The day the political landscape in Britain changed for ever!
May 6th 2010 was supposed to be the day that Britain went to the polls to elect a new prime minister to form a strong and stable government. Instead, voters came away with confusion. Although the Conservatives were clear winners with 306 seats, without an absolute majority of 326 seats in parliament, they could only form a minority government. The prospect of a chaotic “hung parliament”, where no one party has an overall majority, raised the spectre of disillusionment and despair.
The last “hung parliament” in 1974 saw the Conservatives form a coalition with the Liberal Party – without success. To have an effective government this time, the Conservatives needed to form a coalition, or at least reach an understanding with the Liberal Democrats to get legislation through. With Greece facing revolt and the Euro under extreme pressure, a strong and decisive leadership is the only way to prevent a UK economic disaster. The UK needs a strong and stable government to get back on its economic feet.
A coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats was an unlikely alliance which has ushered in an historic and seismic shift in the political landscape. It is the first time that Britain has had a coalition government in 70 years – and the first time these two have ever agreed to a power sharing deal at a national level in the UK. Lady Violet Bonham-Carter, president of the Liberal Party from 1945-47 once said: “Tories are not always wrong, but they are always wrong at the right moment”. Only time will tell if this new alliance lives up to her prophetic words.
Headed by David Cameron, the Conservatives will lead the new government with Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, serving as deputy prime minister and Liberal Democratic MP’s taking up senior cabinet positions. Having both parties in power has helped to garner support for the deal but there is still likely to be some anger among backbench MPs and from grassroots activists on both sides. Many see the situation as being a ‘halfway house’, a compromise for both parties.
The message is to work together to rebuild Britain through clear, open and plural politics. David Cameron stated in his first speech as prime minister that it’s about “the not taking… but the giving back”, a speech reminiscent of US President John F Kennedy when he said at his inauguration, “It’s not what the country can do for you; it’s what you can do for your country”. Freedom, fairness and responsibility are the key words. But is it fair that only 139 out of 650 new MPs are women? A notable exception is Baroness Varsi elected as Minister without Portfolio, being the first Muslim woman to become a cabinet minister.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “One of the things politics has taught me is that men are not a reasoned or reasonable sex”. Hopefully our new leaders will redefine this belief and put the national interest before the parties’ interests to create a brave, new political world. But only time will tell what effects this fragile coalition will have on ordinary British Belles.
by Sue Beardshaw
[picture credits: The Prime Minister's Office]