The opposition Conservative Party won the British parliamentary elections by gaining the most seats in Parliament. The Conservatives captured 306 seats in Parliament out of 650, an increase of around 100 seats since the last election in the United Kingdom. The Tories also won a plurality of the popular vote.
The Conservative gains came mostly at the loss for the Labour Party of U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which has been in power since 1997, as well as the Liberal Democratic Party, which had been expected to gain seats because of the performance of their leader in the unprecedented debate of the party leaders. The center-left Labour was damaged by a parliamentary expense scandal and the global recession. The increased attention to the Liberal Democrats might have exposed British voters to the party’s far-left platform, which includes open immigration, eliminating the British nuclear weapon deterrent, ending the special relationship with the United States and joining the European Monetary Union, which would mean eliminating the British pound in favor of the euro.
The Conservatives fell short of a majority, which means that a coalition government will have to be formed, as often is necessary in many parliamentary democracies, although this election is the first since 1974 in which no party gained a majority in British parliament. The Liberal Democratic Party will be the kingmaker in forming a coalition government either with the Conservatives, or with Labour and smaller Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parties or others.
It was unclear which party leader the Queen would ask first to form a government under the unwritten British Constitution. Constitutionally, the party of the Prime Minister is given the first opportunity, but the Conservatives declared the elections results demonstrated that Labour had lost the confidence of the British people. After the Liberal Democratic leader stated that the Conservatives should be given the first opportunity, Brown concurred, standing ready to form a leftist coalition between Labour and the Liberal Democrats and the smaller parties if the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are unable to form a government.
A Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition would likely be viewed by investors as unstable and necessitate early elections later this year. One area for possible compromise between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is election reform, although they disagree on their specific proposals.
The Conservatives, who last were in government from 1979-1997, have also pledged spending cuts to reduce the United Kingdom’s massive public debt, and tax cuts to spark economic growth. The centre-right Tories, led by David Cameron, are pro-American and support the War on Terrorism, including in Afghanistan, although they want a clearer strategy for that battlefield, and are opposed to surrendering British sovereignty by joining the European Monetary Union.
Although the United Kingdom Independence Party did not win any seats in Parliament, the leading Eurosceptic British party came in fourth place in the popular vote with over 900,000 votes, which represented over 3% of the total, a gain since the last election that is probably attributable to the debt crisis within the Eurozone.
If the Conservatives are able to form a coalition government led by Cameron, the election would mean that the United Kingdom would have joined all of the other major European states, namely France, Germany and Italy, in electing centre-right pro-American governments.