Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hope and Change in Great Britain

Last week's parliamentary elections in Great Britain had the likely potential for throwing the political system into chaos.  With the Conservative Party winning the most seats, but short of a majority, the first "hung Parliament" in more than 30 years could have led to a failed government or the need for new elections.  With the small Liberal Party holding the balance of power, and more ideologically aligned with the Labour Party, Labour could have clung to power with the help of the Liberal Party despite their tremendous loss of support.

Instead, within a matter of days, Gordon Brown has resigned, and David Cameron, the new Prime Minister, managed to form a strong coalition agreement with Liberal leader Nicholas Clegg.  This result seems especially surprising in a system where the tradition of winner-take-all party politics is so strong, and coalition governments rare.  Britain's parliamentary system does not function without a working majority, and majority parties are used to having fairly complete sway over running the government, with the opposition reduced to heckling the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.  Instead, the Conservatives are at least making a show of casting off party politics, have altered their program in deference to their Liberal partners, and have announced the beginning of a new era.  Here is what David Cameron said yesterday:
"Today we are not just announcing a new government and new ministers. We are announcing a new politics. A new politics where the national interest is more important than party interest. Where co-operation wins out over confrontation. Where compromise, give and take, reasonable, civilised, grown-up behaviour is not a sign of weakness but of strength."

This sure sounds a lot like the post-partisan, new politics that a lot of us hoped would arise out of the 2008 campaign in the United States.  Of course, partisan bickering will no doubt re-emerge in Britain, as the stunned Labour Party picks itself off the floor and starts plotting ways of making trouble for the governing coalition, and as divisions may emerge within the governing coalition itself.  But in the meantime, the promise of a new post-partisan era beckons.

No comments:

Post a Comment