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The British Election of 2010. The Impact on UK/US Relations. The Context of the Election. Like John Major in 1992 and 1997, Gordon Brown waited out his five year term.

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the british election of 2010

The British Election of 2010

The Impact on UK/US Relations

the context of the election
The Context of the Election
  • Like John Major in 1992 and 1997, Gordon Brown waited out his five year term.
  • The election took place with a looming economic crisis in terms of the UK budget deficit with major public spending cuts in the offing.
  • For past two years Brown facing almost inevitable defeat
    • Economic Problems
    • Personally Unpopular
  • But Conservatives needed record swing of votes and seats to win a majority (6.5%)
  • Doubts about David Cameron and drop in Tory lead Spring 2010
  • Liberal Democrat vote the unknown factor.
the campaign
The Campaign
  • Biggest new feature in the campaign – The TV debates
  • Presidentialized the contest?
  • Boosted the status of the Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg – especially the first debate
  • Liberal Democrat surge in the polls
  • Brown damaged by “bigoted woman” gaffe
  • Conservatives and Labour came back late in the campaign – typical pattern – and squeezed LDs
the result
The Result

Vote Share


  • CON 36.1% (+3.8)
  • LAB 29.0% (-6.2)
  • LD 23.0% (+1)
  • OTH 11.9%
  • Swing
  • 5% From LAB to CON
  • CON 306 (+97)
  • LAB 258 (-91)
  • LD 57 (-5)
  • OTH 28
  • 326 for Majority
  • Hung Parliament
coalition government
Coalition Government
  • Hung parliament has only occurred at one other post-WWII election – February 1974
  • But first half of the twentieth century minority or coalition governments more common than otherwise
  • Cameron interested in being in government because:
    • Tories out of power for 13 years
    • Minority government would be too unstable to administer tough economic medicine to deal with UK budget deficit
    • Coalition with the Liberal Democrats makes him less dependent on hardcore anti-EU Tory right
  • Clegg and his party might have preferred Labour but:
    • Chance at real power with Cabinet seats
    • Alliance with Labour still would not have reached 326 seats
    • “Coalition of the losers”
    • Adverse effect on Economy
the deal
The Deal
  • Liberal Democrats support cuts in public expenditure ($6 billion)
  • Conservatives jettison some tax reductions for well-off
  • Consensus on School and Health reform
  • Political Reform:
    • Referendum on AV as Westminster Voting System
    • House of Lords reform (proportional election)
    • Fixed term parliaments (55% no-confidence trigger)
    • Reduction in number of MPs and boundary changes for more equal constituencies
  • Overall pretty good deal for Cameron and the Tories
  • Can coalition survive likely popular backlash on hardline economic policies?
implications for us i
Implications for US:I
  • Conservatives traditionally regarded as pro-US but since 1945 most tensions with US occurred under Conservative PMs
    • Suez
    • Kennedy/Macmillan
    • Heath/Nixon
    • Major/Clinton
  • Conservatives equivocal at best on Iraq war
  • Liberal Democrats hostile to UK military commitments on Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Conservatives most skeptical of EU and opposed to further integration BUT Liberal Democrats almost Euro-Federalists!
  • Foreign Secretary Hague is a Conservative Atlanticist (note early visit to Washington) so Tory views likely to prevail in this area
implications for us ii
Implications for US:II
  • US needs the new UK government to begin sorting out the country’s economic problems
  • Fear of spillover from financial meltdown that would negatively impact US economy (Greece x 10!)
  • Want stable UK government to support US in Afghanistan and play traditional bridge role to other EU nations
  • Defeat of Labour ends the Clinton/Blair “third way” era for center left parties.
  • Will Labour in opposition head in a more leftward anti-US direction in opposition as occurred in the 1980s?