David Cameron, leader of Britain’s Conservative Party (or the Tories, as some call them), has assumed the office of Prime Minister after meeting with Queen Elizabeth today. His ascendancy is the result of the formation of a coalition government by his own party and the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, who will be his Deputy Prime Minister. Hopes of a deal between Lib-Dems and outgoing PM Gordon Brown’s Labour dimmed in the last few days, and Britain now has its first coalition government in 70 years.
The coalition represents a kind of compromise between left and right that is sorely lacking in this country. That Cameron and Clegg have been able to momentarily pull it together speaks well of their ability to rein in their parties to achieve specific goals. Among the points of agreement on the agenda:
Plans for five-year, fixed-term parliaments The Lib Dems have agreed to drop plans for a “mansion tax”, while the Conservatives have ditched their pledge to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m The new administration will scrap Labour’s planned rise in National Insurance but some of the benefits will go on reducing income tax thresholds for lower earners A pledge to have a referendum on any further transfer of powers to the EU and a commitment from the Lib Dems not to adopt the euro for the lifetime of the next Parliament The Lib Dems have agreed to Tory proposals for a cap on non-EU migration The Conservatives will recognise marriage in the tax system – Lib Dems will abstain in Commons vote The Lib Dems will drop opposition to replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles but the programme will be scrutinised for value for money There will be a “significant acceleration” of efforts to reduce the budget deficit – including £6bn of spending reductions this year There will be a referendum on moving to the Alternative Vote system and enhanced “pupil premium” for deprived children as Lib Dems demanded
David Cameron assumed residence at 10 Downing Street earlier today as well, and has the distinction of being the youngest Prime Minister in over 200 years. President Obama and German President Andrea Merkel both called and offered their congratulations, and Cameron had the class to thank Gordon Brown for his service after British voters gave his party the boot.
It remains to be seen what effect Cameron will have on American foreign policy. I would be hesitant to expect anything like a Margaret Thatcher-like tenure at this point – he has a slim majority in Parliament and an American President at odds with some of his fiscal policy. Still, I don’t believe Cameron makes things easier for the Obama administration – they were perfectly happy with the Brown way of doing things, and Cameron may give a little pushback if only to distinguish himself from Brown.
In any event, congratulations to Mr. Cameron, and I sincerely wish him the best as he leads one of America’s greatest allies through the murky waters ahead.