The formation of the Coalition in 2010 required politicians, civil servants and others to adapt to the new challenges of multi-party government. What lessons did we draw from the first year of coalition rule?
Coalition government one year on
In May 2011, on the anniversary of the coalition formation, the Institute published One Year On: The first year of coalition government. This report contains a collection of essays assessing the performance of the Coalition in its first year, the lessons learned about governing in coalition and the major challenges on the horizon.
The report found that during the first year, the Coalition operated effectively as an executive, in terms of its ability to take and implement tough decisions and avoid destabilising disputes.
But the separate identities of the two parties were protected insufficiently, with the result that the Liberal Democrats in particular struggled to demonstrate their influence over policy.
Making coalition government work
In September 2010, after the first few months of the Coalition, we published United We Stand? Coalition Government in the UK, which made a number of recommendations on how the machinery of government could be more effective. In particular, we argued that Whitehall needed to adapt further to ensure that the Deputy Prime Minister was enabled to act as a joint leader of the Coalition as a whole, and that Liberal Democrats in other government departments could speak for their party across the whole of the departmental remit.
In May 2012 we published a roundup of our research on coalition government in the UK to mark two years of the coalition.
In January 2011 the Lords Library circulated a background briefing note to all peers on the lessons and challenges of the past eight months of coalition government (PDF, 464KB) in preparation for a debate on the 'constitutional and parliamentary effect of coalition government'. This paper drew heavily on our report.
Just before Christmas 2010, it was confirmed that work had commenced on a review of the Coalition's Programme for Government which would lead to new policy objectives being set out for the second half of this Parliament. This was Recommendation 1 in United We Stand.
In Dec 2010, another of our recommendations was implemented, when the government launched a new dedicated website for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, bringing together information on all of the DPM's activities (including in his capacity as lead minister for political and constitutional reform).