Is a Hung Parliament Damaging for the UK?

© 2010 Norman Samuda-Smith


So Britain’s election is over. The general public’s votes reflected their indecision as to who they wanted to run the country; Gordon Brown (Labour), David Cameron (Conservative) or Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats). The TV Political Pundits predicted it, the talk on the street, in many work places and family households were unsure as to who was the best man to take the country forward in these trying times. The message is clear to Britain’s politicians; the people want change from the two party politics that has dominated Britain for the past sixty plus years. So for the first time in a long time, the result was a ‘Hung Parliament’. What is a ‘Hung Parliament’? Some of you may ask.  After reading an article on the BBC News website, this paragraph explains…

‘A ‘Hung Parliament’ is when no party has an overall majority, which means no party has more than half of its Members of Parliament (MP’s) in the House of Commons. It means that whichever party ends up in power will not be able to win votes to pass laws without the support of members of other parties. That support may come in the form of a formal coalition with smaller parties, or the governing party may have to negotiate with other parties to get laws passed. In the simplest terms, to get an absolute majority, a party would have needed to win 326 seats…’ 

Makes sense doesn’t it? So let’s look at the result and later what the men in suits have decided…

The Conservative Party led by David Cameron won 306 seats. The Labour Party led by Gordon Brown won 258 seats. The Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg won 57 seats and the other minor parties won 26 seats shared between them. No one gained a majority. The result, a ‘Hung Parliament’. The outcome meant Gordon Brown remained as Prime Minister; however, his party didn’t win the most seats which left him with the predicament of having to negotiate with David Cameron and Nick Clegg to form a coalition government. So now we have party political differences, and that isn’t good news, especially here in Britain.

A good example of a coalition government as I understand it from my history lessons in school goes something like this…

When Neville Chamberlain (Liberal) decided to resign as Prime Minister in 1940, due to no confidence in his policies of dealing with Nazi Germany, King George VI appointed Winston Churchill to the helm on May 10th 1940. Churchill, leader of the Conservative Party, quickly formed a coalition government and placed leaders of the Labour Party such as Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin and some other of their colleagues in key positions. He also brought in another long-time opponent of Chamberlain, Anthony Eden, as his secretary of state for war. So party political differences were pushed aside as all politicians united and focussed on one aim, to lead Britain and its allies to victory. Fast forward seventy years to May 2010, Britain faces a different problem, social and economic melt-down which is affecting the lives of everyday people.

David Cameron just wanted to move into Number 10 Downing Street and be Prime Minister.  Gordon Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair, was always up against the press and public opinion as being a Prime Minister who was not voted in by the electorate, as well as lacking charisma. Nick Clegg has always championed change, fairness and Proportional Representation.  Proportional Representation; what is it?  Again the BBC News website explains…

‘If, for example, an election ends in a 33% vote for the Labour Party, a 30% vote for the Conservative Party and a 37% vote for the Liberal Democrats and there were 100 seats in the government, 33 would go to Labour, 30 to the Conservative Party and 37 to the Liberal Democrats and so on. The goal of proportional representation is to accurately reflect the political preference of the population. This system dates back to the late 1800s and is used by governments around the world. One of the big advantages to proportional representation is that minority parties get a say. The Green Party in the United States, for example, has almost no presence at national level, while it is a powerful force in Germany, thanks to proportional representation. This system also encourages the formation of coalition governments, fostering co-operation between political parties in order to accomplish goals…’

Although Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats only gained 57 seats in the House of Commons, it was he who held the Ace Card, before the election he did say he would support the party who won the most parliamentary seats.  He was in a position to either support Gordon Brown and keep him in office as Prime Minister, or support David Cameron and elevate him and his Conservative Party into Number 10. It all depended on what Gordon Brown and David Cameron was prepared to throw down on the table.  Gordon Brown offered Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats a referendum for proportional representation; simply, he was offering the people of Britain the opportunity to vote if they want proportional representation or not, whereas David Cameron and his Conservative Party stressed, no way, no how will they consider it; and so the negotiations started, back and forth for five days. Of course there were other issues to negotiate; a cap on immigration, whether to raise taxes, extra taxes on banks, cut public spending and whether we should have ID cards or not, etc, etc…

I’m not sure if the British people support the idea of proportional representation, something that is commonly practised across mainland Europe. I think they would prefer to see their politicians step up to the plate and sort out their differences.  Anyway, most things that involve mainland Europe, a large amount of Britons are sceptical of them. It doesn’t seem as though Gordon Brown offered anything else on the table for Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats to grab hold of, because even after Nick Clegg tried to persuade Gordon Brown to remain a little longer as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown ignored his plea and announced his resignation as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party. He then immediately went to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queens permission for the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats to form a new government.

David Cameron must have thrown everything plus the kitchen sink at Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats to get into Number 10; did Nick Clegg compromise or sell out?  Whatever happened in those meetings, nobody saw it coming that Nick Clegg would end up being Deputy Prime Minister alongside six of his party members sitting on the cabinet of government making decisions which affect the electorate. The British press are saying the agreement between Cameron and Clegg won’t last, they say we will have another general election in six months.  Cameron and Clegg say their government will last five years. What do you think?



Til next month – Everyting Bless


*All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the writer Norman Samuda-Smith.*


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