I guess I’m going to get used to looking at this man’s forehead because David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party here in the UK, has just left Buckingham Palace as new Prime Minister following Gordon Brown’s resignation. The Liberal Democrats have formed a coalition with the Tories to take the Labour Party out of power for the first time since Tony Blair’s historic election in 1994.
I’d love to offer some devastating and insightful analysis of this development, but even after attempting to follow the debates and news programs for the last two weeks, I’m still scratching my head. Since I can’t vote here, I spend much more time and energy keeping up with US politics, but here’s the wee bit that I’ve gleaned:
- It’s very interesting that the Liberal Democrats, despite being a third party and actually losing seats in the election (even with 23% of the vote), found themselves in a position of influence unlike any we would see in the States. They had the ability and power to form an alliance with either one of the larger parties and thereby swing the thrust of the government in favor of one or the other. The last few days have featured cloistered meetings between Nick Clegg, head of the Lib Dems, and the leaders of both Labour and Conservative. Can you imagine if Ralph Nader’s Green Party had held such sway in the 2000 Bush/Gore election? History would be very different. This is called a hung parliament, meaning that no party won enough seats to hold an overall majority (326+) that can pass parliamentary votes without support of other parties.
- In Democratic fairness, this is the right choice. Although I find it hard to believe that Lib Dem supporters are on board with a Conservative coalition, the Conservatives got the most seats of any party (306 out of 650). Majority rules, in this instance.
- Wales and Scotland have their own Parliaments, with separate elections, but these Parliaments don’t have immigration policies, national defense, or taxation powers. They’re responsible for things at a more local level, such as education and NHS (most comparable to state elections). These Parliaments are overwhelmingly affiliated with Labour or National Parties rather than Conservative. For example, in Scotland for the UK-wide election, the Conservatives have one MP (Member of Parliament) to Labour’s 41 (out of 59 in total). There is a separate Scottish Parliament that has held two elections, the first resulting in Labour government and the second in rule by the Scottish National Party. This is really confusing to track, as a foreigner.
- However honorable the intentions, getting into bed with Conservatives is always a bad idea. That’s my incisive political analysis right there.
The BBC has the full election results available here.