Everybody Loses: UK Voters Demand National Unity Government to Face Economic Equivalent of World War II


            Voters in the United Kingdom went to the polls yesterday.  The results, with one seat remaining to be decided  and 326 needed for victory were: 

Conservative: 306  +97

Labour: 258  - 91

Liberal Democrat: 57 – 5

Democratic Unionist Party: 8 -1

Scottish National Party: 6

Sinn Fein: 5

Plaid Cymru: 3 +1

Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3

Green: 1 +1

Alliance Party: 1 +1

Others: 1


            So, the voters are clearly calling for a coalition government.  There can be no stable governing coalition without the Liberal – Democrats; just look at the math.  The Conservatives need 19 more seats; the eight minor parties have a total of 28.  There is one undecided seat due to the death of a candidate, that will probably go to the Conservatives.  There is no way the Conservatives can govern in a nine party coalition with a total of 336 votes.  It would have to satisfy the nationalist parties in Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  The Conservatives need the Liberal – Democrats, it is that simple.


            Labour, on the other hand, also needs the Liberal – Democrats; but the two together only get 315, slightly more than the Conservatives.  Labour also would then need some of the minor parties to lead at least a three party coalition.  It might be slightly easier to find programmatic compatibility among these partners, but still the largest possible majority is 343, a margin of only 17. 


            The Conservatives, Liberal – Democrats, and the independent parties together would have 392, a margin of 66 but the tail would wag the dog, it would be a government where the Conservatives would have to supply the votes for a Liberal – Democrat and independent program.


            From a policy standpoint, the voters did not give a mandate to any of the parties.


            The only hope of a government stable enough to function is a Conservative – Liberal Democrat alliance.  However, during the campaign Liberal Democratic leader Nicholas Clegg repeatedly disparaged the Tories and said he could work with Labour, but without Gordon Brown.   


            The United Kingdom, like the rest of the world, is faring badly in the current economic crisis.  The budget deficit is 11% of Gross National Product.  The Liberal – Democrats think of themselves as progressives.  The Conservatives want to cut spending.  Basically, there is no political coalition possible that can make the difficult choices between unpalatable options that are necessary to try and right the economy.  As along as there is an opposition of any kind, the government will not be able to act.


            So, by default, the voters elected a national unity government.  David Cameron, as the leader of the largest party, should be Prime Minister.  Gordon Brown should return to his former position as Chancellor of the Exchequer, both because he was the steward of the economy in the run up to the disaster and because he remained a member of the government that led the UK into the unpopular Iraq war. Nicholas Clegg, with his Spanish wife and experience as a former Member of the European Parliament, should become Foreign Secretary.  Then, the leaders of the three major parties could do something that they rarely do – lead.


             This is a national unity government that would command the support of the vast majority of the voters in the United Kingdom.  For the past fifty years, the United Kingdom has been declining as a world power and has become the handmaiden to the United States through its special relationship. 


            The voters of the UK, in spite of the obstacles presented by a deeply flawed electoral system, have a given their politicians a unique opportunity to become a leader on the world stage once again.  It could give the phrase “Rule Britannia” a whole new meaning.  There is an alternative scenario; the UK’s penchant for “muddling through.”


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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf