Britain Gets a New Leader

After a very unusual election, David Cameron takes over as Prime Minister

May 12, 2010

David Cameron became Britain's new head of government, or Prime Minister, yesterday. At 43, he is the country's youngest leader in almost 200 years. Cameron is the head of the Conservative party. He succeeds Gordon Brown. Brown's Labor party had led the national government for the last 13 years.

Joining Forces

In Britain, citizens vote for their local representatives, or members of Parliament. The political party that gets the majority of representatives in Parliament is the winner. The leader of that party becomes Prime Minister.

But this year, the May 6 election results were unusual. Neither the Conservative nor Labor parties got a majority of all the seats in Parliament. Conservatives led in the vote, but were still 20 seats short. So both parties tried to win the support of a smaller party, the Liberal Democrats. Conservatives and Labor tried to get the Liberal Democrats to join forces with them to form a coalition (koh-ah-lish-un) government, or partnership.

Nick Clegg, the head of the Liberal Democrats, decided to make an agreement with Cameron and the Conservative party. Though Cameron and Clegg had different ideas about what was best for the nation and how to achieve their goals, they compromised and will try to work together. Cameron became Prime Minister. Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister, or second in command. It is the first coalition government in Britain since 1945.

The Challenges Ahead

The new leaders have many difficult issues to tackle. The nation's economy is in bad shape. Experts think that almost $9 billion will have to be cut in spending. British troops are fighting in Afghanistan, but the war is unpopular. Cameron must decide if--and when--to bring British troops home.

No one is sure if the new coalition government will succeed. But Cameron says he will try. "This is going to be hard and difficult work. A coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges," Cameron said in his first speech as leader. "But I believe together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs."

After five days of uncertainty, Britons know who will be leading them. Time will tell how the new government will work--or if it will work at all.


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