British Politics: Might The Recent Election Results Jeopardize a Vital Relationship?

By: Mikaela Tenner Source: New York Times

On May 6, the night before the British General Election, the world waited in anticipation for Britain’s 56th Parliament to be elected. With a seemingly dead-even race between the Conservative Party and Labour Party, experts said the race was too close to call.  Pollsters predicted that the election would result in Britain’s second-ever hung parliament. However, it was soon apparent that these polls had significantly underestimated the strength of the Conservative Party, which ended up winning 99 more seats than the Labour Party.

The Labour Party is Britain’s centrist, left party and has been a dominant player in British politics for decades. Founded in 1900, the party was founded as a labor union party. Initially was based on the idea of high wages, government intervention in the economy, and high taxes on the wealthy, but that has shifted over the past few decades. Nevertheless, the Labour Party experienced a substantial rise to power in 1974, had their first majority in 1974, and has enjoyed periodic majorities since then.

On the other hand, the Conservative Party is Britain’s centrist right party today. Some of Britain’s most famous politicians both past and present have come from this political party, including David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher. Founded in 1834 by Robert Peel, the Conservative Party has split several times over its existence. Today, some of the party’s most prominent platforms include strengthening the British-American relationship and improving Britain’s welfare system.

The conservative party’s clear victory in this election sets the stage for what is to come in the years ahead. One point of particular contention is the path that the British-American relationship will take with Prime Minister David Cameron’s re-election. Over the past century, Britain and the United States have been key allies in getting one another through both world wars and multiple economic recessions. One particular concern for the future of the alliance is Britain’s weakening bond with the rest of the European Union. With the support of the Conservatives, a referendum on seceding from the European Union is being voted on in Britain this fall. There is concern that if Britain does choose to secede from the Union, the United States will lose a large amount of influence over the rest of the European Union.

Another issue of concern between the two nations is the possible secession of Scotland.  Although the referendum for Scotland to secede from the rest of the United Kingdom did not pass last fall, there is some speculation that it could be voted on again in the near future. Some American politicians are concerned that David Cameron’s re-election could have a negative influence of the future of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom.  Due to the military and cultural importance of Scotland, it is in the best interest of the United States that Scotland does not secede from their close ally, as the loss of Scotland could cause the United States to lose some power in the region.

Although these issues are certainly concerning, the United States should strive to keep Britain as a close ally no matter what. The conservative party being in control may not be preferable in the view of Americans, but it is not a reason to withdraw support from a country that has been an ally for so long. Britain still remains an economic and political powerhouse on the world stage, and the United States needs to continue to keep them close.