Britain's coalition challenge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 12:00am

On May 11, British Prime Minister Gordon resigned from his post, ending 13 years of the Labour party's centre-left rule. He resigned after the Labour Party lost many seats to the opposing centre-right Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg respectively.

Britain's general election resulted in what is called a 'hung parliament' - the Conservatives (or Tories) had won a slim majority of seats, but not enough to govern. The Tories and the Lib Dems formed a coalition government, Britain's first in around 70 years. Cameron became the new prime minister, while Clegg became his deputy in a mostly Tory cabinet. The question remains as to whether the partnership has what it takes to bring change to Britain.

The new government is certainly promising change - to economic, political and foreign policies. Cameron has been a harsh critic of Labour's spending in particular. One of his aims is to cut national spending by about GBP6 billion (HK$67 billion). He plans to do this partly through cutting unnecessary bonuses for civil servants, for which Labour has been under fire. But a coalition government is bound to result in conflicts of interest. Cameron has already urged members of parliament to focus on issues of common interest for the sake of Britain.

Meanwhile, Cameron seems less interested in maintaining Britain's special relationship with the United States. Rather, he is looking to develop better ties with nations such as India that he claims better suit Britain's strategic interests.

All new governments come in with political promises - many of them tend to end up unfulfilled. In the case of a coalition government, holding together in the name of change is an even greater challenge. That said, an emergency budget to tackle Britain's deficit will go ahead within 50 days, suggesting Cameron and his coalition government mean business.