A bad example

The Guardian’s Martin Kettle considers the possibility of a minority government in Britain.

Britain has had hung parliaments and minority governments before. They have much to be said for them. They can make politics interesting. They can force governments to think twice before doing stupid things. But they can, as the Constitution Unit report emphasises, be well managed (as Salmond’s has mostly been in Scotland) or badly (as Canada illustrates).

They inevitably hand power to small parties as well as to factions within large parties – and thus to party whips. And journalists love hung parliaments. What hung parliaments cannot do, though, is to compel rival parties to co-operate on big reforms. By and large we don’t do coalitions – or co-operation. The idea that a hung parliament after the next general election will enable Labour and the Lib Dems to come seamlessly together and introduce a fairer electoral system is very seductive to many, but historically unpersuasive.

The Constitution Unit report is due for public release next week.

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