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It's Prime Minister David Cameron

What an extraordinary five days it has been in British politics. An indecisive election result led to the sorts of political negotiations for which the word Byzantine really is appropriate.

First, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg entered negotiations with David Cameron, the Conservative party leader whose party had won the most votes and seats. Then he opened simultaneous negotiations with Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, but kept the Conservative talks going. Then the talks with Labour fell apart. Brown has now resigned, and Cameron will form the new government, apparently in coalition with the Lib Dems. The word is that Clegg will be deputy prime minister and that the Lib Dems will have Cabinet positions for the first time.

Philosophically, the Lib Dems have more in common with Labour than with the Tories. But the talks with Labour broke down partly because many in Brown’s party did not want a coalition but preferred to go into opposition. Their view was that Labour had lost the election and that voters would see a continuation of their party in office as illegitimate. And since between them, Labour and the Lib Dems did not command a majority of the seats, a coalition government joining those two parties would have been a shaky affair, relying on support from regional parties.

One wonders – there is still much we don’t know – if the disagreement on a coalition also had its ideological side, with some on the left of the Labour party wary that an alignment with the Lib Dems would strengthen Labour centrists. Some of the strongest supporters of a coalition, including Foreign Secretary David Milliband and Peter Mandelson, the party’s key election strategist, were closely identified with former Prime Minister Tony Blair. It seems that the non-Blarites were less enthusiastic on the whole.

Cameron’s decision to ally with the Lib Dems could have a far-reaching impact on his own party. Many on the right end of the Tory Party are wary of the alliance -- a mirror of the reaction on the Labour left. Cameron’s eagerness for a deal suggests he really may want to remake the Conservative Party along more progressive lines. Blogging for the conservative Daily Telegraph, Damian Thompson noted that this is “what Tory Right-wingers fear most.” The worry on the right, Thompson wrote, is “that Liberal Democrat MPs will become lobby fodder for changes that Dave could never sell to the Conservative Party in the country. It might seem churlish to speculate like this just as Cameron is kissing hands with the Queen, and of course he deserves congratulations. But still.”

And how will the Liberal Democrat rank-and-file respond to this new alliance? There is already skepticism. Here is Anne Perkins at the center-left Guardian:

To give Clegg the benefit of the doubt, the numbers for a Labour deal never stacked up (quite apart from appearing to be a deliberate attempt to flout the will of the voters). Maybe he wants to show people that party identity can survive coalition; and it's true that it does in systems that have grown familiar with the idea. But the shouts tonight of "yellow Tories" as Lib Dem negotiators came out of the Cabinet office tonight aren't likely to go away in a hurry. It has already shocked activists assembled for the TV news bulletins…. Saturday's Lib Dem special conference, required to ratify the deal, will be an interesting event.

Indeed it will. But Cameron seemed willing to do whatever it took to become prime minister. Now he has the prize. There is this nice fact, courtesy of the Times of London: “At 43 he becomes Britain's youngest prime minister since the Earl of Liverpool in 1812.”

By E.J. Dionne  | May 11, 2010; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Next: The British political system worked beautifully


I wonder how much of the anti-Labour vote was not just about the economy and the role of government but a backlash against Blair and for the most part Brown's role in the Iraq war i.e. Downing Street memo.

Posted by: MerrillFrank | May 11, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

As an American, I don't know much about the various British political parties. Could someone tell me how conservatives the Tories are? How would they compare to the American political landscape? I'm pretty sure they aren't like Republicans, but I'd like some further info.

Posted by: Robert_B1 | May 11, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

The Conservative party in UK is best prove of what lunatics Republicans in US are

To be exact Conservative parties in UK, Germany, Canada, etc. are best proves of how right-wing the Democrats in US are, which means how they govern for benefit of Big pharma, Big insurance, Big banks (aka Wall Street gang), and as a result what Utter complete Lunatics Republicans in US are whom are even to the right of the Democrats.

After all consider the FACT that the conservative party in UK, that is Margaret Thatchers (Iron Lady) party, is "four and square" for their Universal nationalized (aka Socialized) single payer health care system, which you can read about here:

And quoting from which page the conservative party in UK states:
"Over three years ago David Cameron spelled out his priorities in three letters – NHS. As the party of the NHS, we will never change the idea at the heart of our NHS – that healthcare in this country is free at the point of use and available to everyone based on need, not ability to pay."

Do you get it? The conservative party in UK, that is Margaret Thatchers party as per the above statement is stating that they are 100% for their FREE, free for the Taxes, that they pay, health care for all. What the Republicans in US call "Socialism.." or "Communism....", proving what lunatics they are.

Much more here:

Posted by: RealNews1 | May 11, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the information, RealNews1. However, I would advise you to proofread your blog a little more thoroughly..

Where do the Tories stand on other domestic issues?

Posted by: Robert_B1 | May 11, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Robert_B1, you might find the BBC's guide to parties and issues helpful:

Posted by: laremiller | May 11, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

The Conservative Party is very liberal, relative to the Republican Party of the U.S.A. It is arguably more liberal than the Democratic Party. It is certainly much more secular.

It is not against same-sex marriage, indeed David Cameron said: "marriage was important, and as far as I was concerned it didn’t matter whether it was between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman".

It is not against abortion, although it did vote for a bill reducing the limit from 24 weeks to 22 weeks. With no whip, the majority of Conservative MPs voted against reducing the limit down to 16 weeks. A slight majority of Conservative MPs voted against allowing embryos to be used in research.

They are in favour of reducing surveillance, abandoning the plans to introduce ID cards, and removing innocent people's DNA from the national database.

They are, however, in favour of introducing a cap on immigration, introducing a tax incentive for marriage, and removing inheritance tax for estates under £1m. They are against euthanasia, gay adoption and a law making it illegal to discriminate against people based on sexuality.

Posted by: proberts84 | May 11, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

EJ: You just told me yesterday that the Lib Dems were going to form a coalition with the Labour party. Now you act as if you knew this unholy union between the Conservatives and Lib Dems was going to happen all along. Thus is the gift of an OpEd writer who's opinion is always wrong, but always finds himself in the paper the following day.

As I've said before about can a man be so wrong, so often, about everything...even politics from a country he apparently knows NOTHING about.

Bravo, EJ, Bravo.

Posted by: d-35 | May 12, 2010 2:24 AM | Report abuse

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