Ahead of the publication of the Coalition Government’s mid-term review, Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government said today:
“The mid-term review is to be welcomed. The programme for government was initially the central reference point driving activity across government. Over time, however, its importance has waned, partly because of changes and cutbacks resulting from the autumn 2010 spending review and also because of the continuing pressures produced by the sluggish economy. Moreover, the original agreement contained many ambiguities which have produced friction within, and between, the coalition partners.
“The mid-term review should be clearer than the original programme about priorities and include an action plan and timeline for implementing remaining and new pledges. Implementation of important reforms already enacted by Parliament will take up a significant proportion of the Coalition’s energies over the next two and a quarter years but the Government recognises the need for action on other areas such as banking reform, adult social care, child care, pensions, as well as stimulating economic growth.
“As significant as what is in the mid-term review is what is omitted. Research by the Institute for Government into the experience of coalition governments elsewhere highlights the difficult balancing act that coalitions must perform in their latter stages as parties seek to differentiate themselves in the long run-up to the next general election.
“Parties naturally want to set out their distinctive approaches but at the same time they must still work together in government. Reconciling coexistence and competition will be very tricky given differences over Europe, energy policy, and the next round of spending cuts covering the period after the next election.
“These tensions provide a test not just for ministers but also for the Civil Service in handling the divergences between the coalition partners. New conventions and understandings will have to be devised to handle this new political and constitutional situation.”
Our report on mid-term renewals and our recommendations for making them work: ‘A game of two halves: How coalition governments renew in mid-term and last the full term’