Skip to site navigation

Press Release: Coalition Works!  The inside story from the Constitution Unit

3 June 2011

Inside Story: How Coalition Government Works

Despite the political strains which have affected the coalition in recent months, the Constitution Unit’s research on how the coalition works shows that it has functioned very well in its first year. Viewed from inside, the ructions which have dominated the headlines have not destroyed the coalition’s effectiveness.

The Unit’s first year report, Inside Story: How coalition government works, is based upon 90 interviews with senior people in Whitehall and Westminster. The mutual trust and close working relations developed inside the government should help as it faces tougher times ahead.

“People feared that coalition government would be weak, quarrelsome and divided” said the Unit’s director Prof Robert Hazell. “But in the first year the coalition has been remarkably stable and united. Everyone we interviewed in Whitehall says how much more harmonious the coalition is compared with the rivalries and infighting of the Blair/Brown years”.

“Maintaining that unity in government while demonstrating the distinctiveness of the two parties is the key challenge going forward” Prof Hazell added. “This is particularly difficult for the Lib Dems as the junior partner. Instead of spreading themselves thinly across the whole of government, they need to prioritise their effort on areas where they can clearly have an impact”.

“An interesting development is the Lib Dems’ backbench committees” said the project’s lead researcher Dr Ben Yong. “It is a sign of how stretched the Lib Dems are for resources that these have been created. But it is also a way of preserving their distinct identity, and gives backbenchers regular contact with the frontbench. Conservatives we interviewed have been rather envious, and they have now started their own backbench policy committees”.

The report’s findings and recommendations include:

  • The Lib Dems did well in the coalition negotiations, with 75% of their manifesto items going into the coalition agreement compared with 60% of the Conservative manifesto. But in any future coalition, they should focus as much on the division of office as the division of policy. It is through ministerial leadership that coalition partners have visible impact.
  • By going for breadth over depth in their selection of ministerial posts, the Lib Dems risk spreading themselves too thinly. They may have achieved hundreds of small policy wins, but their influence is invisible to the public
  • Cabinet committees deal mainly with interdepartmental issues. Coalition issues are resolved in half a dozen informal forums, and are dealt with before they reach the formal machinery of government.

Notes for Editors

  • This is an initial report from a 12 month study of how the coalition works, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The project runs until December.
  • Access to Whitehall interviewees has been authorised by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Sir Gus O’Donnell. So far the project team have interviewed 90 officials, ministers, special advisers, parliamentarians and outside groups.
  • Robert Hazell is available for interview this weekend, tel 020 7679 4977.
  • Browse the coalition government project pages

Media

Join the Debate

Blog

News

Reinterpreting Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan

Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:00:51 +0000

Kensuke Ueda outlines the context for the recent reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which until now outlawed war as a means of settling disputes. He suggests the manner in which the changes were pushed through is worrying for Japanese constitutionalism. On 1 July this year the Japanese Government passed the cabinet decision […]

Read more...

Scotland’s constitutional future – from both sides in the debate

Mon, 25 Aug 2014 10:00:03 +0000

Charlie Jeffery discusses how both sides in the debate see Scotland’s constitutional future in different ways. It is striking how insular Scotland’s constitutional debate is. Both sides in the debate see Scotland’s constitutional future in different ways as bound up firmly in relationships with the rest of the UK. The Yes side envisages a form […]

Read more...

The ‘Revolving Door’ of Special Advisers?

Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:24:25 +0000

A recent article in the Telegraph was critical of a ‘revolving door’ of special advisers (spads) from the last Labour government into charities or think tanks. As outlined in the forthcoming book on spads by Ben Yong and Robert Hazell, this blog post wishes to point out that the Telegraph article tells only an incomplete story;[1] […]

Read more...
Mailing List

Connect with us

RSSFlickr

Footer menu