The dangers of implicit coalitions

former British PM John Major in the Terme Hote...
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In all the talk about minority administrations and hung parliaments in the UK general election it would appear people are missing or glossing over the reality that all political parties are coalitions of sorts. In a tight voting set up, those smaller elements within parties can suddenly find themselves elevated to a position of influence they never had before. Such a position can lead to the indulgence of the temptation to overreach their influence and have the result of collapsing the government.

In 1992 John Major won the UK general election and was returned with a majority of 20 odd. It ended up being one of the more fractious governments in modern times with the PM held to ransom by his ‘bastards’ in cabinet and dogged at ever turn by a rump opposed to further integration with the EU. He even ended up being stifled in his ability to make progress on northern Ireland because of his dependency on unionist votes.

Does anyone think that David Cameron and his Conservative party would be immune from those some pressures, perhaps not on the EU but on some other issues? People for whom topic X is more important that the government or the management of the economy. The upside of explicit coalitions as we’ve seen in Ireland is that it suppresses the internal fracture lines within parties by diverting all media attention to the gap between the parties themselves.

So a small majority government would be even more precarious poised for collapse than a coalition with an explicit agreed program for government. Who knows what prices behind the doors that a rump of homophobic or xenophobic MPs might exact from David Cameron as PM?

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