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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?