To get through its current crisis, the United Kingdom needs another Iron Lady. That’s the derogatory term bestowed by her opponents upon Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Party’s prime minister from 1979-90. But the moniker later was adopted by supporters when they admired Thatcher’s getting the country through the major crises of the late 1970s and into the prosperity of the 1980s.
Rather than another Thatcher, Britons have gotten David Cameron, who last week was named prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II after he allied with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who becomes deputy prime minister. They formed a coalition government, the first since World War II, since neither Cameron’s Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats received a majority of seats in Parliament in the May 6 election.
The best part is that Gordon Brown of the Labor Party has been ousted from power, which he held for three years. Along with his predecessor, Tony Blair, Brown and Labor presided over 13 years of tax increases, wild government spending and inflationary monetary policy that have sunk the UK into a recession worse than that in America and a financial situation only marginally less dire than that of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
Unfortunately, Cameron calls himself a “modern compassionate conservative,” echoing the slogan “compassionate conservative” that George W. Bush used in his 2000 presidential campaign. “Cameron is a sort of George W. Bush conservative,” observed Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. The main difference, Eland said, is that British Conservatives “don’t have the aversion to tax increases that Republicans do” in the United States.
The result could be that Cameron will try a “combination of tax increases and spending cuts” to get Britain’s economic house in order. He added that Britain’s powerful unions — which Thatcher tamed in the late 1970s — also will make it difficult to cut spending enough to make a difference.
Fortunately, Eland said, Britain’s situation isn’t quite as bad as that of Greece. We would add that Brits have a long history of “muddling through,” as during World War II.
Eland suspects the coalition won’t last long, broken on the shoals of the world’s biggest economic crisis since the 1930s, leading to a new election before the end of the year. How our English cousins deal with their economic and political crisis could be a harbinger of how Americans will have to deal with ours, beginning with our elections in November.