Laboured win

Second Edit

The outcome of the general election in Britain was no surprise, with a hung parliament voted into place in which no party has a decisive majority. But the details of the outcome are not on equally expected lines. Surveys and opinion polls had forecast that the Liberal Democrats, who had been for most of the recent past been only a marginal third force in British politics, would be placed second after the Conservatives. But while the Conservatives have emerged as the largest party with the highest percentage of votes, Labour has come second. The Lib Dems have actually lost some seats. They could not translate the sentiment in their favour into votes partly because of organisational limitations and partly because in their final view the voters were not probably very confident about them. Labour has always gained from tactical voting, and since there is more in common between them and the Lib Dems, the sentiment in favour of the liberals may have gone to Labour.

But the vote is a vote against Gordon Brown’s government, as Labour has lost over 90 seats. The voters wanted a change after three consecutive terms for Labour and were unhappy about its management of the economy, foreign policy decisions and the scandalous conduct of many of its ministers and MPs. But under the British system Brown can continue as prime minister till he is defeated in the Commons. The Conservatives have gained about 100 seats and are best placed to form a government. The Lib Dems have emerged the king-makers as neither party can get a majority without their support. In the hung parliament after the 1974 elections the Lib Dems had supported Labour to form a new government after the Conservative party found itself in the same position as Labour is in now. Conservative leader David Cameron has opened talks with the Lib Dem leaders with a “big, open and comprehensive offer’’. But there are major areas of difference between the two parties, like on electoral reforms and policies on the European Union and immigration. There is also no clear idea whether the new government should be a coalition government or a minority government of the Conservatives supported by the Lib Dems.

British political history is against coalition or minority governments. They have not survived for long, and the latest was Harold Wilson’s government in 1974 which lasted only a few months. That casts a shadow on the present situation.

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