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Making Minority Government Work

This report, published in December 2009, analysed the international experience of minority government to draw lessons for Westminster government in order to ensure both a smooth transition and an effective new government is as effective as possible.

The report summarises the recent experience in Canada, New Zealand and Scotland, and the historical experience at Westminster and draws out lessons for all the main actors who are involved in minority government, including:  Parliament, political parties, the Crown, and the media..

  • Lessons for the Prime Minister and government: A minority government cannot govern in a majoritarian way and must accept the likelihood of frequent parliamentary defeats. To avoid being blown off course, it must set out a clear strategy and set of long term goals.
  • Lessons for the civil service: There are many different possible combinations of minority and/or coalition government, including looser forms of partnership that may require relaxation of collective Cabinet responsibility. Serving a minority administration also requires a different set of skills, including closer monitoring of parliamentary developments and facilitation of inter-party negotiations.
  • Lessons for Parliament: Parliament can become stronger under minority government, but cannot make policy or force the government to do anything against its will. Parliamentary reform to reduce the government’s dominance of parliamentary business will not happen without a clear agenda and champion who can make it happen.
  • Lessons for opposition parties: Prepare before the election for negotiations immediately afterwards. It is difficult to co-ordinate ‘the opposition’ against the government, or to bring the government down, but opposition parties can influence government policy through bilateral deals.
  • Lessons for the Crown: There need to be clearer rules which explain that it is not the monarch’s role to form a government, or to facilitate negotiations. The decision to form a government must be arrived at by politicians.

Page last modified on 23 feb 11 17:51