About Coalition government

From the Telegraph about the Coalition government in the UK. National is going to face these same issues come the end of 2013.

We were having breakfast because I wanted to ask him what lessons could be learnt from past experience that would help me understand the Conservative/Lib Dem administration, which had been formed just a few days before. First of all, said Mr Oaten, coalitions are always disastrous for the smaller party. It gets swallowed up, blamed for the failures and only rarely credited with the successes, and then not nearly enough.

In some cases, as with the hapless Progressive Democrats, who never recovered from their alliance with Fianna Fáil and were dissolved in the wake of the 2007 Irish general election, the smaller party vanishes from history. But always it suffers heavy losses.

So I asked Mr Oaten whether there was any way to avoid this disaster. He shook his head sorrowfully. The best that could be hoped, he replied, was to mitigate the scale of the setback. “It is impossible,” he said, in a remark that Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, might do well to ponder, “to walk out of a ministerial car and into an election campaign. There must be a clear and decisive rupture between the coalition parties well before a general election, otherwise the smaller party will always be obliterated.”

And when should such a breach occur? Once again, Mr Oaten produced a precise and thought-provoking answer. “A danger moment comes approximately two years after the general election. That is when the coalition agreement tends to run out. At this point the parties often try to create a fresh coalition agreement. But such attempts normally fail.”

Just under two years have passed since our conversation, and nothing since suggests that Mr Oaten’s analysis was wrong. There has indeed been an attempt to create a new agreement to renew the Government two years in, and it has – as predicted – failed. Lib Dem support has slumped, just as Mr Oaten said it would: the party will be lucky to win more than a dozen seats next time.

Meanwhile, the original dynamism and sense of purpose has gone. It is important to remember that the Lib Dems and the Tories remain united on certain issues, above all the need to tackle the deficit. But on numerous others – Europe, tax, health, trade policy, family policy, constitutional reform – the two parties are polarised.


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  • Apolonia

    National will be “nigel no friends” in 2014. No Peter Dunne, No Act party and probably No Maori party. 

    •  Has Dunne said he’s retiring?

  • @BoJangles

    At the 2yr point, National should split in two, the wets and the drys,  into {aligned} but separate parties with their own leaders etc thereby offering the chance to capture ALL of the right leaning vote in NZ – approx 60%  and win comfortably in 2014

    •  I thought that was what ACT was…

    • thor42

      @@BoJangles:disqus oJangles – that’s a great idea! 
      It’d definitely be making the most of the MMP system.

  • Auto_immune

    I wouldn’t be surprised if National is discreetly hoping the MMP review advocates for a lower threshold, potentially giving parties like the Conservatives an actual chance of getting into Parliament.  A lower threshold is probably better for National in the long run.