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

The Counter Terrorism and Security Bill: a potential further erosion of citizenship rights in the United Kingdom

Mon, 26 Jan 2015 10:00:18 +0000

Hayley J. Hooper assesses the notion of ‘temporary exclusion orders’ proposed in new anti-terrorism legislation. She highlights the orders can be made without judicial oversight and argues that passing the Bill risks giving parliamentary legitimacy to a policy adverse to human rights. The Counter Terrorism and Security Bill was introduced into the House of Commons […]

Read more...

If the debates do not go ahead, it will be the fault of self-interest on the part of the main parties and the broadcasters

Fri, 16 Jan 2015 10:00:00 +0000

Whether there will be debates this year in advance of the 2015 General Election is open to question, with partisan and corporate self-interest threatening to overwhelm the process by which inclusion in the debate is governed. Nicholas Allen argues that this brinksmanship threatens the debates taking place not only in a satisfactory manner, but going ahead […]

Read more...

Almost unnoticed, a new Agreement has been negotiated to try to end political deadlock in Northern Ireland

Tue, 13 Jan 2015 10:02:39 +0000

Brian Walker offers a comprehensive overview of the Stormont House Agreement, passed just before Christmas. Although it attracted little comment from the outside world, the Agreement sought to take action on longstanding issues underpinning the recent deadlock. The background At first sight, apart from coinciding with great festivals of the Christian calendar, the contrast between the […]

Read more...
Mailing List

Connect with us

RSSFlickr

Footer menu