A game of two halves? How coalitions renew in midterm and last till the end of term

Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 12:30

The Institute for Government launched a report exploring the challenges faced by the coalition government as it approached the half-way point of the parliament. At the event, a panel of speakers from all parties and the civil service discussed these issues and the findings of the Institute’s report.

Our report – A Game of Two Halves? – was the latest output of the Institute’s ongoing work programme on making coalition government work. It was based on more than 60 interviews across Whitehall, Westminster and six other European countries where coalitions are common. The report found that coalition governments face a number of distinct difficulties in renewing themselves in mid-term, as a result of increasing pressures to emphasise differences between the parties at the expense of government unity. Nonetheless, coalitions must take active steps to get through the mid-term blues and maintain their momentum till the next election. Otherwise they risk a loss of momentum, drift and possible collapse.

For the civil service, the challenge of the second half of the coalition will be to continue to support ministers of two parties whose focus will increasingly be shifting to the competition between them at the next election. At the same time, all parties and Whitehall will have to prepare for the possibility of another hung parliament and coalition negotiations in 2015.

The Panel:

  • Margot James, MP for Stourbridge and Parliamentary Aide to the Minister for Trade and Investment
  • David Laws, MP for Yeovil and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury
  • Lord (Jack) McConnell, former First Minister of Scotland
  • Sir Alex Allan, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee
  • Peter Riddell (chair), Director of the Institute for Government