Some Tips On Coalition

by Ray_North on August 27, 2013

UnknownOne of the stories of the summer has been the apparent planning that has been carried out by all parties to cater for the possibility of another hung Parliament after the next general election.

We are now told, that in the run up to the next general election, no one will say a bad word about anyone else just in case come the day after polling day, they are trying desperately to forge an alliance with them.

Well, we on these pages say – treat such relationships with utmost care, don’t whatever you commit in the first wave of passion.

Here are some pointers and tips, do’s and don’ts about coalition:

1. Don’t go into coalition with the party who are ideologically driven.
One of the main problems that this coalition have faced is that the Tories, though desperate to come across as moderate and pragmatic, are utterly driven by the ideology of Thatcher – it is impossible to coalesce with a party that is hell bent on driving through an ideological agenda and maintain any semblance of your own identity or support, just ask the Lib-Dems.

2. Don’t go into a coalition with a party whose leader is unpopular.
This would have been the Lib-Dems problem in 2010, if Gordon Brown had stayed as leader of the Labour Party and invited them to form a coalition – they would have been seen as shoring up someone who the nation no longer wanted.

3. Don’t go into a coalition with a party whose leader is too strong.
Tricky call this one, but if a party leader is too strong, then, as a junior coalition partner you are likely to be shafted.

4. Don’t agree to anything that involves the other side, saying, ‘you can have it, but we won’t be supporting it or campaigning for it’ particularly if it is something that is dear to you.
Case in point being electoral and constitutional reform and the Lib-Dems; in May 2010, one of Clegg’s main selling points to his party was that he had ‘secured electoral reform’ -and, er, we all know what happened then. If you can’t get the other side to sign up for something and support it, then leave it lie until a second term.

5. Don’t do anything that is utterly at odds with what you’ve campaigned for, particularly on the economy.
The Lib-Dems may have looked silly on issues such as tuition fees and the NHS, but it is on the economy that they look really, really daft – during the election campaign, they were content with the view that austerity, as was being propose by Osborne was wrong, their volt face was farcical and has caused them huge problems ever since.

6. Don’t rush into lengthy agreement.
Making the coalition go the whole length of a parliament is not necessarily a sign of success – a two year successful coalition followed by an election, may be better than five long horrible years of turmoil.

7. Being mates isn’t necessarily an advantage.
Cameron and Clegg look as though they get on and probably do – but, although being friendly is better than being at eachother’s throats, being mates may not actually help – healthy respect may be preferable.

8. Don’t have a ‘Rose Garden Love In’.
For supporters of both parties who’ve just campaigned long and hard and voters who may have strong views about the way in which they cast their votes, seeing two leaders gazing adoringly at one another looks a bit, well, shoddy, as though the whole thing wasn’t particularly serious, just a bit of a public school game – keep everything professional.

9. Have an aim in mind.
I suppose the Clegg Cameron coalition got this right, when they said that the aim of the coalition was to sort out the economy – in fairness this immediately gave them a political answer to many difficult questions – it’s just a shame that once they had highlighted the problem they made a complete mess of their attempt to address it.

10. Don’t be afraid to pull out.
When the agreement is drawn out, have some lines in the sand over which you won’t cross – and, when the other side tries to cross them, don’t be afraid to pick up your ball and go home (sorry about the woeful use of metaphor and cliche in that last sentence) – because, one of Clegg’s problems has been the fact that Cameron knows that he can kick him pretty much where he wants.

11. Give it some thought prior to the election.
Wisely it appears that all sides are now considering the possibility of coalition – but, saying that, they should have the possibility of coalition in mind, they should not make it the main aim of their campaign, otherwise their existence becomes pointless.

12. Take your time to draft an agreement.
If an agreement is to be made, take your time to do it as properly as you can – and remember, you don’t have to reach an agreement on every little thing, not everything needs legislation or government policy, sometimes it might be best just to leave something be – especially in departments such as Health and Education.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris August 27, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Very nicely set out. However, I think that there are two more.

13 Never enter a collation in such a way as you are trapped in it.

The problem for the Liberals is that they cannot withdraw from the coalition without the likelihood of massive electoral failure. I think that we need to recognise that Clegg felt the need to enter the coalition in 2010 in part to prevent his party from being blamed for the governmental weakness that would surround a minority Conservative Government, with the possibility of being punished for it at a second election six months or a year later. However, it now looks very likely that the actual outcome for his party will be even worse, as the Liberals and not Labour will bear the cost of that decision. However, there is a convincing argument to be made that a supply and confidence agreement rather than a coalition would have been vastly better than either.

14 Do not enter into a coalition in which your aim in mind is the same as your partner’s goals, so that you are fighting for your coalition partner’s strengths.

Even without all the negative points for the Liberals in this coalition nicely set out in points 1-12, the problem is that the (very unlikely) success of the coalition will be measured as success for Conservatism. There will be nothing to promote the Liberals in Con-Lib marginal and nothing to cause a swing to the Liberals as distinct from the Conservatives in Lab-Con marginal.

Put another way, the whole aim of Osborn/Duncan Smith Toryism is to mobilise bias against Labour and to destroy anti-Toryism. In aiding this, the Liberals are mobilising bias against themselves. I feel no schadenfreude, merely despair at the repeated airtime of Danny Alexander failing to recognise his political incompetence in gloating about how well he is promoting his own electoral demise.

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