Conservative Cameron Takes the Reins in Britain

Daily News Article   —   Posted on May 12, 2010

NOTE:

  • The Liberal Democrats, often known as the “Lib Dems”, are a political party in the United Kingdom. They have traditionally occupied the center of the political spectrum, between the Labour Party on the left and the Conservative Party on the right (“liberal” in British political parlance means “centrist” or “moderate” rather than “left-wing”, as it does in the United States). At the present time, the party is seen as being moderately left-leaning.
  • The Liberal Democrats’ current leader is Nick Clegg.
  • The Liberal Democrats were formed in 1988 by a merger between the centrist British Liberal Party and the moderately left-wing Social Democratic Party, which had split off from the Labour Party in the early 1980s when the latter became too strongly socialist. The Liberal Party was one of the oldest political parties in the world, tracing its roots back to the Whigs of the era of William of Orange. (click here for more details)

(by Paisley Dodds and David Stringer, YahooNews.com) AP, LONDON – Britain woke up to a new political era Wednesday with its first coalition government since World War II, an unlikely marriage between the reborn right-wing Conservative Party and the left-[leaning] Liberal Democrats.

Prime Minister Cameron and Nick CleggWith a handshake, smiles and waves, new Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed his new coalition partner, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, outside the black door of 10 Downing Street and set off on the business of running the country. (SEE PHOTO – David Cameron, left, shakes hands with Nick Clegg, right)

The alliance was necessary because no party won a majority of parliamentary seats in last week’s national vote. …

Once described as sandal-wearing hippie academics, Clegg’s Liberal Democrats have emerged from the political fringe to the top rung of government. The party is expected to gain five Cabinet seats and more than a dozen junior government roles in what will be one of the least experienced governments since Tony Blair’s Labour Party won a landslide victory in 1997.

“Of course, we must recognize that all coalitions are about compromise,” Cameron wrote in an e-mail to supporters. “This one is no different.”

Cameron said the coalition agreement commits the next government to a significantly accelerated reduction in the budget deficit, to cut 6 billion pounds ($8.9 billion) of government waste and to stop an increase in the national insurance tax.

Cameron wrote that the agreement allows Conservatives to move forward on school and welfare reform and rejects Liberal Democrat pledges to get rid of nuclear submarines, offer amnesty to illegal immigrants or handover any additional powers to the European Union.

The government will immediately begin tackling Britain’s record 153 billion-pound ($236 billion) deficit. It is still unclear whether the Liberal Democrats will back the Conservatives’ plan to begin immediate spending cuts …..

Bank of England governor Mervyn King gave a strong endorsement to the new government’s plans for attacking the deficit, calling it the single most important problem facing the United Kingdom.”

“And the agreement that I have been informed about that was been reached between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is a very strong and powerful agreement to reduce that deficit and to take more action,” King said.

One of the first calls of congratulation to the new prime minister came from President Barack Obama, an acknowledgment of Britain’s most important bilateral relationship. Obama invited Cameron to visit Washington this summer.

Both Cameron and Clegg have acknowledged that Labour under Blair was too closely tied to Washington’s interests. Both men back the Afghanistan mission, but Cameron hopes to withdraw British troops within five years. Clegg has said he’s uneasy at a rising death toll. …

The new foreign secretary, William Hague, told the BBC that the new government wanted a “solid but not slavish relationship” with the United States and described the so-called special relationship between the two countries as being of “huge importance.”

“No doubt we will not agree on everything,” Hague said of the United States. “But they remain, in intelligence matters, in nuclear matters, in international diplomacy, in what we are doing in Afghanistan, the indispensable partner of this country.”

Hague is expected to speak by telephone later to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and soon travel to the United States and Afghanistan.

Relations with European neighbors could … become problematic. Cameron’s party is deeply skeptical over cooperation in Europe and has withdrawn from an alliance with the parties of Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy. Clegg, once a member of the European parliament, has long been pro-European.

Cameron extended his first invitation for formal talks to Sarkozy, who will visit London on June 18. The date is highly symbolic for France as it is the day that Charles de Gaulle launched his appeal from London via the BBC for the French to resist the Germans during World War II.

Cameron also spoke Wednesday with two key new allies, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The new British chief has vowed to build a “new special relationship” with India, believing the country can become a major political and trade partner. …..

The 43-year-old Cameron became Britain’s youngest prime minister in almost 200 years – the last was Lord Liverpool at 42 – after cementing a coalition deal with the third-place Liberal Democrats. Clegg and four other Liberal Democrats received Cabinet posts. A number of other Liberal Democrats would receive junior posts.

The agreement, reached over five sometimes tense days of negotiation, delivered Britain’s first coalition government since World War II.

………………

The coalition has already agreed on a five-year, fixed-term Parliament – the first time Britain has had the date of its next election decided in advance. Both sides have made compromise, and Cameron has promised Clegg a referendum on his key issue: reform of Britain’s electoral system aimed at creating a more proportional system.

Brown’s resignation Tuesday ends five days of uncertainty after last week’s general election left the country with no clear winner. It left Britain with its first so-called hung Parliament since 1974. Britain’s Conservatives won the most seats but fell short of a majority, forcing them to bid against the Labour Party for the loyalty of the Lib Dems.

Associated Press Writers Jill Lawless, Danica Kirka and Slyvia Hui contributed to this report.

Copyright ©2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. The information contained in this AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Visit yahoo.com/s/ap/20100512/ap_on_bi_ge/eu_britain_election for the original post.


Questions

NOTE: The Prime Minister of the U.K. is appointed based on the fact that his/her party won the majority of seats in Parliament. In this month’s election, the Conservative party won the most seats, but did not have a majority, therefore they formed a coalition with one of the other two main parties, the Liberal Democrat Party.

1. Who is the new prime minister of England (the United Kingdom)?

2. What is significant about the following information having to do with the U.K. election:
a) the coalition government
b) the new prime minister’s age
c) the date of the next election
d) the hung Parliament (NOTE: a hung parliament is a parliament in which no party has won enough seats to control the parliament which would enable it to form the government)

3. a) Define coalition.
b) Why did the new prime minister (of the right-wing Conservative Party) form a coalition government with the left-wing Liberal Democrat party?

4. What actions does the coalition agreement commit the new government to take?

5. a) What Liberal Democrat policies does the agreement allow Conservatives to reject?
b) what Conservative policies does the agreement allow them to move forward on?


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Background

PRIME MINISTER OF THE U.K. (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Minister_of_the_United_Kingdom)

  • The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the political leader of the United Kingdom and the Head of Her Majesty’s Government.
  • The Prime Minister and Cabinet (consisting of all the most senior ministers, who are government department heads) are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party, and ultimately to the electorate.
  • As the “Head of Her Majesty’s Government”, the modern Prime Minister is the highest political authority in the United Kingdom: he leads a major political party, generally commands a majority in the House of Commons (the lower house of the Legislature), and is the leader of the Cabinet (the Executive). As such, the incumbent wields both legislative and executive powers.
  • In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister guides the law-making process with the goal of enacting the legislative agenda of the political party he leads.
  • In his executive capacity, the Prime Minister appoints (and may dismiss) all other cabinet members and ministers, and co-ordinates the policies and activities of all government departments, and the staff of the Civil Service.
  • He acts as the public “face” and “voice” of Her Majesty’s Government, both at home and abroad.
  • Solely upon the advice of the Prime Minister, the Sovereign exercises many of her statutory and prerogative powers: they include the dissolution of Parliament; high judicial, political, official and Church of England ecclesiastical appointments; and the conferral of peerages, knighthoods, decorations and other honours.

THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY [TORIES] (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_Party)

  • The Conservative Party is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom.
  • The Conservative Party is descended from the old Tory Party, founded in 1678, and is still often referred to as the Tory Party and its politicians, members and supporters as Tories.
  • The Conservative Party was in government for two-thirds of the 20th century.
  • Since 2010, the party is the largest party in the House of Commons, albeit without a majority; the current party leader is Prime Minister David Cameron.
  • As of 2009, it has more councillors in local government, British members of the European Parliament and members of the London Assembly than any other party.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Democrats)

  • The Liberal Democrats, often shortened to Lib Dems, are a …centre-left social liberal political party in the United Kingdom.
  • The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party.
  • The current leader of the party is Nick Clegg.
  • The Lib Dems are the third-largest party in the House of Commons, behind the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.
  • Upon David Cameron becoming Prime Minister on 11 May after Gordon Brown’s resignation, the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party with Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister and other Liberal Democrats in the cabinet.
  • Tthe Liberal Democrats voice strong support for … higher taxes for public services.
  • The party objects to state limitations on individual rights and favours a welfare state that provides for the necessities and amenities of life.
  • They support multilateral foreign policy, opposing British participation in the War in Iraq and supporting the withdrawal of troops from the country.
  • The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European Union of the three main parties in the UK.
  • Since their foundation, Lib Dems have advocated electoral reform to use proportional representation in electing the House of Commons, also hoping to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber.

LABOUR PARTY (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Party)

  • The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom.
  • The Labour Party won the 1997 general election under the leadership of Tony Blair with a majority of 179 in the House of Commons, reduced to 167 in 2001 and to 66 in 2005.
  • In 2010, the party lost its majority and with 258 seats became the second largest party in the House of Commons and the Official Opposition.
  • Labour currently has 13 members in the European Parliament.
  • The Labour Party is a member of the Party of European Socialists and the Socialist International.

Resources

Read a commentary on the election results at nationalreview.com.

For background on the United Kingdom, go to the U.S. State Department website at state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3846.htm.

Go to worldatlas.com for a map of the U.K.