Hung parliament in Britain, parties hunt for numbers (Third Lead)

Posted by on May 7th, 2010 and filed under International, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

London, May 7 (IANS) Britain was saddled Friday with its first hung parliament since 1974 after a bitterly fought election stripped the Labour of its governing majority but left the Conservatives short of the numbers to take power on its own, forcing them to desperately hunt for allies.

With results out for most of the 649 constituencies (balloting will take place for one seat May 27), the Conservatives were on top with 299 seats with results still to come from 13 constituencies. The Labour trailed with 254 while the smaller Liberal Democrat netted 54 seats.

The parties need to cross the half way mark of 326 to form the government.

By Friday afternoon, it was clear that Thursday’s election had led to a political crisis, leaving both the Conservatives and Labour eyeing 10 Downing Street. Britain, a worried Prime Minister Gordon Brown emphasized, needed a strong and stable government.

No party is set to even reach the half-way mark in the House of Commons, leaving Britain — the mother of democracies — to face a system that has become endemic in India.

Despite suffering terrible reverses that left the ruling Labour bruised in the second spot, Brown insisted it was his duty to give ‘a strong, stable and principled government’.

But Conservative leader David Cameron, tantalizingly short of a simple majority, insisted that Brown had lost the mandate of Britons, who voted Thursday in one of the most closely contested elections.

Immigration, health, taxation and unemployment were the dominant campaign themes. The Liberal Democrats, whose election hype did not translate into votes, sought economic and political reforms.

Key Labour strategist Peter Mandelson said they could seek to form a government as ‘the rules are that if it’s a hung parliament, it’s not the party with the largest number of seats that has first go, it’s the sitting government’.

But not wanting to take chances, the Labour reached out to Nick Clegg, the charismatic Liberal Democrat leader.

However, Clegg disappointed the Labour by saying that he believed the Conservatives or the Tories had gained the ‘first right’ to attempt to form a government in the ‘national interest’.

But he also said that his party would meet Saturday to consider whether to ally with Labour or Conservatives.

Among the smaller parties the Democratic Unionist Party got eight seats, followed by Scottish National Party (six), Sinn Fein (four), Plaid Cymru and Social Democratic and Labour Party (three each), and Alliance Party and Green (one each).

Under the unwritten rules of Britain’s constitution, the sitting prime minister has the first option to ask Queen Elizabeth II for the chance to form a government.

However, convention also states that the party with the most seats has the ‘moral’ right to ask to form a government.

People of Indian origin voted enthusiastically across Britain. At least three Indian origin Labour candidates won. But some of their colleagues were humbled.

The notable winners were veteran Keith Vaz as well as Virendra Sharma and Marsha Singh. Among the losers were Parmjit Dhanda and Manish Sood.

With 650 constituencies and 4,150 candidates, more than 44 million people were eligible to vote.

Tens of thousands, however, could not exercise their right after the polling stations were unable to cope with a late surge.

Political pundits admitted it won’t be possible for the Tories to reach the magic mark of 326 seats required to get a majority and form a government.

The final official result is expected later Friday.

The last British hung parliament was in 1974, when too the Liberal vote rose, damaging the ruling Conservatives more than the Labour. The end result was Labour 301 seats, the Conservatives 297 and the Liberals 14.

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