Stormy times ahead for Britain after inconclusive vote

2010-05-07 08:43

Britain faces a turbulent few months after the general election

produced a parliament without one party holding an absolute majority – and the

answer may be another election, commentators said today.

While the opposition Conservatives looked certain to finish as the

biggest party in the House of Commons, partial results showed David Cameron’s

party was in line to win about 305 seats – 21 short of an overall

majority.

That opened the possibility of Cameron trying to force through a

minority government with the support of smaller parties, or Prime Minister

Gordon Brown’s Labour Party trying to form a coalition with the Liberal

Democrats.

Both solutions would be unusual for Britain and carried the risk of

instability at a time when a government will have to deal with a record deficit

and weak economic growth, as commentators were quick to point out.

Jackie Ashley in The Guardian newspaper said: “The more we hear of

the different permutations of who might work with whom after tonight, the more I

feel there is only one certainty: we’ll be having another general election

before too long.

“There is still time, of course, for late results to change the

situation, but right now none of the options on offer are likely to produce a

stable government for the next five years.”

The Daily Mail said a hung parliament was a “nightmare

scenario“.

In an editorial, it said another option was for the Conservatives

to rule as a minority with Liberal Democrat backing but without a formal

coalition.

But in such a scenario, “Cameron would have only a tenuous grip on

power – with the Lib Dems in a position to defeat any policy they remotely

disagree with – such as stricter immigration controls, or abolition of the Human

Rights Act,” it said.

And the price of any deal with unionist members of parliament in

Northern Ireland in return for their support “would be heavy for the UK

taxpayer“.

“The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) would demand Northern Ireland

is spared £200m of cuts in state spending from an economy over-reliant on state

jobs,” it said.

The Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph admitted that the task

facing Cameron was “daunting“.

“It is highly unlikely that Mr Cameron will seek a coalition with

other parties and he would be wise to avoid doing so,” it said in an

editorial.

“Without a healthy majority, the task facing him is even more

daunting. Rarely, in peacetime, will a new government have taken power in less

propitious circumstances,” it added.

“An economic catastrophe has saddled the nation with a crippling

burden of debt, while the impact of the MPs’ expenses scandal still sullies the

relationship between politician and voter.”

In The Times, Rachel Sylvester said Cameron had secured nothing

more than a “half-hearted endorsement“.

“The voters have turned their backs on Gordon Brown but they have

not rushed into the arms of the Tories, in the way they did with new Labour 13

years ago,” she wrote.

“Instead they have slunk rather late in the day up to the

Conservatives, like sullen teenagers who are embarrassed by having to stand next

to their parents.”


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