My last update on the British election was a story of the Liberal Democrat party’s increasing dominance in the world of British politics. However, in the last week they have lost that dominance, as the election held last Thursday left them with a much smaller number of Members of Parliament (MPs) than expected. The party received 57 seats, as opposed to the 62 they got in the 2005 election, according to the BBC. The election resulted in a hung parliament for the first time since 1974, when there was a Labour/Liberal Democrat party coalition.
A “hung parliament,” as explained in the last installment of this column, means that two or more parties share power, and all have to agree on how to run the country. Currently it seems most probable that it will be a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. The alternative is a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition, which would mean a smaller majority and would quite possibly require the cooperation of other smaller parties to ensure a majority in parliament.
Last Friday, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats started negotiations to determine whether they were compatible enough in policy and vision to form a coalition. Both David Cameron (Conservative leader) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat leader) have stated what they are prepared to do in this coalition and what each party wants. There are several issues over which the two parties disagree in a major way, including immigration, the European Union, and spending cuts. Cameron and Clegg are currently deciding whether they will form a coalition government.
When such a coalition is formed, it is not normally expected to last long, and another election within the same year is the norm. However, according to the BBC, the current situation may be different because the main party funds are depleted due to election costs. In fact, the BBC also stated that any party forcing another election in the next year or so will likely be unpopular and be seen as upsetting the balance of the coalition.
A coalition is generally seen to be a very cooperative experience, as it provides an environment in which parties must get along with one another for the good of the country. It is in their interest to cooperate if they want to be elected as dual or sole representatives into the next government.
In reference to talks with the Liberal Democrats on coalition matters, Cameron said: “Inevitably, these negotiations will involve compromise. But that’s what working together in the national interest means.” Most British politicians would agree that progress can only be achieved through cooperation.
In this economic climate, all parties need to work together to take the country out of recession. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable believes a joint party commission should be put together to solve the economic crisis. According to the BBC, both Cable and Conservative Chancellor George Osborne agree that the currently planned job tax by the Labour party is wrong.
The potential coalition would mean that the Liberal Democrats would be the minority party with 57 seats, opposed to the Conservatives’ 306. This would include the possibility of Cable being appointed as Chief Secretary of the Treasury.
The other side to this election has been the greatly increased involvement from the British population as a whole, as compared with previous elections, which was ignited by the TV debates. The councils of Britain simply could not handle the increased turnout to polling stations. It is fair to say this was only a modest turnout of voters and was by no means the majority of the British population, but when 10 p.m. came and the polling stations had to close, there were still many people left to vote. It was an embarrassment to British democracy that many of these people were not able to vote, and the public was outraged.
The embarrassment was further etched into the country’s psyche because British expertise is often brought into elections on an international scale to maintain order and to accommodate large numbers of people wanting to exercise their democratic right to vote.
This election has been a fascinating one with many twists and turns, and although it has not met its conclusion, it has restored imagination to British politics. Whichever coalition may result from the election, the parties involved will be expected to work together to ensure a stable future for Britain.