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Fourth echelon

David Cameron and Conservatives win majority in British election

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LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron, having achieved a smashing and unexpected outright victory in Britain’s general election, heads into his second term facing severe — even existential — challenges to his nation’s identity and place in the world: how to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union and Scotland in the United Kingdom.

In vanquishing the opposition Labor Party and winning an absolute majority in Parliament, Cameron gained the right to govern without a coalition partner, allowing him to claim a mandate on Friday to pursue his own agenda. But his majority is so narrow that it will force him to tread carefully with his own fractious legislators to pass legislation and address issues that could fundamentally redefine 21st-century Britain.

Those start with his pledge to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on Britain’s continued membership in the European Union. He will also be under increased pressure from the other big winners of the election, the Scottish National Party, to revisit the question of independence for Scotland.

“A small majority can quickly turn into a bed of nails,” said Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator magazine. Backbenchers in Cameron’s own party, many of them further to the right than he is on questions of immigration and Britain’s membership in the European Union, “will be his real opposition,” Nelson said.



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