Why Liberals Should Rejoice in David Cameron’s Reelection

Nick Clegg David Cameron
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom deliver a news conference at 10 Downing Street, London, December 21, 2010 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

Liberals who worry that Prime Minister David Cameron’s reelection on Thursday marks the demise of an internationalist Britain in favor of “Little England” fail to appreciate just how much the Conservative Party leader has done for liberalism.

Nick Clegg, Cameron’s former deputy, was understandably bitter when he stepped down as Liberal Democrat leader on Friday. Having lost all but eight seats in Parliament, the traditional third party in British politics was replaced by the Scottish nationalists who won 56 seats.

“Years of remorseless economic and social hardship following the crash in 2008 and the grinding insecurities of globalization have led for people to reach to new certainties,” Clegg said. “The politics of identity, of nationalism, of us versus them is now on the rise.”

He could have said the same about any Western democracy. The conclusion he drew from this, however, was wrong.

Liberalism, here, as well as across Europe, is not faring well against the politics of fear.

His left-leaning brand of liberalism, no. But former Liberal Democrat voters in England didn’t switch to the United Kingdom Independence Party which represents those politics of fear. They voted for Cameron’s Conservatives instead because he advances a type of liberalism that works.

Clegg isn’t alone in underestimating Cameron’s liberalism. Read more “Why Liberals Should Rejoice in David Cameron’s Reelection”

Britain’s Cameron Stays in Power, Other Leaders Resign

British prime minister David Cameron delivers a press conference outside his office at 10 Downing Street in London, England, May 23, 2013
British prime minister David Cameron delivers a press conference outside his office at 10 Downing Street in London, England, May 23, 2013 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

British prime minister David Cameron stayed in power on Thursday, promising to government for “one nation” in his second term.

Cameron’s Conservative Party won an overall majority of 331 seats in the House of Commons on Thursday — defying polls that had predicted a hung parliament.

The Liberal Democrats, who governed in coalition with the Conservatives for the last five years, suffered what leader Nick Clegg described on Friday as a “crushing” defeat. The party fell from 56 to eight seats.

Clegg resigned as leader, saying, “It’s simply heartbreaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control.”

Labour’s Ed Miliband resigned as well, saying he was “deeply sorry” for the party’s losses, especially in Scotland where the Scottish National Party took 56 out of 59 seats.

Labour went down from 257 to 232 seats, its worst showing since 1987. The socialist party won only 30 percent of the popular vote against almost 37 percent for the Conservatives.

The United Kingdom Independence Party’s Nigel Farage stepped down as party leader as well after failing to win a seat in the constituency of Thanet South. The Euroskeptic party got 13 percent support nationwide but failed to win more than one seat.

Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system disadvantages small parties like UKIP but benefited the SNP in Scotland where the other parties split the pro-union vote.

The nationalists had hoped for a Labour victory so their support could be crucial to the next government. Cameron’s triumph could see support for independence in Scotland rise where a referendum last year found a 55 percent majority in favor of staying in the United Kingdom.

Cameron promised on Friday to “implement as fast as I can the devolution that all parties agreed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland” but it’s doubtful the extra powers will be enough for the SNP.

Cameron Promises More Power for England in Next Parliament

The statue of Richard the Lionheart and the Palace of Westminster in London, England, August 12, 2014
The statue of Richard the Lionheart and the Palace of Westminster in London, England, August 12, 2014 (Shutterstock)

British prime minister David Cameron vowed on Friday that “English votes for English laws” would be in place for the first budget of a next Conservative government.

Cameron also promised an “English rate” of income tax and a veto for English lawmakers over issues that only affect their region.

The constitutional changes would follow the devolution of tax powers to Scotland, Cameron said. Read more “Cameron Promises More Power for England in Next Parliament”

Upbeat Cameron Paints Post-Austerity Britain

British prime minister David Cameron in Riga, Latvia, February 28, 2013
British prime minister David Cameron in Riga, Latvia, February 28, 2013 (UK in Latvia)

A day after Labour’s Ed Miliband claimed his was the party of fiscal responsibility, British prime minister David Cameron said the Conservatives were really the party of “working people.”

Unveiling the ruling party’s manifesto for the May election in Swindon in the south of England on Tuesday, Cameron promised voters to “turn the good news on our economy into a good life for you and your family.”

Growth hit 2.6 percent last year while unemployment has fallen below 6 percent. At 73.2 percent, the employment rate is at its highest since 1971. Inflation is almost zero. Food and fuel prices are falling and households’ disposable income is at a six-year high. The Conservatives can convincingly claim to leave Britain a better place after five years in power yet Labour complains the party hasn’t done enough for ordinary families who have seen few to no increases in wages.

Cameron promised to take minimum wage earners out of tax, provide up to thirty hours of free child care — the equivalent of £5,000 per year — to “working families” and five some 1.3 million housing association tenant the right to buy their homes at a discount.

According to the Financial Times, Cameron’s claim that the Conservatives are “the party of working people” is part of an attempt to further squeeze UKIP — the nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party that is especially popular in low-income areas — and win back voters who used to be attracted to Margaret Thatcher’s policies in the 1980s.

The relaunch of the Thatcherite “right to buy” scheme is aimed at 1.3 million people in housing association properties who will now have the same right to buy their home as their counterparts living in council homes.

Cameron desperately needs more voters as his party remains neck and neck with Labour in the opinion polls. If the Conservatives don’t expand their support, they would likely fall short of a parliamentary majority while Labour could form an informal coalition with the Scottish National Party.

Political commentators pointed out the upbeat rhetoric was a departure from the Conservatives’ solemn warnings that more austerity is yet to come.

“Gone too the warnings of red flashing lights on the dashboard,” writes the BBC’s Nick Robinson. “Gone all talk of difficult decisions.”

In their place comes not one but three giveaways — an extension of the right to buy, a doubling of free child care and a promise that tax allowances will rise to ensure that the minimum wage is tax free. This after a series of others — not least the pledge to cut inheritance tax and spend at least £8 billion a year on the NHS.

The promise to take minimum wage earners out of tax altogether is especially curious, argues the BBC’s Robert Peston, when the Conservatives have traditionally stood against “something for nothing.”

And what’s odd about guaranteeing that huge numbers of employed people will never pay tax is that David Cameron appears to be comfortable about the notion that these people can enjoy all the expensive services and benefits provided by the state without making even a gesture of a contribution toward them.

The Conservatives’ optimistic rhetoric does not befit a country that is still borrowing £76 billion this year, argues the Financial Times‘ Janan Ganesh.

The most obvious cuts and tax rises have already been made, leaving some excruciating work ahead under either party’s consolidation plan. And that work might take place in the context of a slowing world economy.

Although all major parties have credible plans for eliminating the deficit — the Conservatives would cut more public services, Labour would raise more taxes — their emphasis on extra spending and post-austerity Britain is not preparing the public mood for the cuts that still need to be made.

At precisely the moment that politicians should be shoring up public resolve, they have lapsed into the competitive bidding of a conventional campaign.

Miliband Seen Benefiting Most from Sky News Debate

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband did much to boost his credibility as a potential prime minister in interviews broadcast by Sky News Thursday night.

By contrast, David Cameron, the incumbent, seemed caught off guard by presenter Jeremy Paxman’s grilling. He was forced to admit that his party had failed to keep its promise to bring down the national debt and only conceded after being asked several times that he would not be able to live off a zero-hours contract either. Read more “Miliband Seen Benefiting Most from Sky News Debate”

Cameron Criticized for Promise Not to Seek Third Term

British prime minister David Cameron in Riga, Latvia, February 28, 2013
British prime minister David Cameron in Riga, Latvia, February 28, 2013 (UK in Latvia)

British prime minister David Cameron told the BBC in an interview that was broadcast on Monday he would not seek a third term if he is reelected in May. “I’ve said I’ll stand for a full second term but I think after that it will be time for new leadership,” he said.

The Conservative Party leader immediately named three potential successors: London mayor Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Theresa May and Chancellor George Osborne. All three have “plenty of talent, he said. “I’m surrounded by very good people.”

The reaction from the opposition Labour Party and many in the media was severe. Read more “Cameron Criticized for Promise Not to Seek Third Term”

Backing Down, Cameron Calls for Modest Migration Reforms

David Cameron Matteo Renzi
Prime Ministers David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Matteo Renzi of Italy meet in London, England, April 1 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

British prime minister David Cameron’s latest proposals to curb European labor migration are notable not so much because of what they entail but because of what he left out.

In a speech on Friday, Cameron, who leads Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, said migrants from other European Union countries should have to wait four years before they can claim welfare benefits or tax credits. That is far longer than the three-month waiting period his coalition government with the Liberal Democrats is enacting.

Cameron also said migrants should leave the United Kingdom if they haven’t found work after six months. Most, in fact, already do.

Finally, Cameron wants to bar citizens from new countries that join the European Union until their economies have “converged more closely” with existing members. That, too, is already close to reality. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania have yet to join the Schengen Area customs union. Read more “Backing Down, Cameron Calls for Modest Migration Reforms”

Germany No Longer Thinks British EU Exit Unthinkable

German chancellor Angela Merkel listens to British prime minister David Cameron during the G8 conference in Muskoka, Canada, June 25, 2010
German chancellor Angela Merkel listens to British prime minister David Cameron during the G8 conference in Muskoka, Canada, June 25, 2010 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

Germany no longer rules out a British withdrawal from the European Union, weekly Der Spiegel reported on Sunday. British prime minister David Cameron’s proposal to limit free labor migration in Europe — one of the union’s cornerstone integration policies — would be a bridge too far for his German counterpart, Angela Merkel. Read more “Germany No Longer Thinks British EU Exit Unthinkable”

Staking Out Middle Ground, Cameron Promises Tax Relief

British prime minister David Cameron delivers a press conference outside his office at 10 Downing Street in London, England, May 23, 2013
British prime minister David Cameron delivers a press conference outside his office at 10 Downing Street in London, England, May 23, 2013 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

In a markedly patriotic speech, Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday told his Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham he would use a next five years in government to build “a Britain everyone is proud to call home.”

Drawing a contrast between his and the opposition Labour Party, which is only slightly ahead in the polls for May’s general election, Cameron argued, “You never pull one person up by pulling another down. This party doesn’t do the politics of envy and class war,” he said. “We leave that to others. We believe in aspiration and helping people get on in life.”

To that end, Cameron promised to raise the income tax threshold from £10,500 to £12,500 under a next Conservative government, benefiting around thirty million working Britons. Read more “Staking Out Middle Ground, Cameron Promises Tax Relief”