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.