A Coalition of the Willing in Great Britain

Article excerpt

Byline: William Underhill

Now that the question of who will lead the country is settled, politicians can get down to answering the more important query: can a coalition government work in Britain? There hasn't been one since World War II, and Britons are famously skeptical of them. Yet after the general election left no party with an outright majority, the Conservatives, who won the largest chunk of the vote, agreed to govern with the third-place finishers, the Liberal Democrats. Bookmakers are offering odds of less than 2-1 that the coalition will survive longer than a year, and financiers are nervous that the tandem won't be able to agree on how to rein in the national debt. According to the skeptics, Prime Minister David Cameron's brave talk of "a new politics" where "cooperation wins out over confrontation" disguises a fragile deal struck for reasons of expedience.

But despite the odds, the evidence so far suggests that the spirit of cooperation and compromise is alive and well in 10 Downing Street. The parties' joint program, announced last week, deals squarely with many of the issues that divided them in the past. The Liberal Democrats, for example, have accepted the Conservatives' plans for spending cuts of $9 billion this year rather than the more gradual approach their leader Nick Clegg advocated during the campaign. …