13 May 2010

And we have a government!

To briefly recap - in the UK parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is the head of the party with an absolute majority (326 seats) in Parliament. If no single party gets a majority, this creates a "hung Parliament." The parties then enter into negotiations to form a coalition with other parties until the necessary number of seats can be cobbled together.

Britain's last election, as I blogged before, ended in just such a hung Parliament. The Liberal Democrat party had to choose whether to ally with the Conservatives, which would immediately result in a new government, or ally with Labour, which would require a few other fourth-party MPs to throw in their hats. Negotiations were pretty intense. Labour leader and former PM Gordon Brown resigned as head of his party, possibly to give the Lib Dems a way to ally with Labour while plausibly maintaining their position as the party of change. (Brown resigned while I was at work, prompting cheers from certain Labour-supporting employees. Dancing around the office while singing "Bye-bye Brownie" may have also occurred).

Labour labored (har!) in vain, however. The Conservatives and the Lib Dems have agreed on a deal. Much of their platform is available here but some interesting highlights, at least as far as I'm concerned, are:

- eliminating the proposed National ID Card system and the next-generation RFID passports.
- capping non-EU migration. (This may or may not be terribly helpful, as many of Britain's unpopular immigrants are from the EU, or at least aren't here legally in the first place)
- officially pledging not to join the Eurozone
- planning to convert current welfare programs into welfare-to-work (the idea kicked around during the campaign was to strip benefits from anybody able to work who rejected three job offers; not sure if that's what they'll settle on or not).
- reforming schools, particularly by allowing local start-up schools similar to US charter schools.
- retaining Trident, the British nuclear sub program

There's lots more in there but those are some juicy/controversial bits. What will actually be translated into policy is anybody's guess.


  1. Interesting! Is your sense that most people there are happy with first past the post, or do they want to see a move to proportional representation?

  2. I wasn't really sure so I asked a friend yesterday, prompted by his comment that he didn't actually vote due to residing in a "safe Labour seat." Even though he seems like a prime candidate for pro-reform, he seemed ambivalent towards the whole idea. I think there's a very strong sense of tradition associated with MP seats, and people may be reluctant to lose that. Depressingly, politicians just seem to address the problem though improved gerrymandering.

    It's probably worth mentioning that the Scottish Parliament does use proportional representation. Everyone gets to vote for one geographical MP ("Constituency MP") and one political party for their region. Each region gets seven MPs seated in order off a party list ("List MPs"), seats allocated based on number of votes the party received.