They don't do it very well.

Mr. DENNIS YOUNG: There's far too many rules. The audience aren't allowed to speak, and they're not allowed to clap, and they're not allowed to disagree. They've got to be totally silent all the time. This one is a little bit sedate.

(Soundbite of applause)

DEL BARCO: Liverpool scored on Madrid just as Young began talking about how rowdy British elections are compared to those in the U.S. Nearby, pub manager Peter Dolan(ph) managed to find the debate streaming on an Internet feed, but there was no audio.

Mr. PETER DOLAN (Manager, Ye Old Kingshead Pub): It's got nothing coming on.

DEL BARCO: Leaving pub-goer Simon Petty(ph) to provide his own running commentary.

Mr. SIMON PETTY: We're just going on what they look like. Gordon's looking a bit jowly and vaguely simian, doesn't he, with those ears, a bit tired. He doesn't happy. He's never looked happy. He's a dour Scot.

DEL BARCO: Petty was much more impressed by Brown's opponents, Cameron and Clegg, whom he described as young, smooth and more suave than Brits are used to.

Mr. PETTY: They both talk a good game definitely.

DEL BARCO: But apparently that's not good enough to take this crowd's eyes off Liverpool's soccer match.

Mr. PETTY: Is it back on? Oh, it's back on. I'm going to have to go.

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

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