In the short term, Cameron’s win is the best outcome for business and the UK economy, as suggested by this morning’s sharp rally in the value of the pound.
Voters chose the safe pair of hands to guide Britain’s economy over what are certain to be several more difficult years.
But the next few years will require some deft and visionary handling by Cameron.
The PM is now obliged to carry through with his pledge to hold a referendum on whether the country should leave the EU by the end of 2017.
If the UK is to stay, he will have to lower expectations of how much EU reform he can deliver before the vote and defy much of his own party. At the same time, Cameron will need to rejuvenate the UK’s antiquated electoral system and constitution in such a way that Scots can be accommodated within it.
Cameron’s complicated new reality is partly a consequence of “first-past-the-post” elections that count only the votes of the winners. It disproportionately rewards parties whose votes are regionally concentrated — such as the SNP — and penalizes those whose supporters are more evenly distributed across the country, such as the UK Independence Party. UKIP won more than twice as many votes as the SNP but 1/56th the number of seats. Even within Scotland, the SNP won, not 95 percent of the vote as their representation at Westminster would suggest, but about half.
This system was tolerated when it supported a two-party system, but that no longer exists. Now that Britain’s parliamentary order relies on multiple parties, and the UK is becoming more a union of nations than a centralized state, this way of electing the legislature has become undemocratic and unsustainable for a UK that includes Scotland. Cameron’s majority government should make a priority of electoral reform — to introduce an element of proportional representation.
It will also need to devolve further powers to Scotland and begin a much broader constitutional change.
The prime minister has won, and won bigger than even he dared hope.
But he has his work cut out to deliver the political stability and continued economic recovery that he promised.
And make no mistake: His job just got much harder.
The politics of this campaign, combined with the vagaries of the U.K.’s electoral system, have complicated his efforts to address the two delicate political realities that threaten the very future of his country. The first concerns UK’s place in the European Union. The second concerns Scotland’s place in the UK.
Good Luck & God Speed