Skip to site navigation

Are Westminster and Whitehall Coping with the Coalition?

17 June 2011

Michael White discusses the Unit's coalition government project in the Guardian's Politics Blog

Nick Clegg is doing better - but will it be enough?

Would the 2010 coalition have been conducted on more businesslike and less cordial terms if the spikier, less accommodating Huhne had been in the No 10 Rose Garden that fateful afternoon? Would the Lib Dems have been tougher? Would it have got off the ground in the first place?

I'm not sure [...]

Let's switch to the sober analysis of "how the coalition works" provided to the Hansard Society last night by Professor Robert Hazell and his young sidekick, Ben Yong, government-watchers at UCL's Constitution Unit.

It was complicated, and some people (including most prime ministers) get easily bored with the machinery of government questions, so I'll stick to the "junior coalition partners" side of the briefing.

Basically, it's all been easier than Oliver Letwin feared when he predicted that the dispute-resolving coalition committee would be in "almost permanent session". Why? Because most policy disputes are resolved via informal mechanisms, explained Hazell (who used to be a senior civil servant himself), either by David Cameron and Clegg or by the "quad" (those two plus Osborne and Danny Alexander) or their senior officials.

Secondly, most disputes are not between the two parties, but within them: think Huhne and Vince Cable over energy policy or Teresa May and Ken Clarke over whatever it is this week. Civil servants like the way the coalition works, by the way – there's more respect for formal cabinet committee work and less friction than under TB and GB, they say.

I suspect that means civil servants wield more power in a highly inexperienced government. Some aspects of coalition power brokerage do not work well: the DPM's under-resourced office, special advisors and the 10 junior Lib Dem ministers in departments in which there is no Lib Dem cabinet minister (there are five) and they are supposed to keep an eye on every policy.

Yong's function last night was to contrast the easy flexibility at government level with the rigidity such deal-making causes in parliament. Think about it. Once you agree something between ministers, it becomes harder to unpick under pressure from irate backbenchers, leftie LDs or rightie Tories. [...]

Read the full article

Join the Debate

Blog

The truth about House of Lords appointments

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 12:30:54 +0000

Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron, seemingly undeterred by the already negative media coverage about the Lord Sewel affair, gave strong indications that he intends to make yet more appointments to the Lords. In doing so, he appeared to invoke a convention that does not exist: that of bringing Lords membership into line with Commons seats. […]

Read more...

The Government’s Freedom of Information commission tilts the political discussion towards damage and cost

Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:00:26 +0000

On Friday of last week, the Government announced a new commission on Freedom of Information. Here, Ben Worthy offers his response to the announcement, arguing that the objections to the scope and usage of FOI that have been raised are nothing new, and furthermore aren’t unique to the UK. Further, he argues that the commission’s remit tilts […]

Read more...

Changing the Commons: How many MPs? How equal their electorates? Part 2

Fri, 17 Jul 2015 09:00:39 +0000

Yesterday, in part one of this blog, Ron Johnston, David Rossiter and Charles Pattie outlined the challenges that are likely to make the 2016 boundary review as (if not more) disruptive than the aborted 2012 review. Here the authors consider how issues around the accuracy and completeness of the electoral rolls will impact the review […]

Read more...
Mailing List

Connect with us

RSSFlickr

Footer menu