Britain's Conservatives Win Majority
by Al Pessin May 08, 2015
British Prime Minister David Cameron won another five-year term as his party surged to an outright majority of seats in parliament in Thursday's election, far more than opinion polls had predicted.
It was a stunning victory for Cameron and his Conservative Party, as it became the first British ruling party in decades to increase its seats in parliament in an election. Cameron went to Buckingham Palace Friday to formally receive the mandate from Queen Elizabeth to form the next government.
"To me, this election campaign was always about the difficult decisions we had to take over the last five years, the foundation of the stronger economy that we built for our country and the chance now to build on that foundation," Cameron said.
U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Cameron Friday on his 'impressive' election victory.
'I look forward to continuing to strengthen the bonds between our countries, as we work together on behalf of global peace, security and prosperity,' Obama said in a written statement.
Party leaders resign
Equally stunning was the decline of Cameron's coalition partner for the last five years, the Liberal Democratic Party, which lost nearly 50 seats and will have fewer than ten. The party leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, resigned Thursday morning.
The leader of the main opposition Labor Party, Ed Miliband, also resigned after the party won fewer seats than it had five years ago, well short of pollsters' predictions of a dead heat between Labor and the Conservatives.
"Now it's time for someone else to take forward the leadership of this party, so I'm tendering my resignation," Miliband said. "I want to do so straight away because the party has to have an open and honest debate about the right way forward."
It was a sharp disappointment for Miliband, who just the day before had reason to believe he might become prime minister and reverse much of the Conservatives' austerity policy.
Economy, Scotland cited as factors in win
Professor Peter Urwin of the University of Westminister said with the economy still under threat, in the end voters went with the party that has brought the improvement of the last few years.
"I think the phrase [is] 'safe pair of hands.' The last five years the Conservatives have been seen to guide the economy through some pretty rough waters," he said.
Urwin said the spending cuts that were a key part of the Conservatives' policy mainly hit types of people who don't vote for them anyway, including welfare recipients and young people.
Former journalist now senior fellow at the Chatham House research center, Quentin Peel, focused on a different factor. He said concern that Labor would have needed support from the Scottish National Party to form a government drove many voters to the Conservatives in the final days of the campaign.
"It was a late surge to safety by English voters voting for the devil they knew, even if they weren't enthusiastic about it," Peel said.
The liberal and pro-independence Scottish National Party, which won at least 56 of the 59 seats available from Scotland, had hoped to be part of an anti-Conservative coalition. Now, its sharply increased delegation in parliament will sit in opposition, and its plan for another referendum on Scottish independence is likely put off to the indefinite future.
Scottish voters rejected independence in a referendum just last year.
The right-wing anti-immigration, anti-European Union UK Independence Party captured an unprecedented 12 percent of the national vote. But the support was spread across the country and the party took only one seat in parliament.
Its flamboyant leader Nigel Farrage lost his bid for a seat and resigned as party leader, although he said he might run for the post again in September.
EU referendum promised
Prime Minister Cameron is committed to holding a referendum on Britain's membership in the EU by 2017.
'Yes, we will deliver that in-out referendum on our future in Europe,' Cameron said Friday before his meeting with the Queen.
Before that vote, he wants to negotiate changes in the relationship that will convince British voters to stay in the Union. But he faces hard bargaining with leaders on the continent.
Peel said although Britain is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a member of the G7, it will be focused largely on domestic issues in the coming years.
"Britain, for the foreseeable future, is going to be totally wrapped up in itself, very unengaged in the wider world," he said. "They don't want to get into any more foreign adventures."
For now, Cameron will focus on selecting ministers for an all-Conservative government he is expected to present to parliament next week, with its approval assured.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|