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

News

Austerity, inequality and the Scottish approach to economic growth

Thu, 26 Feb 2015 10:30:20 +0000

On 11 February 2015, Nicola Sturgeon spoke at an event co-hosted by the Constitution Unit and the UCL Department of Political Science. Sam Sharp reports on the event. Recent predictions suggest the Scottish National Party (SNP) could win as many as 54 seats in May. A poll surge of this kind is not what most […]

Read more...

Governing in an ever looser union

Tue, 24 Feb 2015 10:00:32 +0000

Governing is becoming increasingly difficult as devolution accelerates but a new Institute for Government report has identified ways to make it easier. Here, Akash Paun summarises the report’s key findings. Even when severe political disagreements come between the UK’s four governments – as during the Scottish independence referendum campaign – civil servants can and do communicate and […]

Read more...

Reflections on the Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission report

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 10:00:37 +0000

Cristina Leston-Bandeira looks back at a year spent considering the options for the use of digital in UK government. She highlights key lessons that emerged from the process and introduces the report published on 26 January 2015. Last month’s launch of the report of the Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission (DDC) marks the end of an extraordinarily […]

Read more...
Mailing List

Connect with us

RSSFlickr

Footer menu