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Cameron and Clegg: a show of unity in Britain

Conservative David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg make unlikely coalition partners. But the world is in need of politicians who can bridge the political divide.

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They look so fresh-faced, so promising, these two young leaders of Britain setting out in a historic coalition of left and right.

David Cameron, the new Conservative prime minister, and Nick Clegg, his Liberal Democratic deputy, offer their country an ideological bridge at a time of great economic challenge. Their unusual partnership may not match the gravitas of Churchill’s time or coalition government, but intuitively one wants this team to succeed.

The feeling recalls the historic inauguration day in Washington last year when Barack Obama became the first African- American president, carried into office on a promise of reconciliation, change, and hope. But the sharp facts of political reality popped his airborne balloon of bipartisanship. On many issues – but not all, such as education and financial reform – the Obama team is moving ahead alone. Rancor has again set in.

Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg have the opportunity to demonstrate that politicians of different stripes can unite in a spirit of problem-solving. National crises can foster that. The last time Britons came together in a left-right coalition was World War II, when they faced an existential threat from Hitler’s Germany. In the more immediate past, Americans, too, experienced a time of political unity in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

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