Lessons From Britain's New Government

NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr reflects on the formation of a new government in the United Kingdom, and what the rest of the world can learn from the British.

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Britain's new prime minister David Cameron got down to business today. He held the first cabinet meeting of his newly formed coalition government. Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr sees a teachable moment in the surprising turn of events across the pond.

DANIEL SCHORR: Westminster, the mother of all parliaments, is offering its latest lesson to America, the granddaughter of democracies. From the potential turmoil of a hung parliament, that is one with no majority, it has drawn the makings of a coalition improbably joining the right with the left. To make this possible, the losing labor prime minister, Gordon Brown, had to commit political hara-kiri, which he did with great grace and dispatch.

And so the conservative leader David Cameron, whose party made the greatest gains in the election, was able to present himself to the queen as the one who should form a government. If this is what is called muddling through, we would like to see it packaged for export. On this side of the Atlantic, the byword is dysfunctional government, using the filibuster to bring the government to a dead stop. That may satisfy the Tea Party people, but in that older democracy, conscious of limits, there is an understanding of the outer boundaries of partisanship.

This is not a very promising day for some democracies. In Ukraine, the speaker of parliament had to unfurl an umbrella to ward off a shower of eggs. In Greece, tear gas is deployed against demonstrators before the parliament. And while we edge towards dysfunctional government, Britain quietly goes her way.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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