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6 Political Partnerships

Relationships need trust and compromise in order to be successful. Not unlike the world of politics. So to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’re taking a look at some of the biggest political partnerships in recent times…

Cameron & Clegg

When the 2010 general election resulted in a hung Parliamentthe Tories chose to jump into bed with the Lib Dems. The coalition government was a marriage of convenience; but you’d have been forgiven for thinking otherwise when David Cameron and Nick Clegg appeared together in the rose garden of 10 Downing Street after ironing out their political pre-nup, the coalition agreement. The pair gazed adoringly at each other as they spoke of a “new politics” during the sun-drenched press conference. But fast-forward five years and there’s no doubt the honeymoon is over. Clegg recently admitted there have been plenty of occasions when he’s wanted to slap David Cameron over the last five years while the Prime Minister has accused the Lib Dems of being all over the place on their plans to manage the economy. Is this relationship destined to end in divorce or will the fiery pair get through their bad patch and renew their vows in May? We don’t have to wait long to find out…


Blair & Brown

Tony Blair’s relationship with Gordon Brown was similarly tumultuous. When Labour leader John Smith died in 1994, Brown was Shadow Chancellor and Blair Shadow Home Secretary. The pair had been close political allies until this point, but they took their relationship to the next level when they famously made a deal that Brown would step aside to allow Blair to become leader of the party in return for his support for Brown to take over the leadership when Blair stands down. Blair became Labour leader in 94 and Prime Minister in 1997 until, sticking to his side of the bargain, he endorsed Brown who succeeded him in both roles in 2007. As Prime Minister and Chancellor for 10 years, Blair and Brown were a formidable partnership. They presided over Britain’s longest continuous period of growth since records began. But there were disagreements too. As well as tension over the party’s leadership, Brown dragged his feet when Blair wanted the UK to join the euro, for example.


Bush & Blair

Gordon Brown wasn’t the only politician Tony Blair had close ties with during his time as Prime Minister. Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the USA flourished amid Blair’s support of president George W Bush. Britain was the United States’ closest ally in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But while this cemented the close bond between the two countries, it damaged Blair’s popularity back in the UK where there was strong opposition to the war. Blair’s relationship with Bush was even spoofed in the music video for George Michael’s 2002 single Shoot the Dog, where Blair is depicted as the former president’s poodle.


Cooper & Balls

Married couple Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls both hold lofty positions in the Shadow Cabinet. Shadow Chancellor Balls ran for the Labour Party leadership in 2010, finishing a strong third behind the Miliband brothers. But it’s his wife who’s now more likely to step into that role if Ed Miliband stands down. She’s been strong and steady as Shadow Home Secretary and is the bookies’ favourite to be the next Labour leader.


Thatcher & Reagan

In the 1980s, Britain’s Prime Minister and then US president Ronald Reagan were often described as ‘ideological soulmates’. The pair were strong proponents of capitalism and right wing economic values and, together, reinvigorated what Thatcher described as the ‘extraordinary alliance’ between the two countries. In 1985 Reagan said: “The United States and the United Kingdom are bound together by inseparable ties of ancient history and present friendship … There’s been something very special about the friendships between the leaders of our two countries. And may I say to my friend the Prime Minister, I’d like to add two more names to this list of affection – Thatcher and Reagan.”  


Swinson & Hames

Liberal Democrat MPs Jo Swinson and Duncan Hames married in May 2011 and had their first child together in December 2013. Both are junior members of the coalition Government. Swinson is an employment an equalities minister and Hames is parliamentary private secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg; a role he succeeded his wife in.

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Who is the Leader of the Opposition?

The Leader of the Opposition is usually the leader of the political party with the second highest number of MPs in the House of Commons.

The Opposition is the group of politicians in Parliament who are the alternative to the Government.

One of the responsibilities of the Leader of the Opposition is to hold the Government to account. One of the opportunities to do this is at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), which happens in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister’s Questions takes place every Wednesday at midday and is broadcast live on television. During this time, the Leader of the Opposition is allowed to ask the Prime Minister six questions.

The Leader of the Opposition is supported by a Shadow Cabinet, which is made up of shadow ministers. These are the politicians who would take up roles like Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary if their party was to win a general election and get into government.

The current Leader of the Opposition is Ed Miliband, who is the leader of the Labour Party.

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What is the Opposition?

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What does ‘shadow’ mean in politics?

You may hear the word ‘shadow’ used in relation to prominent members of the Opposition.

The Opposition is usually formed by the political party with the second highest number of MPs in the House of Commons. It is not part of the Government. It is the Opposition’s job to present an alternative to the Government and hold it to account.

Each member of the Government has an opposite number whose job it is to scrutinise them. The word shadow is used to refer to these politicians. If the party in Opposition wins a general election, shadow ministers replace the members of the Government.

So, for example, the Shadow Home Secretary is the member of the Opposition who would deal with home affairs if their party was in Government.

It is the Shadow Home Secretary’s job to make sure the Home Secretary is performing to the best of their ability. This is often done by asking the Home Secretary difficult questions in Parliament.

The Shadow Home Secretary will present voters with an alternative way of doing the job. He or she will criticise the Home Secretary if they disapprove of the work they’re doing.

You may also hear references to the Shadow Cabinet.

Related content:

What is the Opposition?

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