Britain now has a Prime Minister: David Cameron. It took a while, though less time, of course, than it took in 2000 for us to verify the election of a President. But I still think we do things better.
At least Nicholas Clegg, the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, did the honorable thing. He had said that if one party got both a majority of seats and a majority of votes, it had the right to try to form a Government. And the party that did, of course, was Cameron’s Conservative Party, So Clegg was right to accept Cameron’s offer of a coalition. But Cameron was forced to accept the idea of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, though his membership mostly opposes coalition-building with that party. Yet, a coalition is the only way the Conservatives could have a stable government, with majority support in the House of Commons.
But the British Liberal Democrats, it appears, are rather further to the left than the German Free Democratic Party (FDP), so there is more political distance between them and the Conservatives than between Germany’s FDP and Christian Democratic Union (CDU). So while CDU-FDP coalitions have been common in Germany, this will be a difficult coalition to maintain. I suspect there will be another election soon.
And this is one more thing I do not like about the British system. Unlike ours, it depends on a monolithic uniformity of each party’s votes in the House of Commons. While Susan Collins and Richard Shelby both call themselves Republicans (and Bart Stupak and Nancy Pelosi both call themselves Democrats), they are free to vote their conscience and if they differ, no new elections are necessary, in the British system if the Conservative leadership decides the party’s members of Commons should vote a certain way, they all do, whatever the members may think. (I would hate to be an MP in Britain.) And if the Conservative and Liberal Democratic leadership have a falling-out, there will need to be a new British election.
Nobody knows how long this coalition will last. Coalitions, outside of the two World Wars, have never existed in Britain. And this is another problem with the British system. You have to expect that an election could be called at any time. So there is a permanent campaign in Britain. Each of the parties will be trying to position itself for the next election.