Britons in the midst of the best and worst of times

Britons in the midst of the best and worst of times

 The electorate wanted change, and people now have it. But, at a time when the economy is in serious trouble, strong government is required. A hung parliament might not necessarily bring it.

The Liberal Democrats failed to make the breakthrough that the pre-election polls suggested, and, the Conservatives, while gaining the most amount of parliamentary seats, have fallen short of being able to form a majority government.

Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems are in the position of being king makers, despite their poor showing. Clegg wants to talk with Cameron about forming a coalition or at least forming some form of co-operative partnership. However, he may well want promises over reforming the electoral system in order to bring in proportional representation.
But the Lib Dems are not the natural bedfellows of the Conservatives, and there are more policy differences between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives than between them and Labour.

Both Labour and the Conservatives are today promising electoral reform and are overtly courting the Lib Dems. Cameron appears to be on the brink of assuming power and is offering the Lib Dems compromise on certain policies and wants to reach a swift agreement with the Lib Dems.

The UK is at war in Afghanistan and has a massive national debt, which could take a generation to offset. All of the main parties agree that harsh decisions are required in terms of cuts to public services and raising taxation, and both Labour and Conservatives are talking about ‘compromise’ to forge ahead in the ‘national interest’.

Both Brown and Cameron are currently trying their utmost to appear statesmanlike, while not trying to appear as opportunists, either trying to hold on to power, in Brown’s case, or, in Cameron’s case, to grasp it.

Cameron is hoping to bargain and negotiate with the Lib Dems over policies and electoral reform, but it is unclear as to whether what is on offer is a formal coalition or more ‘informal’ deals on policy areas.

As far as the Lib Dems are concerns, Nick Clegg must decide if he wants to align his party with the Conservatives, when most of Lib Dem grassroots level activists are centre left and have greater affinity with Labour. Clegg could get into bed with Labour, but would he want to get into bed with a somewhat discredited Labour government and an unpopular Gordon Brown? He may have to if the Conservatives are not able to offer the required olive branches on policies and reform to the voting system. What’s more, even if he aligned himself with Labour, the combined number of seats that both parties could muster in parliament would still not produce a majority government, which would not be the case if the Lib Dems chose the Conservatives.

Coalition new to UK

The UK is not used to talk of coalitions and political deals between parties. In Europe, this is commonplace. Despite what the media may want to imply about the jitteriness of the markets because of the current stalemate, this power vacuum is not a crisis. What seems highly unlikely, however, is that another general election will take place within 18 months, if the new arrangement, whatever it is to be, is unable to demonstrate a firm, co-ordinate approach to tackling the UK’s problems.

Of course, there are other bit part players, such as the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties and the Northern Ireland parties, that could squeeze out concessions in return for their support to either of the two main parties.

Today, the day after the election, everything is up for grabs and Nick Clegg has some serious thinking to do.

At the moment there is a media frenzy concerning the constitutional in the face of a hung parliament and deals between parties, but a burning issue that goes to the very heart of democracy still has to be addressed. Unaccountable forces in the finance sector are undermining any notion of genuine democracy, not just the UK, but in other nation states as well.

The seriousness of the UK’s economic ills have been apparent by the ongoing crisis in Greece, which formed the backdrop to the election campaign in the final week.
The UK’s economy is fragile and vulnerable to financial institutions, not least the rating agencies that downgraded Greece to ‘junk’ status. This begs the question — will the newly formed government be strong or stable enough to exert a modicum of genuine control over the finance sector and the speculators if the country is no longer to teeter along in fear of another financial sector inspired crisis?

Furthermore, will the new government have the will to confront the type of casino capitalism that threatens to undermine his government and the British economy?
Given David Cameron’s roots as a stockbroker and his party’s strong links with the finance sector, there is major doubt. However, in the face of proposed cutbacks to public services, possible social unrest and the instability caused by financial markets and institutions, if the Conservatives do acquire power, it may be that ultimately there is no other option.