The Earth Moves in Britain

The coalition negotiated by David Cameron’s Conservatives with the third-place Liberal Democrats (which should give the government a comfortable majority in Parliament) is not so novel as some people think. But if it works and lasts, nothing will be quite the same again.

LONDON – Volcanoes have consequences – and I’m not just thinking about the chaos caused to air travel by Iceland’s unpronounceable last eruption (known to the Pentagon as E-15).

In 1783, a volcano in Iceland spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that the entire northern hemisphere was cooled for almost three years. This resulted in crop failures and famine, and some historians argue that it helped to precipitate the French Revolution.

Should we blame the “British Revolution” of 2010 on E-15? This undoubtedly would be going too far. But the agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government does look revolutionary to many British voters. In London, governing arrangements that other countries take for granted look like a radically new type of politics.

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