"A bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?" asked the milkman Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. Apparently, in Britain's House of Commons. After falling just short of an absolute majority of 326 parliamentary seats in the recent general election, David Cameron's Conservative party (305 seats) has hammered out a deal to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats (57 seats). Cameron, the Tory leader, has "kissed hands," as they say in Britain, and accepted the queen's offer to form a new government. Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, will be deputy prime minister in the first peacetime coalition since the Depression-spawned National Governments of the 1930s.
To say this is an odd couple is to put it mildly. Cameron is wary of ceding more sovereignty to the European Union's bureaucracy; Clegg is an enthusiastic Europhile who would have Britain replace the pound with the euro. Cameron wants to limit immigration into an overcrowded Britain that is rapidly losing its national identity; Clegg favors unlimited immigration and legalization of those who arrived illegally. Cameron wants the government to push the development of nuclear power; Clegg opposes it. Cameron wants to strengthen Britain's military capability and is a supporter of NATO; Clegg would like to replace Britain's attachment to NATO with greater reliance on a European Defense Force and would abandon Britain's nuclear deterrent. Cameron wants to crack down on judges who hand out lenient sentences to muggers and other hoodlums; Clegg thinks jails should be places of redemption, not punishment.