Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How's that Hanging Working Out?

Hang, Hung, Hanged.

As the elections in Britain have resulted in an increasingly amazing kabuki dance among the Tories, LibDems and Labour, issues regarding the thrust of its international policies have become far murkier than a result of a clear victory by either Labour or the Tories would have produced.

The LibDems never had a chance of claiming a victory simply because the voting system is not proportional – a reason they are now negotiating with both the Conservative and Labour parties to form a loose alliance, in the case of the former or formal coalition in the case of the latter. Whichever party promises electoral reform gets the LibDems and a wins a cookie. Increasingly, that looks like Labour which is, in any event, closer philosophically to the LibDems on almost all issues, including attitudes toward Brussels. Nevertheless, the Tories did receive the largest vote and can credibly argue that they are entitled to form a government – minority or otherwise - and subsequently snub everyone across the Channel.

The debates touched on foreign policy issues in general and the EU in particular. David Cameron clearly would have pushed for a far more arms-length relationship, if that is possible. The current financial crises in the EU has only have buttressed the Conservative party position that the UK should not be under the thumb of the bureaucrats in Brussels or, not to put too fine a point on it, Berlin.

Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown are far closer in their positions regarding working with, or rather within, the EU. The ties with Brussels might be closer under a coalition government led by Labour but wagged by the LibDems; but, even this scenario is likely to be strikingly adjusted as a result of the negative public view regarding the EU’s stunningly discordant handling of the Greek financial melt-down, with its still vast potential for unravelling entirely and spreading rapidly. My guess is that the Labour-LibDem foreign policy position, should they form a “coalition of losers” as many Conservative MPs are characterizing this potential marriage of convenience, will be closer to David Cameron’s and the Tories than the LibDems’. In that case, relations with Brussels will enter a period of drift until the next election.
UK foreign policy regarding the US, Russia and China will remain the same under a Labour-Lib-Dem coalition – in other words Whitehall will continue to be largely ignored by the US except for Afghanistan, Russia will gradually enter the realm of polite discussion away from the children lest they be frightened and China will remain on the distant horizon of concerns.

Only one thing is certain. This will be the last of the old, first-past-the-post elections as the voters won’t tolerate a government with 36% support to have 150% of the power.

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