Monday, 24 May 2010

Cameron-Clegg Coalition Government- A Civil Partnership

Cameron-Clegg Coalition Government:
A Very Civil Partnership


Dr. Mozammel Haque

The UK’s 2010 General Elections ended with the first hung Parliament in 36 years. Labour Party suffered a heavy defeat, losing at least 86 seats including big names, such as Jacqui Smith and Charles Clarke. But Labour fared less badly in the capital than nationally. The Conservatives won the most seats on 6th of May, 2010 elections, but not enough to secure an overall Commons majority. No single party could rule alone securely.

First Hung Parliament in 36 years
The Labour Party suffered a heavy defeat, ended up with just 261 MPs. The Conservatives made record gains of 92-plus seats and won 307 seats. They needed 326 seats for an overall majority. David Cameron did not get an outright majority but he did win the right to govern; the Lib-Dems fell short of their aspirations but won the right to a share of government. Lib-Dems won 57 seats. David Cameron’s failure to secure a majority and Gordon Brown’s drubbing – worse even than Michael Foot’s in 1983 – left the Liberal Democrat as kingmaker.

A historic deal between David Cameron and Nick Clegg was hammered out after a few days of negotiations and a very Civil Partnership – Conservatives-Liberal Democrats – was announced by David Cameron from the doorsteps of 10 Downing Street on 12th of May, 2010.

Tory-Liberal Democrats Coalition
Britain enters an era of ‘new politics’ after the formation of Clegg-Cameron Coalition government accommodating and making concessions of various issues. It is a marriage of convenience but both of the leaders are united for a strong and stable government.

The important feature of Britain’s new coalition government is that it represents the will of the people more closely than any of the mooted alternatives. After waiting 60 years for a Liberal to be in cabinet, five come along at once, plus ministerial jobs across all departments. Not only that, but a deputy Prime Minister from the third party. Both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are young of the same age at 43 and both studied in fee-paying public school.

Women in Parliament
The Tories have 48 female MPs, up from 18, Liberal Democrats have seven female MPs, compared with nine before the election, and Labour now has 81, a marginal increase. Overall, the percentage of women MPs in the present Parliament increased from 19.5% to 22% at this election. The Lib-Dems have an appalling record: a 100% all-white parliamentary party with just seven female MPs – and even fewer female candidates than at the last two elections.

Cameron-Clegg Coalition Cabinet
As the head of the much larger party in the new coalition, Mr. David Cameron has kept the top jobs around the top table for the Conservatives: George Osborne as Chancellor; William Hague as Foreign Secretary; Michael Gove as Education Secretary; Liam Fox as Defence Secretary; Kenneth Clarke as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor; Theresa May as Home Secretary and Iain Duncan Smith as Work & Pensions Secretary.

On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats got five cabinet seats for the first time since the steam age. They are: Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister; Vince Cable as Business Secretary; Chris Huhne as Climate Change and Environment Secretary; Danny Alexander as Scottish Secretary and David Laws as Chief Secretary to The Treasury.

Besides those, there are followings in the cabinet: i) Andrew Lansley as Health Secretary; ii) Eric Pickles as Communities and Local Government Secretary; iii) Andrew Mitchell as International Development; iv) Philip Hammond as Transport; v) Caroline Spelman as Environment; vi) Owen Paterson as Northern Ireland; vii) Cheryl Gillan as Wales Secretary; viii) Jeremy Hunt as Culture & Media Secretary; ix) Lord Strathclyde as Leader Of The Lords and x) Baroness Sayeeda Warsi without portfolio.

Four women were appointed to the cabinet on 12th of May out of 23 cabinet members, such as Theresa May, Home Secretary, Caroline Spelman as Environment Secretary and Cheryl Gillan as Welsh Secretary. The fourth woman, Lady Warsi, is the only minority ethnic cabinet member and has been given the role of minister without portfolio and will be Conservative party chair. She is the first Muslim woman to serve in the cabinet.

Important features of Cameron Coalition Cabinet
There are some special features of the new Cameron Coalition Cabinet. Firstly, at 43 years, David Cameron, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative Party is the youngest Prime Minister in almost 200 years. The last was Lord Liverpool who became Prime Minister when he was 42 years old.

Secondly, the new chancellor is the youngest Chancellor for more than a century. At 38 years, George Osborne became the youngest Chancellor since Winston Churchill’s father in 1886.

Thirdly, most of the Cabinet members are male and private school and Oxbridge-educated. Prime Minister himself Old Etonian. The most senior posts – leader, deputy leader and chancellor – are former public schoolboys. Out of 16 cabinet ministers, nine including Mr. Cameron, attended fee-paying schools, while 11 went to either Oxford or Cambridge Universities, said Labour veteran Margaret Beckett. Of the cabinet, 59% are privately educated and 69% went to Oxbridge. Leading Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s ex-spin doctor calls it the “new Eton-Westminster-St. Paul’s government.”

Fourthly, in the 23-strong male-dominated cabinet, there are only four Female Secretaries.

First Muslim woman in Cabinet
Fifthly, there is only one member of the cabinet from the ethnic minority community. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is the only member of the Cabinet who represents both the ethnic minority community, Muslim community. She is the first Muslim Female to sit at the top table, in the Cabinet. She is unpaid, unelected and a “Minister without portfolio”. She is also the only non-white member of the cabinet. Baroness Warsi is also the first Muslim woman to become the Conservative Party Chair.

Women in Cabinet
Despite increase in female MPs at this election, new politics consists overwhelmingly of men in suits. As Mr. Cameron appointed the Cabinet members for the Conservative-Liberal Democrats Coalition women are notable by their absence. There were only four women at the top table.

From a total of 29 attending cabinet, there were just four women. There are four women in the new coalition cabinet, including the home secretary, Theresa May. All the women in the cabinet are Tories, observed Katharine Viner in The Guardian on 12 May 2010.

This is in contrast to the previous governments, both the Government under Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. Gordon Brown’s first cabinet in June 2007 had five women and a further four with the right to attend. The number of women in his final cabinet was down to four in his June 2009 reshuffle. Just before the formation of the present cabinet of the Cameron Coalition government, the former Labour government had three female Secretaries - Harriet Harman, leader of the House of Commons and equality spokeswoman, Tessa Jowell, Cabinet Office Minister and Yvette Cooper, work and pensions Secretary.

This is also in contrast to the days of ‘Blair’s babes’ in the old cabinet of 1997, which included five women: Margaret Becket, Mo Mowlam, Clare Short, Harriet Harman and Ann Taylor.

Compared to other countries, Britain’s performance in this area is ‘dismal’, as the following statistic shows: Women in European cabinets: Spain 53%, Germany 37%, France 33%, Neth 33%, Italy 27%, Greece 26%, Belgium 23%, Portugal 13%, it was reported in the Telegraph.

Fewer than one in five of Cameron's ministers are women compared with 53% of Spain's cabinet, 50% of Sweden's and 38% of Germany's, according to the Centre for Women and Democracy.

Historic Tory-Lib-Dems Policy Agreement
Seven closely-typed A4 pages contain the historic agreement that underpins the Cameron-Clegg era of coalition politics. The document has 11-sub-headings covering the key policy areas that were addressed in the five days of discussions between the Conservatives and Lib-Dems. The key paragraphs include spending tax, Trident missiles, banking reform, immigration, health and education.

The main provisions of the Tory-Liberal Democrats agreement are all there – the scrapping of the £4.5billion Pounds ID card and the national identity register, the abolition of the £350million Children’s ContactPoint database and the outlawing of fingerprinting of children in schools without parental permission.

There are proposals for fixed five-year term parliament; to raise the number of votes to win a no-confidence vote to 55 per cent of MPs (from 50 per cent plus one at present); to raise the income tax threshold to £10, 000 pounds over the coming years; abolish child benefit for the middle classes; likelihood of VAT going up to 20 per cent and an annual cap on immigration from outside the EU.
London
16 May 2010

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