Nation/World

Party Defection Puts Prime Minister At Risk Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Majority May Soon Be Reduced To Only One Vote

The defection of another Conservative Party lawmaker puts embattled Prime Minister John Major in an even more precarious position - he may soon have to govern with a parliamentary majority of just one vote.

Lawmaker Emma Nicholson quit Britain’s governing party on Friday, saying it had become too conservative and was neglecting social causes. The party’s former vice-chairwoman switched to the centrist Liberal Democrats and urged other disgruntled Conservatives to follow her.

“It just ain’t the Conservative Party it used to be,” declared Nicholson, saying she had agonized over the decision for years.

Nicholson’s departure means the Conservatives, who have held power since Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979, are now down to a majority of three votes in the 651-member House of Commons.

Two vacant seats are to be filled by special elections, and the Conservatives have lost every one of those elections since Major was re-elected in 1992.

Losing those seats would shave Major’s majority to one vote, and even that margin might not last long.

One Conservative lawmaker may be forced to declare bankruptcy and give up his seat after losing a libel suit over newspaper allegations that he is homosexual. The law of averages suggests two or more lawmakers could die before the next general election must be held in 1997.

Nicholson’s defection, following another Tory’s flight to the Labor Party in the autumn, brought predictable demands from the opposition for an early election.

“It cannot be in the interests of the country that they stumble and stagger on for another 16 months,” Labor Party leader Tony Blair said.

But in a BBC Radio interview, Major said: “I would not expect a general election before 1997.”

Major’s comments were recorded before Nicholson quit, but his office said Saturday they remain valid.

Polls show a majority of Britons now favor the increasingly centrist Labor Party.



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