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Why the Hung Parliament in UK Could Make a Greener Britain

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As I write this, the UK looks certain to proceed with a hung parliament; no clear result has emerged from the election.

As parties scratch around to make uneasy coalitions and alliances, I believe that green jobs and technology could provide a unifying theme that will draw together uneasy political allies - and benefit the UK in the long run. It would be a good news story in a sea of gloom; and could lead to talk of an economic revival.

The peculiarities of the UK system mean that the incumbent Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, gets the first stab at forming a government. Watching the BBC coverage throughout the early hours of the morning, it appears that Labour grandees were queuing up to make generous spirited gestures towards the Liberal Democrats - the only hope of clinging on to the reins of power. However, the Conservatives being the largest party are understandably making angry noises that the mantle should be theirs. A constitutional crisis looms in the offing.

Nick Clegg has called for the Conservative party to "prove that it can govern in the national interest." Whilst some such as Sir Digby Jones have remarked that Clegg's advances towards the Conservatives are an "act of statesmanship," it remains to be seen how this one will play out. If the Conservatives are to get into power, it will have to be as either a minority government - with a high risk of being "voted down" on what is predicted by many to be a "hard" Queen's speech to write which will involve wide-ranging cuts. Or... as part of a coalition with another party, for example, the Liberal Democrats.

There is little common ground between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats; it would be a coalition of cats and dogs. Their policies differ widely, Liberal Democrat schemes being trumpeted as socially progressive, whilst Conservative policies focus on cutting money from the state. To woo Nick Clegg's support, the Conservatives will have to align themselves not only with National interests, but also Liberal interests.

This election is also notable in that Britain has elected its first Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas in the seat of Brighton Pavillion. Against the odds given the UK's electoral system, this victory could be seen as a change in attitudes in UK society and a harbinger of change.

The Liberal Democrats are keen to see a system of "proportional representation" introduced to the UK, a system that some would say is fairer and more democratic. Labour MP's have undergone a deathbed conversion to the credo of PR, seeing it as a shiny thing with which to woo the Lib Dems; however, association with Labour, a flagging party on its last legs after several terms of office could be seen as a sip from the poison chalice by the Lib Dems.

Nick Clegg's mantra throughout the election debates was that he would support the party that got the largest share of the vote. This morning, he has made a statement to the effect that he is waiting to hear from the Conservatives about their plans - however, they will not make easy bed-fellows.

The Conservative Party has recently converted to the green cause; a party not traditionally aligned with the green movement; and David Cameron has led the Conservative party into a green transformation as part of wider moves to detoxify the Conservative brand and help voters to forget the spectre of Maggie Thatcher.

This is a topic which has not particularly endeared him to the Conservative grass-roots, as it is not a traditional Conservative cause. In the latter days of his campaign, this theme was eschewed in favour of newer initiatives such as the "Big Society" and criticising Labour's jobs tax; however, these themes are more controversial with the other parties, whereas an advancement of the UK's green infrastructure could win more widespread support from across the smaller parties.

There is further complication in that even if the Conservatives do form a government, they are not well represented in Scotland and Wales. Wales has been dominated by Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems, whilst the Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats and Labour have cleaned up north of the border, allowing room for only one Conservative seat. Thus, a Conservative government would be seen very much as an "English" government, with little representation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; thus, unless he can get buy in from these parties he risks a fractious relationship between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

'Green' jobs and technology could provide a fringe issue under which the Lib Dems, Conservatives, and regional parties - Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru could unify their voices.

The man for the job may be Zac Goldsmith, the millionaire MP who has seized Richmond Park. He has fought on a green platform and whilst seen by many as representing old Conservative values and money, he could provide unifying themes which could unite the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish parties (all of which stand to benefit through the creation of green jobs given their sizeable renewable energy resources from wind and tidal power) and would also bring the Liberal Democrats on board.

An enthusiastic statement regarding the development of green jobs and technologies could also give the markets something to get enthusiastic about, and provide a positive message on which many can agree, rather than the negative stalemate that so many believe accompanies a hung parliament.

One thing that seems clear is that whatever form the next government takes, it will be a short-lived one. The scandals surrounding the disenfranchisement of a number of voters who were unable to vote after queuing at the polling station stinks of the "hanging chads" scandal that embroiled the U.S.

However, if in this hung parliament, consensus could be reached about the development of green technology and jobs in the UK, a small precedent could be set which could grow faster than the politicians wildest expectations.

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