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article imageUK faces hung parliament, Cameron wants to partner with Lib Dems

By Andrew John     May 7, 2010 in Politics
Britain has its first hung parliament since 1974, as the Conservative Party won the most seats but not enough to form a majority government. Conservative leader David Cameron has made a “big, open and comprehensive offer” to the Lib Dems.
The Conservatives have been in opposition since Labour’s landslide 1997 victory under Tony Blair.
Counting continues, but, by midafternoon BST Friday, 646 of the 650 seats had been declared. The Conservatives had 304 seats, Labour 257 and the Liberal Democrats 57, with smaller parties making up the rest. There were four seats yet to declare (one, in North Yorkshire, will not be declared for three weeks, because the United Kingdom Independence Party candidate died and a new election will have to be held there on May 27).
The battle is on to see which leader can form a government, and Cameron has has made made it clear that he will talk to the Liberal Democrats, while Downing Street has authorized civil servants to support other parties in hung-parliament negotiations.
Cameron said, according to the BBC: “I want to make a big, open and comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats. I want us to work together in tackling our country's big and urgent problems - the debt crisis, our deep social problems and our broken political system.”
Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he “understands and respects” the position of Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg in saying that stating he wants to speak to Cameron about a possible coalition. Clegg will have to persuade members of his party before he can do a deal with either Labour or the Tories, so the outcome is not likely to be known today.
General elections in Britain are run under a first-past-the-post system (as opposed to proportional representation), and a party would need an overall majority in order to have won. Currently, that majority would have to be 326 – half the number of seats in the House, plus one.
Queen’s Speech
If no party reaches that majority, under Britain’s election rules Gordon Brown as the incumbent Prime Minister remains in office with full powers during this hiatus – until he resigns or loses a confidence vote – and can still form a government, which would of necessity need the support of one of the other parties; in this situation, it would be the Liberal Democrats rather than the main opposition, the Tories.
In practice, he will have until the Queen’s Speech – in which a government lays out its programme – on May 25. However, because of the current uncertainty, Gordon Brown will need to come to a swift deal with the Lib Dems.
If he fails to form a government, the leader of the party with the highest number of seats – in this case David Cameron of the Conservatives – would be invited to do so, and would be summoned to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.
The result will please campaigners for a hung parliament, including the “Hang ’em” campaign, whose aim was to frustrate the big parties and bring a situation with a hope of introducing proportional representation and other voting reforms. Currently, the UK’s general election uses the first-past-the-post system, which many see as unfair.
The Liberal Democrats have consistently called for voting reform, and, if they work with Labour, could be effective in bringing that about.
More about Hung parliament, Election, General election, Tories, Labour
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