Saturday, May 8, 2010

The British Election Aftermath

The results are in for 649 seats in the British Parliament (one seat, very likely to be won by the Conservatives will be decided in a special election later this month), and the Conservatives (Tories) clearly have replaced Labour as the British voters’s favorite political party. With an expected final total of 307 seats, however, Tory leader David Cameron is 19 votes short of an absolute majority. The unwritten British constitution and precedent now allow for several resolutions of who will govern the United Kingdom and serve as prime minister.

The most likely outcome is that Mr. Cameron will become prime minster and that the Tories will govern. They have two main choices, if the queen invites Mr. Cameron to form a government, i.e., the Tories can form an alliance with the Liberal Democrats and run a coalition majority government, or they can govern without a majority and make no alliances. There is another possibility which is that the Liberal Democrats could form a coalition with Labour, but there two very large problems with that. First, the total of all the Labour members and all the Liberal Democrats is short of an absolute majority, and second, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats LOST members in the election (while the Tories made huge gains), so that a Labour-Lib Dem coalition would repudiate the voters. Without claiming to be an expert on British politics, I would predict that a Labour-Liberal Democrat government would be short-lived, unpopular, and a new election called relatively soon.

Gordon Brown has been repudiated by the voters. Nick Clegg’s popularity lasted about a week after he “won” the first TV debate in the election, and his party did much worse than expected, even losing seats in the new parliament. Only Mr. Cameron may fairly make a claim to lead at this point.

It is the queen, it must remembered, who makes the final determination about whether Mr. Cameron or Mr. Brown will be invited to form the next government. She has reigned for more than 50 years, has chosen more than a dozen prime ministers, and has come to represent the long-term stability of the United Kingdom, so a “radical” solution to the resolution of the election in the next few days is unlikely.

Mr. Cameron did close the election strongly, rightly employing the strategy of explaining to the voters that the only true choice was between the Conservatives and Labour, but he allowed an earlier commanding lead to narrow. All great British prime ministers were bold men or women, and if anything is needed on that side of the Pond right now (or on our side of the Pond, for that matter), it is boldness and a return to conservative principles. Mr. Cameron, during the election season did succeed in making himself the better choice for voters. Now he needs to demonstrate that he can govern boldly. This dangerous and extraordinary moment in time requires that the men and women in government rise to an historic set of occasions. This is not happening now in Great Britain, nor in its hitherto very successful former colony the United States of America. The citizens and electorate of both these nations, especially the young and new voters, yearn for boldness, not just in rhetoric but most importantly in action that will transform the present crisis.

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