New British Prime Minister: David Cameron

Goodbye, Gordon Brown

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On Monday, British prime minister Gordon Brown announced his resignation from leadership of the Labour party come September. It was widely seen as a Labour ploy to entice the smaller Liberal Democrat party into a coalition.

Tuesday, Gordon Brown announced he's resigning--now. This time, it's because Conservatives' negotiations with Liberal Democrats have more or less succeeded (though the details are still a little hazy). That means Conservatives have a governing coalition, and Brown and Labour are out of power. The Queen formally appointed Conservative leader David Cameron prime minister Tuesday afternoon.

Things really do move this fast in British politics. So what just happened, and is the mess of British politics now headed for calmer days?

  • 'Huge Gamble' for Cameron, says Daniel Finkelstein at the London Times. By allying himself with the Liberal Democrats, "Cameron has the potential to lift himself and the party above normal partisan politics. He can become a national leader, his party seen as broader, more generous, more capable of listening and of compromise." But "could this move split his party, not now but in the years to come? Might the Liberal Democrats prove not merely prickly partners, but impossible ones?"
  • Cameron In, Brown Out, and I Hate Having to Cover British Politics  New York Magazine's Chris Rovzar throws up his hands in exhaustion. He doesn't think the British system makes a whole lot of sense, and is becoming borderline resentful at having to update readers on the progression of the parliamentary election.
  • How to Hold This Government Together  "Corralling [his Conservatives] into some kind of coalition is one thing," writes Tim Bale in The Guardian. "Keeping them happy once in it is another." But he thinks Cameron's position is pretty good for now: he'll need to hand out positions to keep smiles on everyone's faces, and the positions are limited, but both parties being new to power means the members will be humble about expectations at first.
  • Cameron Sold Out!  The Guardian hosts a number of views, however, and Barry Legg is furious. He thinks Cameron conceded too much to the Liberal Democrats in order to lure them into a coalition with the Conservatives--who are not, ideologically, their natural allies.
  • Some 'Grumbling' on Cameron's Right?  Andrew Sullivan predicts some dissatisfaction, and thinks Cameron's negotiator William Hague "will once again be delegated" to deal with the unhappy Conservatives.
  • Clegg's Voters Might Not Be Happy Either, suggests Jackie Ashley: "Their overwhelming view was that they did not want David Cameron in Downing Street."
  • Bring In the Newbies, calls The Guardian's Simon Jenkins, who predicts choppy waters ahead. "The new prime minister has a team that is painfully short of executive experience, either inside or outside government, and coalition partners who never even expected high office."
  • The Point Is No One Wanted Brown, writes James Joyner at New Atlanticist. That was the one thing that was clear from the election outcome. As for this bizarre Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition, he says: "It really couldn't have gone the other way.   It would have been simply bizarre [for the Liberal Democrats] to have run as an alternative to Labour and then form a government that kept Labour in charge." Furthermore, he adds at his other online home, Outside the Beltway, "Tory leader David Cameron knew it and refused to concede much on the issue of electoral reform." Clearly Joyner, from afar, doesn't think Cameron sold out.
  • A Slightly Different Explanation  The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne focuses on the infeasibility of the Labour-Liberal Democrat proposal from the Labour perspective:
Philosophically, the Lib Dems have more in common with Labour than with the Tories. But the talks with Labour broke down partly because many in Brown's party did not want a coalition but preferred to go into opposition. Their view was that Labour had lost the election and that voters would see a continuation of their party in office as illegitimate. And since between them, Labour and the Lib Dems did not command a majority of the seats, a coalition government joining those two parties would have been a shaky affair, relying on support from regional parties.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.