In the run up to an election, the Opposition are usually granted the opportunity to meet with senior civil servants to discuss what plans they would have for government, if elected. These are known as pre-election contacts. They are an opportunity for the civil service to be forewarned about major policies changes. The UK’s usual practice of an overnight handover of power in the event of a change of government makes such preparations sensible. But how useful are these discussions, how are they handled and could they be improved?

This report has looked back at the 2010 pre-election contacts to attempt to answer some of these questions. In particular:

  • What are the rules for them?
  • How do they start?
  • Who is involved?
  • What is covered in the discussions?
  • How might they be different this time round?

This project builds upon two strands of Institute for Government research. First is the IfG’s work on government transitions, which produced two reports: Transitions: Preparing for changes of government (2009) and the post-election follow-up Transitions: Lessons Learned (2011). A related project in 2012 analysed how policy is developed in opposition and taken into government.