United kingdom | A Historic Changing of the Guard
- United Kingdom Main Page
- The Magna Carta Is Signed and a House of Commons Is Born
- The Church of England Is Established and Parliament Reigns Supreme
- England's Empire Grows While the American Colonies Revolt
- Democratic Government Emerges
- Britain Enters WWII
- Britain Enters European Community and Margaret Thatcher Becomes First Female Prime Minister
- Tony Blair and the Labor Party End Conservative Rule
- Britain Supports Post-Sept. 11 America, Enters the Iraq War
- Terror Strikes at Home
- Gordon Brown Succeeds Blair
- A Historic Changing of the Guard
- Royal Wedding Precedes Media Scandal
- London Sets New Olympic Record
- Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes and Receives Royal Approval
- The Duchess of Cambridge Gives Birth to a Baby Boy—and Later a Girl
- Parliament Rejects Cameron's Plan to Strike Syria
- Cameron Wins a Second Term in a Resounding Victory
A Historic Changing of the Guard
In January 2009, amidst global economic and financial turmoil, the Bank of England cut interest rates by more than a percentage point, from 3% to 1.5%—the lowest level in its 315-year existence.
In May 2009, the Daily Telegraph reported that several MPs had submitted dozens of inappropriate or inflated expense claims, including those for mortgage interest; home repairs and renovations; personal items, including television sets, beds, and manure. As part of the fallout, the speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, was forced to resign in June 2009 amid criticism of his handling of the controversy. He was succeeded by Conservative John Bercow.
Brown called early elections in April 2010, just three years into his term. He never found wide favor among his constituency, and his aloof and often gruff demeanor hurt his popularity ratings. In addition, the global financial crisis left Britain mired in a recession for six straight quarters, beginning in April 2008.
In the May elections, Brown faced off against David Cameron of the Conservative Party and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats. The candidates participated in the country's first ever televised debates. Clegg's charismatic and informed performance boosted his profile and he emerged as a serious contender in the race, making the election one of the most exciting and followed in Britain's history. Cameron was considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, but his showing in the May 6 election did not meet expectations. Indeed, the election produced a hung Parliament, with none of the competing parties winning enough seats (326) to form a majority government. Conservatives took 306 seats, Labour 258, and Liberal Democrats 57. Brown resigned as head of the Labour Party on May 11, ending 13 years of rule by Labour.
The Conservatives wooed the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government, offering to put electoral reform—a main point in the party's platform—to a referendum, establish a five-year, fixed term for Parliament, and give the Liberal Democrats five cabinet posts, including Clegg as deputy prime minister. The arrangement marks the first such partnership between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and the country's first coalition government since World War II. The unlikely partnership raised more than a few eyebrows in Britain and beyond, leaving many to wonder how long the two parties at opposite ends of the political spectrum could work together amicably, especially given the agenda that lies ahead. The government faces the daunting task of imposing austere cost-cutting measures to shore up the flagging economy. Nevertheless, Cameron and Clegg, the young dynamic duo—both are age 43, promised unity and a new direction for the country.