Presentation on theme: "Pulse Point The Coalition. Norman Baker MP has resigned as the Liberal Democrat minister at the Home Office citing problems working with the Conservative."— Presentation transcript:
Pulse Point The Coalition
Norman Baker MP has resigned as the Liberal Democrat minister at the Home Office citing problems working with the Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May. Mr Baker described working in the department as ‘like walking through mud’. Mr Baker dismissed criticism that he over-played his role in the department and saw himself as on a par with the Home Secretary, Mr Baker said, ‘They have looked upon it as a Conservative department in a Conservative government, whereas in my view it’s a coalition department in a coalition government.’
The Coalition While there have been many disputes between the coalition, most notably in the Home Office and Department of Education, there have also been examples of the coalition working well together, for example the treasury where Lib Dem Danny Alexander and Conservative Chancellor George Osborne have worked well together throughout the term of office, with Mr Alexander even facing accusations of ‘going native’ from some in his party. With the general election around the corner, there comes the delicate business of working together in government, while campaigning against each other in public. This is especially difficult for the Liberal Democrats, who try to simultaneously distance themselves from the unpopular aspects of coalition whilst arguing that another coalition would be the best outcome for the next election.
The Coalition The current situation is not unprecedented, but certainly rare. Coalitions are supposed to be unstable, and deadlocked, however this government has remained together and overseen a period of economic uncertainty while actively introducing reforms. Regardless of the popularity of specific policies or ideology, they have managed to govern as coalitions with few changes, throughout the term of office.
Pulse points Has the coalition proved that coalition governments can work in the UK? What challenges face the parties and the civil service as they simultaneously campaign and govern? Do rules need to be introduced to cater for potential future coalitions? How have the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties fared from being part of the coalition? How has the coalition affected the convention of collective responsibility?
Coalitions and collective cabinet responsibility The coalition agreement set out the boundaries for collective cabinet responsibility, It set out a procedure of frank and adequate consultation in private prior to cabinet decisions which would be binding for all ministers. Five exceptions have been agreed. The AV referendum – The bill to hold the refendum to be supported by both parties, although the yes/no campaign was allowed to be divided. The University funding vote – Liberal Democrats allowed to abstain. Renewal of Trident - Liberal Democrats allowed to abstain. Nuclear power - Liberal Democrats allowed to abstain. Married couples tax allowance - Liberal Democrats allowed to abstain.
Coalitions and collective cabinet responsibility Before 2010 there had been three occasions when collective cabinet responsibility was formally set aside—known as agreements to differ over tariff reform, when there was a coalition government during the referendum campaign on membership of the (then) European Economic Community, when the Labour government agreed that ministers could, outside Parliament, argue against the government position. 1977, when the Labour government agreed that ministers could vote in Parliament against legislation creating direct elections to the European Parliament.
Coalitions and collective cabinet responsibility In 2013 Nick Clegg instructed his MPs to vote for an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, which delayed the review of constituency boundaries, despite the bill being part of the coalition agreement. The move was in response to the failure of the Lib Dem backed House of Lords Reform bill to get sufficient support, and it outraged Tories. Leader of the H of L at the time, Lord Strathclyde called it ‘an outrage... extraordinary behaviour. To see this stymied, pulling the rug away from us at the last moment... was a terrible and dirty trick. I am trying to find the right words to describe it; 'dirty trick' does not quite emphasise it strongly enough.’
Coalitions and collective cabinet responsibility David Cameron also challenged the principle of collective responsibility when he allowed Conservative MPs to support an amendment to the 2013 Queen’s Speech allowing for a referendum on EU membership. The amendment failed, but the Prime Minister allowing ministers to vote against the Queen’s Speech (although no cabinet minister chose to do so) is constitutionally significant. Usually a minister would have to resign to do so. Collective responsibility is harder to maintain in a coalition and the number of instances where it has officially or otherwise, been breached undermine the accountability of the coalition government.
Coalitions and collective cabinet responsibility As the parliamentary Constitutional committee states; ‘Given its constitutional importance, the setting aside of the convention of collective responsibility should be rare, and only ever a last resort.’
Challenges facing coalition before the general election. In May, a Whitehall think tank (The Institute for Government) suggested that strict rules should be put into place regarding how the coalition works together to prevent the politicisation of the civil service, to prevent them being called upon to ‘take sides’. The recommendations included: No surprised rule, to prevent sudden policy announcements causing disputes between the parties. Confidential meetings between the civil service and the parties so they can discuss manifesto policies without fearing that they will be leaked to the other party.
Challenges facing coalition before the general election. More time for the opposition to access the Civil Service to cost their policies. This has been denied by David Cameron Labour get six months, which is the convention in a five year parliament. Prior to fixed terms however this was expanded so that Mr Cameron had 15 months before the 2010 election, or missed completely as was the case under Margret Thatcher’s four-year terms.
The coalition and the parties Conservatives As the majority party of the government the Conservatives have held the most power and won the most fights with their coalition partners, but many in the party have hated having to share power and would have preferred a minority government after the 2010 election. Right-wing sections of the party feel that the compromises made to the Lib Dems has enabled the rise of Ukip and taken support away from the Conservatives.
The coalition and the parties Labour They’ve been used to being the only party of opposition, but the polls suggest that the next election will be another close one and Labour cannot ignore the very real possibility of a coalition with the Lib Dems, although the deep animosity between the leaders would be a problem as it was between Gordon Brown and Mr Clegg in 2010.
The coalition and the parties Liberal Democrats The Lib Dems have suffered a massive drop in popularity since the 2010 elections, particularly their leader Nick Clegg. As the smaller party, they have fewer policy achievement, but have to take collective government responsibility for tory policies which have been deeply unpopular among Lib Dem voters. The party face an awkward position as they cannot realistically claim to be in contention for an outright win at the next election, so another coalition is their only chance of power. Not in government, nor the main party of opposition, the party faces an abrupt curtailing of their political influence. They are the biggest losers from coalition government, but by necessity, they are also its biggest advocates.
We arrive at this programme for government a strong, progressive coalition inspired by the values of freedom, fairness and responsibility. This programme is for five years of partnership government driven by those values. – The Coalition Programme foreword by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.