LONDON (AP) - Britain woke up to a new political era Wednesday
with the first full coalition government since World War II - an
unlikely marriage between the Conservative party of right-wing icon
Margaret Thatcher and the left-leaning Liberal Democrats.
Details of the coalition alliance were expected to slowly
trickle out - the Liberal Democrats have already won several
Cabinet seats, but it will be one of the least experienced
governments since Tony Blair's Labour Party won its landslide
victory in 1997 amid cheers of joy.
Boos greeted Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron as he
walked into Downing Street late Tuesday after Labour's leader
Gordon Brown stepped aside. No party won a majority of
parliamentary seats - voters were enraged after a damaging expense
scandal last year that tarred lawmakers from all three parties with
claims on everything from pornography to chandeliers.
The government will immediately begin tackling Britain's record
153 billion-pound ($236 billion) deficit. It is still unclear
whether the Liberal Democrats will back the Conservatives' plan to
begin immediate spending cuts - a punishing course of action that
isn't likely to win praise from the electorate.
But the change in government could also mean a change for
Britain's place on the world stage.
Both Cameron and Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick
Clegg have signaled they favor looser ties to Washington. Both men
back the Afghanistan mission, but Cameron hopes to withdraw British
troops within five years. Clegg has said he's uneasy at a rising
death toll. Leaner coffers may also mean less money to enter
foreign-led military operations.
Relations with European neighbors could also become problematic.
Cameron's party is deeply skeptical over cooperation in Europe and
has withdrawn from an alliance with the parties of Germany's Angela
Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy. Clegg, once a member of the
European parliament, has long been pro-European.
Once described as sandal-wearing hippie academics, Clegg's Lib
Dems emerge from the political fringe to the top rung of
government. Among the most visible will be Vince Cable, who will
take an as yet unspecified post in charge of Britain's banks, the
Labour, meanwhile, took steps to regroup, with the maneuvering
under way for the job of party leader. David Miliband, the foreign
secretary, has emerged as a candidate and has earned the backing of
another early favorite, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
Brown's deputy Harriet Harman would become interim Labour leader
until a formal leadership takes place to select his permanent
The 43-year-old Cameron becomes Britain's youngest prime
minister in almost 200 years - the last was Lord Liverpool at 42 -
and cemented a coalition deal with the third-place Liberal
Democrats. Clegg and four other Liberal Democrats received Cabinet
posts. A number of other Liberal Democrats would receive junior
The agreement, reached over five sometimes tense days of
negotiation, delivered Britain's first full coalition government
since World War II.
"This is a genuine compromise between the parties," said
William Hague, the new foreign secretary. "There are many things
the Liberal Democrats have had to swallow that are very difficult
for them, just as there are some things - like holding a referendum
on a new voting system - that are very difficult for the
Conservative Party to accept. "That means, of course, there will
be people in both parties who quietly wish it hadn't happened, I'm
Cameron and Clegg agreed to a pact after the Conservative Party
won the most seats in Britain's May 6 national election, but fell
short of winning a majority of seats in Parliament.
Cameron's Conservative Party said senior lawmaker George Osborne
will serve as Treasury chief, and lawmaker Liam Fox as defense
Other leading positions were being finalized, as were key policy
decision ahead of the presentation of the coalition's first
legislative program on May 25.
The coalition has already agreed on a five-year, fixed-term
Parliament - the first time Britain has had the date of its next
election decided in advance. Both sides have made compromise, and
Cameron has promised Clegg a referendum on his key issue: reform of
Britain's electoral system aimed at creating a more proportional
"Nick Clegg and I are both political leaders who want to put
aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for
the national interest," Cameron said Tuesday.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, telephoned to congratulate
Cameron, and invited him to visit Washington this summer, according
to the White House. Obama told Cameron that he looked forward to
meeting at an international economic summit to be held in Canada
Brown's resignation ends five days of uncertainty after last
week's general election left the country with no clear winner. It
left Britain with its first so-called hung Parliament since 1974.
Britain's Conservatives won the most seats but fell short of a
majority, forcing them to bid against the Labour Party for the
loyalty of the Lib Dems.