UK. Labor forces urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown to
resign as party leader at the beginning of the year, but
even this time he was able to remain despite dissatisfaction
with his leadership within the party.
In January, former Prime Minister Tony Blair testified
before the independent inquiry into the Iraq war led by Sir
John Chilcot. He then defended his decision to participate
in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Later in the year,
Blair published his autobiography and pledged to donate all
proceeds to the Royal British Legion, a charity that, among
other things, rehabilitates wounded soldiers returning from
From 2004, the British police had increasingly used
anti-terrorism legislation to stop and body-visit people
despite not being suspected of any crime (in 2004 the law
was used 33,000 times, in 2008 the same figure was over
117,000). That opportunity disappeared in January after the
European Court of Justice ruled that the law violates the
European Convention on Human Rights.
In February, the right-wing populist British Nationalist
Party (GDP) voted to allow non-whites as members of the
for U.K. acronyms.
In the same month, gun giant BAE Systems paid over £ 400
million to US and UK authorities to avoid bribery charges in
connection with arms sales to several different countries.
Critics of the settlement felt that the company should have
been prosecuted for these crimes.
The issue of the British security service MI-5 known that
Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian former resident of the UK, had
been tortured in foreign prisons continued to attract
attention. Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and
taken via Afghanistan and Morocco to the US Guantánamo camp,
from where he was released in 2009 without being charged
with anything. A court ordered in February that former
Secretary of State David Miliband should publish documents
from the US intelligence service CIA that related the case.
The documents confirmed Mohammed's information. New Prime
Minister David Cameron announced in July that former Judge
Peter Gibson would investigate the torture charges. In
mid-November, it was announced that the state would pay
damages to Binyam Mohammed and 15 other men who had been
jailed in Guantánamo.
The so-called cost-reimbursement scandal, which was
unveiled in 2009, led to legal backlash for at least six
politicians during the year. But for the majority of MEPs,
who incorrectly requested compensation for their spending in
2004–09, it was enough to repay the money. 392 members had
been asked to repay over a billion pounds in total.
In April, Prime Minister Brown announced parliamentary
elections until May 6. He, David Cameron (Conservative
Party) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) met shortly
thereafter in three televised party leadership debates, the
first ever before a British election. The debates, primarily
the first to deal with domestic politics, gave the Liberal
Democrats a boost in opinion, largely because of his more
Labor claimed that the party had the best conditions to
lift the country out of the economic crisis. In its election
manifesto, the Conservative Party presented ideas on giving
business and voluntary organizations greater responsibility
for certain community service. The party promised measures
that would quickly take Britain out of the economic crisis,
but both Labor and the Liberal Democrats wanted to take more
caution so as not to jeopardize an economic recovery. The
Liberal Democrats placed great importance on the need to
introduce a new proportional electoral system in the United
The election was a success for the Conservatives, but 36
percent of the vote and 308 of the 650 seats were not enough
for the party to get its own majority in the lower house.
The party won almost all its new mandates in England. Labor
received 29 percent and 258 seats. The success of the
Liberal Democrats did not materialize. The party received 23
percent of the vote and 57 seats. The other parties in the
lower house became the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) with
eight seats, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) six seats,
Sinn Fein five seats, the Social Democrats and Labor (SDLP)
three seats, the Plaid Cymru three seats and the Alliance
Party one seats as many as the Green the party that entered
the lower house for the first time. The turnout was 65.1
Local elections were held in 32 municipal parishes in
London, where Labor did well. At the same time, the election
was a setback for GDP, which lost 27 local mandates.
In the parliamentary elections, the Liberal Democrats
were given a guardian role. Both the Conservatives and Labor
invited invitations for government cooperation. After a few
days of deliberations, however, the Conservative Party and
the Liberal Democrats formed a government coalition, the
first in the country since the Second World War. Prime
Minister David Cameron's cabinet had 19 Conservative members
and five Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg was named Deputy
Prime Minister. The heavy items went otherwise to
conservative politicians: George Osborne became Finance
Minister, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith were given
responsibility for foreign policy and the labor market and
pensions, while political veteran Kenneth Clarke was
appointed Minister of Justice.
The government parties agreed that the cooperation would
be valid for the entire term of five years. Both parties
were forced to compromise, but the biggest concessions the
Liberal Democrats had to make. They still got the
Conservatives to agree to hold a referendum on a new
electoral system, which, however, did not go as far as the
party wanted. When it came to EU policy, they agreed to let
voters decide if more power should be transferred from
nations to the EU. As a mark, Cameron made his first trips
abroad to France and Germany.
Brown resigned as Labor leader in May. Until further
notice, Harriet Harman was taken over.
In early June, a taxi driver, Derrick Bird, shot twelve
people in Cumbria, north-west England, to take his own life.
The Prime Minister said in June that the British troops
would be taken home from Afghanistan by 2015. At the end of
the same month, Finance Minister Osborne presented a first
budget aimed at overcoming the economic crisis. He set the
goal that the central government finances would be in
balance in 2015. Most ministries would have their
appropriations reduced, at the same time as VAT would be
increased and salary cuts introduced for many public sector
employees. Care and assistance were some of the few areas
that would not be forced into major savings. The government
promised measures to protect weak groups, among other
things, low-paid people would not have to pay income tax.
In July, Cameron traveled on his first official visit to
the United States to meet President Barack Obama and confirm
"the special relationship" between the countries. A major
leak from one of BP's oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico and
the release of Liberty Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi sentenced
by a Scottish prison in 2009 were among the burning problems
being discussed. The decision to release al-Megrahi was
formally made by the Scottish Government, but the Labor
government was accused in the media of exerting pressure on
the Edinburgh ministry to save a large oil contract for BP.
In September, Pope Benedict XVI visited Britain; it was
the first time a pope had made a state visit to Britain
At Labor's conference in Manchester in September, a new
party leader was elected. In order to stand, it was required
that a candidate had the support of at least 33 MPs. Most of
the candidates were former ministers, with brothers David
Miliband and Ed Miliband as favorites. Other candidates were
Ed Balls and Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott from the party's
left flank. The election, described in the media as a
fraternity fight, was unexpectedly won by Ed Miliband,
former Minister of Energy and Climate, who had a more
left-wing profile than Brother David, whom he defeated by a
marginal margin thanks to support from the trade union
On October 20, Finance Minister Osborne presented a more
comprehensive budget than in June. It contained savings of £
81 billion by 2014. On average, the ministry's
appropriations would be cut by almost a fifth. The most
money would be saved by the Ministry of Foreign, Domestic,
Justice and the Environment. Cuts would also be made within
the welfare system, among other things, many middle and high
income earners would lose their child allowances and greater
demands would be placed on social welfare recipients.
The Ministry of Defense came away relatively mildly and
would save 8%. The US should have wanted to move harder, and
it is possible that the concern over the cuts expressed by
the US was affecting the government. It also decided to wait
to build new submarines for the nuclear weapons in the
so-called Trident system, something the Liberal Democrats
advocated. Britain still had the fourth largest defense
budget in the world.
In November, the British signed a defense agreement with
France that would last for 50 years. The countries would
cooperate on military equipment and development of nuclear
weapons technology and form a joint special force of 10,000
men. In addition to saving money, the agreement also
reflected the countries' goal of retaining influence in the
A sharp increase in university fees during the fall posed
problems for the Liberal Democrats, who had promised to
eliminate them in the electoral movement. In both November
and December, student protests in London led to violence. On
December 9, the House of Commons voted in favor of the
proposal by 21 votes in excess. A dozen Liberal Democrats
voted no, others abstained. A small group of Conservative
members also opposed the proposal.
In November, it was announced that Prince William would
marry Kate Middleton in April 2011.
A few days before Christmas, nine men were arrested on
suspicion of planning a series of terror attacks in London.
According to newspaper reports, the men, who had their roots
in Bangladesh, had, among other things, planned to strike
against the London Stock Exchange and the US embassy.
Extensive snow storms caused major traffic problems in
December. The week before Christmas, London's international
airports were forced to suspend all traffic for a few days.