UK Parties Wrangle To Form Coalition Government
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Liane Hansen.
Leaders of Britain's Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are meeting again today to try to form a coalition government. None of the country's three main parties won a majority in Thursday's national election, throwing Britain's democracy into a state of suspended animation.
Vicki Barker has more from London.
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VICKI BARKER: In a public show of national unity, the leaders of Britain's three main parties stood side by side Saturday, at a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of Germany's surrender in World War II. And then it was back to their respective corners: Conservative leader David Cameron huddling with his inner circle, Nick Clegg consulting with senior members of his centrist Liberal Democrat Party, and Gordon Brown returning to the prime minister's Downing Street residence - still his home despite the Labour Party's second-place showing in Thursday's elections.
Brown has said he'll take Clegg's call should the first-place Conservatives fail to win him over. The two men reportedly dont get along, but longtime Labour adviser Lance Price doesnt see any so-called Lab-Lib scenario playing out, even if Labour changed its leader.
Mr. LANCE PRICE (Advisor, Labour Party): I think the party would find it very curious to see the losing parties form a government. And the speculation about changing the leader would make it even more extraordinary, that you would then have a man or a woman who hadn't even been elected becoming prime minister of a coalition of people who just lost an election.
BARKER: The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats differ on Europe, on Britain's nuclear deterrent and on taxation.
Unidentified Woman: What do we want?
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Unidentified Woman: And when do we want them?
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BARKER: But this is the big issue that divides them: Supporters of electoral reform rallying outside the Liberal Democrats' meeting, urging Clegg not to sacrifice his top campaign commitment. Proportional representation wouldve long ago granted the Liberal Democrats a far bigger parliamentary presence than they have now. But Britain's existing, winner-takes-all system has arguably served the Conservatives well.
Even so, Michael Portillo, a former Conservative cabinet minister, thinks it's a price David Cameron might be willing to pay.
Mr. MICHAEL PORTILLO (Former Cabinet Minister, Conservative Party): David Cameron is a political modernizer. He's modernized the Conservative Party. I think he wants to modernize British politics.
BARKER: Britain hasnt actually had a coalition government since World War II, but Portillo argues the country should be on a war footing now. With or without electoral reform, he says, its future prosperity and stability are threatened by the same, looming budget deficits that have brought the Greek economy close to collapse.
Mr. PORTILLO: If you look around Europe, the prime ministers and the finance ministers of Europe are taking dictation now from the investors. We need confidence in the economy.
BARKER: Significantly, David Cameron has said he'd like to see any coalition agreement in place before the markets reopen in the morning.
For NPR News, Im Vicki Barker in London.
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