Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Historic Election

Randall Stephens

David Cameron, now at 10 Downing St., takes office after the failure of Labour to form a coalition government. The Guardian reports, in when-worlds-collide fashion: "Tories to form full coalition with Lib Dems."

All elections are historic. But this one has several interesting, unusual historical components. On May 11 the Conservatives were speedily putting together plans for the first Westminster coalition since Winston Churchill ruled over a Labour, Liberal, and Tory government during WW II.

David Cameron is also the youngest British PM since Lord Liverpool took office in 1812. America and Britain were at war. The British Empire had just abolished slavery 5 years before. Lord Liverpool headed the government (1812 to 1827) through rough waters following the Napoleonic wars. During his tenure it became easier to be a Catholic in England.

This from Chambers's Biographical Dictionary (London, 1898):

Liverpool, Robert Banks Jenkinson, Earl of, statesman, was born 7th June 1770, the son of the first Earl (1727-1808). He was educated at the Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford, and entered parliament in 1791 as member for Rye. A Tory with Liberal ideas on trade and finance, in 1794 he became a member of the India Board, and in 1801 as Foreign Secretary negotiated the unpopular treaty of Amiens. In 1808 he was created Lord Hawkesbury and on Pitt's return to power he went to the Home Office. On the death of Pitt he declined to form an administration. In 1807 he again took the Home Office, and next year succeeded his father as Earl of Liverpool. In Perceval's ministry of 1809 he was Secretary for War and the Colonies. In 1812 he formed an administration which lasted for nearly fifteen years. The attitude of the government to Poland, Austria, Italy, and Naples, coercive measures at home, and an increase in the duty on corn were regarded as reactionary. Lord Liverpool himself was a Free Trader, and ultimately sought to liberalise the tariff. Notwithstanding the blunder of the sinking fund, his financial policy generally was sound, enlightened, and economical. He united the old and the new Tories at a critical period. In Feb. 1827 he was struck with apoplexy, and died 4th December 1828.

And another historical, economic aspect at play as well:

Andrew Hough, "David Cameron becomes youngest Prime Minister in almost 200 years," Telegraph, 11 May, 2010.

After five days of uncertainty, Mr Brown finally accepted that he was unable to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Minutes later, talks ended between Liberal Democrat and Tory negotiators on a future government a few hundred yards away at the Cabinet Office. It ended unprecedented haggling among the parties after the inconclusive last week’s general election. It brought to a close 13 years of Labour rule, during which the longest economic expansion for 200 years was followed by the deepest recession in more than a century. . . .

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