Britain's under new management

2010-05-12 23:34

London - Britain woke up to a new political era on Wednesday with the first full coalition government since World War 2 – an unlikely marriage between the Conservative party of right-wing icon Margaret Thatcher and the left-leaning Liberal Democrats.

Details of the coalition alliance were expected to slowly trickle out – the Liberal Democrats have already won several Cabinet seats, but it will be one of the least experienced governments since Tony Blair's Labour Party won its landslide victory in 1997 amid cheers of joy.

Boos greeted Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron as he walked into Downing Street late on Tuesday after Labour's leader Gordon Brown stepped aside.

No party won a majority of parliamentary seats – voters were enraged after a damaging expense scandal last year that tarred lawmakers from all three parties with claims on everything from pornography to chandeliers.

The government will immediately begin tackling Britain's record $236bn deficit. It is still unclear whether the Liberal Democrats will back the Conservatives' plan to begin immediate spending cuts – a punishing course of action that isn't likely to win praise from the electorate.

But the change in government could also mean a change for Britain's place on the world stage.

Looser ties with Washington

Both Cameron and Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have signalled they favour looser ties to Washington. Both men back the Afghanistan mission, but Cameron hopes to withdraw British troops within five years. Clegg has said he's uneasy at a rising death toll.

Leaner coffers may also mean less money to enter foreign-led military operations.

Relations with European neighbours could also become problematic.

Cameron's party is deeply sceptical over co-operation in Europe and has withdrawn from an alliance with the parties of Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy. Clegg, once a member of the European parliament, has long been pro-European.

Once described as sandal-wearing hippie academics, Clegg's Lib Dems emerge from the political fringe to the top rung of government. Among the most visible will be Vince Cable, who will take an as yet unspecified post in charge of Britain's banks, the BBC reported.

Labour, meanwhile, took steps to re-group, with the manoeuvring under way for the job of party leader.

New Labour leader

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, has emerged as a candidate and has earned the backing of another early favourite, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

Brown's deputy Harriet Harman would become interim Labour leader until a formal leadership takes place to select his permanent successor.

The 43-year-old Cameron becomes Britain's youngest prime minister in almost 200 years – the last was Lord Liverpool at 42 – and cemented a coalition deal with the third-place Liberal Democrats.

Clegg and four other Liberal Democrats received Cabinet posts. A number of other Liberal Democrats would receive junior posts.

The agreement, reached over five sometimes tense days of negotiation, delivered Britain's first full coalition government since World War 2.

"This is a genuine compromise between the parties," said William Hague, the new foreign secretary.


There are many things the Liberal Democrats have had to swallow that are very difficult for them, just as there are some things –  like holding a referendum on a new voting system – that are very difficult for the Conservative Party to accept.

"That means, of course, there will be people in both parties who quietly wish it hadn't happened, I'm sure."

Cameron and Clegg agreed to a pact after the Conservative Party won the most seats in Britain's May 6 national election, but fell short of winning a majority of seats in Parliament.

Cameron's Conservative Party said senior lawmaker George Osborne will serve as Treasury chief, and lawmaker Liam Fox as defence secretary.

Other leading positions were being finalised, as were key policy decision ahead of the presentation of the coalition's first legislative programme on May 25.

The coalition has already agreed on a five-year, fixed-term Parliament – the first time Britain has had the date of its next election decided in advance.

Reform of Britain’s electoral system

Both sides have made compromise, and Cameron has promised Clegg a referendum on his key issue: reform of Britain's electoral system aimed at creating a more proportional system.

"Nick Clegg and I are both political leaders who want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest," Cameron said on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, telephoned to congratulate Cameron, and invited him to visit Washington this summer, according to the White House.

Obama told Cameron that he looked forward to meeting at an international economic summit to be held in Canada next month.

Brown's resignation ends five days of uncertainty after last week's general election left the country with no clear winner.

It left Britain with its first so-called hung Parliament since 1974. Britain's Conservatives won the most seats but fell short of a majority, forcing them to bid against the Labour Party for the loyalty of the Lib Dems.

- AP

Read more on:    gordon brown  |  david cameron  |  barack obama  |  nick clegg  |  uk  |  uk elections

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 3 Black 64GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 4G

Retina Display Finally the incredible Retina display technology from the iPhone...

From R7699.00

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.