Britain's parliamentary elections resulted in the first hung parliament since 1974, the Labour Party losing the majority it has held for 13 years and launching the messy political maneuvering necessary to forming a new government.
Conservatives gained seats to secure the largest plurality with 306 seats. Labour lost seats and are down to 258, while the leading third party Liberal Democrats finished with 57 seats. Smaller parties won 28 seats, including the Greens, who finally won their first British parliamentary seat after greater success in other European countries.
As sitting prime minister, Labour leader Gordon Brown would traditionally (in the absence of a written constitution) have the first opportunity to form a coalition with other parties to form a government. However, Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg has said that he believes Conservative leader David Cameron, should have first rights as the biggest winner.
Both Cameron and Brown are seeking Clegg's support in forming a coalition, however, Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have made clear that agreement to election reform with proportional representation is crucial to winning their support. Labour, although closer ideologically to the Liberal Democrats, would still fall short of the 326 seat majority necessary for the Queen to invite Brown (or possibly another Labour leader given Brown's personal lack of popularity) to become prime minister. Forming a coalition with Clegg would give Cameron enough seats, but bridging the divide of divergent views will be more difficult.
The demand for legislative reform is a major sticking point for both Labours and Conservatives. The changes Liberal Democrats seek would likely lead to loss of power and control of the two major parties over time. Also, it likely would open the door to success of less savory fringe parties, such as the BNP, who were shut out in this election under the current system.
What is certain is that these elections were only the beginning of major changes to come in the U.K.Additional Reading:
CatieCat at Shakesville: UK Election, Widespread Disenfranchisement
Among the many, many stories this morning in the aftermath of the UK's General Election, are a number of stories of disenfranchisement: people not allowed to vote because of poor organization at the polling stations, chaos and protests and poor decision-making all around in what will be a close and contentious election (thus magnifying the effect of disenfranchisement).
So, I have taken that instance and every other instance in the playground of Britain, called Africa and the international community, who make it their life’s ambition to observe African nations during elections. They always come out and say, the election was not free and fair. Something always goes horribly wrong…they didn’t have enough ballot papers, people who are dead voted or ballot papers went missing among the many other reasons we have been given over the years about the fraudulent elections in Africa.
I strongly suggest Britain takes a good look at itself and ask, what was free and fair about this election? If people came to blows in Hackney, others were turned away, they were not enough ballot papers and oh, did I add, the issue of election fraud. It was in the news the other day that 18 people registered to vote in a house, which can take a maximum of 5. Hmm…sounds fishy to me. And to make matters worse, we have a hung parliament and the very idea that David Cameron could well be Prime Minster for the next few years is one of the most unsettling things I have woken up to recently. I just do not trust the man or a word that comes from him. Then again, let him get the job and see what he makes of it. I sure hope he gets fried if he does not make good on getting the economy back on track because people like promises but when you do not deliver, hell hath no fury like citizens scorned and desperate for miracles.
Tracy Edenloft at World Correspondents: UK Election Results 2010: British Election 2010 Results Update
Fiona Miller at Flickr: UK General Election [Photos}
NPR: KQED Forum with Michael Krasny: Elections in Britain [Audio]
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