Andrew Sparrow at The Guardian:
8.06pm: David Cameron is in the car on his way to the Palace now. But he seems to have to got stuck in traffic. He’ll have to take it up with Boris.
8.11pm: David Cameron just arrived at Buckingham Palace with his wife Samantha. They’ve gone in to the building.
8.17pm: When Tony Blair became prime minister, he gave a speech announcing his victory as dawn broke over London. Cameron seems to have had equal luck with the elements. Apparently there is a rainbow over Buckingham Palace.
8.29pm: David Cameron is prime minister, Sky tells us. In the old days these things used to appear in the London Gazette. Nowdays it’s a newsflash on Sky.
Simon Lewis, Brown’s press spokesman, is leaving Downing Street, Sky reports. He will be replaced by a career civil servant from the Treasury.
8.47pm: Cameron says he believes Britain’s best days lie ahead and that he believes in public service. He will take difficult decisions, so that together “we can reach better times ahead”.
He wants to restore trust in politics, and ensure that politicians are always the servants of the people, not their masters. But real change will only take place when people accept responsibility. He wants to try to build a more responsible society.
8.45pm: He says he and Nick Clegg are forming a joint government. They are both leaders who want to put aside party interest and work in the national interest.
8.44pm: Cameron is arriving in Downing Street, with his wife Samantha.
He says the Queen has asked him to form a government and he has accepted.
1.00am: That’s it. Britain has got its first coalition government for more than 60 years. And Nick Clegg will be sitting in cabinet alongside Liam Fox and William Hague. Will it work? Who knows. But it is a bold project, and it will be certainly be interesting. We’ll get our first good look at it tomorrow (rather, later today) when the Cameron cabinet is expected to meet for the first time. And we’ve also got a new (interim) Labour leader. And the Labour leadership contest will soon begin in earnest.
I was surprised and impressed that Brown did not have to be stretchered out of Number 10 under heavy sedation–that he was willing to sacrifice what was left of his career, his reputation beyond redemption, to keep Labour in power. I had thought him less principled than that.
An interesting question is whether a Lib-Lab pact might have been put together if only Brown had declared his intention to resign immediately last Friday. Once the Tories did so well in the popular vote, and the Lib Dems so poorly (relative to expectations) it was always going to be difficult for Clegg to get behind Brown as PM. The electorate would have been disgusted. But this “coalition of losers” issue would have been very much attenuated if Brown had put himself out of the picture at once. And, as I say, a Lib-Lab policy program is easy to draw up. Perhaps, privately, he told Clegg he would go. But if he was negotiating over the weekend to keep himself in office, that would have subtracted a lot from the deal, and made Clegg more receptive to Tory overtures.
Then again, a Lib-Lab alliance would still have been short of votes. And another awkward issue would have come swiftly to the fore: the gross over-representation at Westminster of an implacably Labour-supporting Scotland. In case you’d forgotten, Scotland has its own parliament, as well as having a big say in who rules down south. One of the wonderful ironies of British politics is that the Tories, who have the biggest interest in paring Scotland’s power in Westminster, are the ones most dedicated to the union. Expect this issue to assume large importance in the coming era of unstable coalition government.
Meanwhile, might have beens don’t count. A Lib-Con “coalition” it is–details to come. Just what the country needs as it contemplates a public-debt crisis and embarks on a draconian program of fiscal restraint.
Barry Legg at The Guardian:
Whatever sort of Prime Minister David Cameron makes, we already know one thing for sure: he must already be the world’s worst poker player. Never in British political history has a negotiator playing for such stakes so comprehensively thrown away his hand before the game even began. Purely because Cameron was desperate to get himself into Number 10, and thus shield himself, with the Downing Street patronage machine, from the entirely justified anger of his party for failing to win a majority against Gordon Brown last Thursday, he has given into more Lib Dem demands than even Labour were willing to stomach. From whipping Tory MPs through in support of a referendum on AV, the number and nature of cabinet places he’s going to give to the Liberals, to surrendering the bedrock of the Westminster system – by giving way on fixed parliaments – Cameron gains office but not power.
As is evident from even a cursory examination of the three parties’ positions, the Lib Dems and Labour are closer to one another in virtually every regard than either is to the Tory Party. Yet now we are to have a coalition government between us and the Liberals. And it’s a coalition the Lib Dems are delighted to be in, and why shouldn’t they be? From European policy to electoral reform Cameron has, even before the government begins, given away so much that the least Tory party on the constitution and the most pro-EU party is content to make him Prime Minister.
Given that Labour, in refusing to meet Lib Dem demands, explicitly cited excessive Liberal spending plans, it’s enormously depressing from a Tory point of view to consider what’s going to give way. Either, no serious effort is going to be made to address the deficit, or, in order to finance Lib Dem policy goals, Tory ambitions, most noticeably as regards defence, will have to bear the brunt of even beginning to try and make the sums add up. Now is not the time I fear to have shares in Aircraft Carriers.
Daniel Finkelstein at The Times:
Emerging from the cinema a few years back, having watched Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves, my friend remarked that he thought it the greatest film ever made. I looked sceptical. “Well,” he said. “Something has to be.”
So in the same spirit, let me write something I have always fancied writing without appearing ridiculous. And now I can. This is a defining moment in British political history. Something has to be.
Like Robert Peel’s decision to repeal the Corn Laws, and split the Conservative Party for a generation, or Stanley Baldwin’s gentle manoeuvring to install the first Labour Government in 1924 and thus dish the Liberals, David Cameron’s generous offer to the Liberal Democrats has changed British politics for ever. Whether it succeeds or not.
If the Conservatives had won a small majority, it isn’t hard to imagine them being swept out in five years’ time by an alliance — either explicit or implied — of Labour and Liberal Democrats. Something like that happened in 1997 and produced the Blair landslide. Now a combination of the new maths of the Commons and Cameron’s boldness has disrupted this.
And in doing so, changed politics for years. The Liberal Democrats have been picked up and put down in a different place, partly by Nick Clegg of course, but largely by a Cameron offer of partnership that they weren’t expecting. The anti-Conservative majority is, in an extraordinary political coup, no longer an anti-Conservative majority. Things are much more complicated now.
The second part of the opportunity relates to Cameron’s own party. Five years of work — admittedly not as consistent as it should have been — to rebrand the party did not change perceptions as much as the Cameron team hoped. But now this. 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.
The very fact of working with a coalition partner might force Conservatives to sound more moderate and less strident. And Cameron will be Prime Minister, leader of the Conservatives, of course, but more than that. And the Tories will be able to share the political price of the difficult decisions ahead with another political force. Cuts won’t be “Tory cuts”, the Chancellor might be working with Vince Cable, rather than being attacked by Vince Cable.
So Cameron’s extraordinary response to the election has brought him much as well as the keys to No 10. But he has made a huge gamble. 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? Could the unfamiliar disputes and debates of coalition partners be perceived as weakness and chaos?
Unknown, unknowable. But this can be said with certainty. Politics has changed for ever.
“I can’t believe how much they’ve offered us. The Tories have basically rubbed out their manifesto and inserted ours. We’ll have to cope for four or five years with our flesh creeping, but still,” – a left-leaning Lib-Dem member of parliament to Michael Crick.
We’ll find out soon enough. I should say I am not opposed to the referendum on AV or instant run-off voting. My concern is that Britain continues to have a one-member-one-constituency system, to ensure direct representation and avoid too much power going to party elites. Under AV, the Liberals would do much better – but Britain would also have a chance to retain strong, clear, one-party governments.
In some ways, too, this outcome allows Cameron to ditch the Tory right. I suspect there will be grumbling among the ranks, and that William Hague, the chief negotiator for Cameron, will once again be delegated to bring them on board.
David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo:
The big news from Britain, according to Fox News, is that Queen Elizabeth herself has agreed to become prime minister:
Queen Elizabeth accepted the invitation of Conservative Party leader David Cameron to become Britain’s new prime minister Tuesday night after Gordon Brown resigned following his failure to form a coalition government with another liberal party.That was awful nice of Cameron to extend the invitation.
HMQ: Good luck laddie, you’re going to need it…