5-20-15 – Thoughts on the British Conservatives Sweep Back to Power

By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS–Defying dire polls, deflating many media pundits, and derailing a left-wing lurch from the Labor Party, Prime Minister David Cameron Conservative Party swept back into power for a second term with a shock election win and a reinvigorated majority.   Cameron’s victory was all the sweeter as it precluded his party from having to enter the messy business of coalition politics and the political “horse trading” which could have hampered him for weeks.

The resounding victory by Mr. Cameron, comes amid both political kudos and dire warnings. On the one hand the Conservatives won 331 seats in the 650 seat House of Parliament, a commendable feat in any election. Yet part of the victory comes by default from the Labor party itself who swerved Leftwards under Ed Miliband and reminded people more of the socialist tub-thumping Old Labor of the 1950’s than of what had become the successful New Labor under Tony Blair in the 1990’s .

Indeed on economic issues, most voters see the Conservatives as better stewards of  growth and revived prosperity than the statist and socialist Labor.

But ill winds still blow in Scotland where the separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) swept the table winning all 56 parliamentary seats at the expense of both the Tories and Labor.   Had Labor won, they would have been likely dependent on the graces of a party which wants to dismantle the country.

“The Scottish lion has roared this morning across the country” boasted a key SNP politico. Though Scots resoundingly rejected an independence referendum last September, the political genie is out of the bottle and the issue is hardly resolved. Neither the Conservatives not the Labor party seem to have the magic formula to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom long term. Scotland thus presents a political fault line which could likely jolt the UK in the future.

Europhobia remains a key challenge for many Conservatives who have a love/hate relationship with the European Union (EU) and especially some of its uber-bureaucratic trappings. Despite the often nanny state rulings from Brussels, Britain is far better being inside and an active player in Europe than she would be looking across the Channel with an “I told you so” pique. A referendum on the UK EU membership may be in the cards by 2017.

David Cameron is the first Tory Prime Minister to win-reelection since Margaret Thatcher. Yet Cameron is no true-blue Thatcherite; this is more the government of Tory-lite.  On the one hand since winning in 2010, the Conservatives have admirably cut government spending from nearly 46% of GDP to 40.7%. Some of the bloated bureaucracy and inefficient National Health Service have been trimmed. Yet, the government still needs to create the conditions to revitalize the anemic post-recession economy for all people, not just successful entrepreneurs.

Over the past few years, I have been appalled at the Cameron coalition government defense cutbacks reducing the size and punch of the British military. Reckless reductions in the Royal Air Force (RAF) have crippled a proud institution.

Britain’s role in the world is no less important.   As a stanch American ally (though the Obama Administration seems not to notice) and as a key player in the United Nations with its permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the UK still punches politically above its weight and size. Britain proudly remains a major donor of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to needy countries.

The Conservative victory comes on the 70th anniversary of VE Day, the victory over Nazism in Europe in which a Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill played so vital a role. But that was another era.

Mr. Cameron is heading back to 10 Downing Street after all. We wish him well, but now he must deliver.   This may be tougher challenge than the election.


John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

hunter Melville May 23, 2015 at 1:18 am

Hate to be picky but it should be ‘staunch’ ally, not stanch.


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