Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Deal Is Done - Cameron As Prime Minister

It's been a long election in British terms, but only the second change of government in 30 years has now occurred, and the Etonian groomed Mr. Cameron has finally crossed the threshold of the house he has probably long coveted. Yesterday started with Labour in new talks with the Lib Dems, and the Westminster village was alive with all sorts of rumours - manifested in tweets and blog updates - as to which deal was going somewhere and which wasn't. In the end, of course, not only did the Labour deal lack the arithmetic, it seemed to lack the will. John Reid and David Blunkett were only the tip of the sceptics' iceberg, and it turns out that barely any of the Labour parliamentary party had been consulted. Diane Abbot spoke tellingly of unelected people (she mentioned Mandelson and Adonis) riding roughshod over the representatives, and David Lammy went on television to say that he knew nothing of what was going on. The word from Labour is of a seething fury at the way things were handled.

At the same time, the right-wing commentariat and 'senior Conservative' figures could barely conceal their anger at Nick Clegg's apparent duplicity for daring to speak to another party! Peter Oborne in the Mail was a wonder to behold. Was Clegg's move a bid to prove to his party that a Labour deal was a no-hoper, and thus an attempt to bring them into line? Perhaps. It seems to have worked, as both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties swing in behind a historic coalition, the final details of which will unfold today.

It was a day of milestones - youngest prime minister since Lord Liverpool (not a great analogy given Liverpool's reputation as a pretty reactionary and repressive PM); first coalition since 1945; only the second change of government since 1979; first Liberals round the Cabinet table since, well, 1945 (hmmm, maybe the milestones aren't so great after all!); first Liberal Deputy PM EVER; first Etonian Prime Minister since Home.

One historian commented this morning that history had delivered David Cameron one of the worst hands an incoming peacetime Prime Minister has ever had to face. With all its potential for failure, and all the difficulties that have accompanied its birth, maybe this coalition government could just work; maybe this sort of alliance in government is actually what we need to face down such serious crises, and provide Britain with better, more effective government? After decades of authoritarian rule punctuated by the occasional election endorsement, an era of different government, particularly headed by men of the undoubted calibre of Cameron and Clegg, could be a genuine refreshing of the political system.

On the other hand, it might go completely pear-shaped! Politics is nothing if not unpredictable.

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