STRICTLY EMBARGOED: 00.01 Tuesday 24th March
Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
Contact: Will Brett (email@example.com / 07979 696 265)
How to do coalition and minority government: new report
Senior politicians with experience of power-sharing arrangements offer their advice in new Electoral Reform Society report
Report comes after ERS polling finds strong support for parties to work together
A group of senior politicians has been brought together by the Electoral Reform Society to share their experience of working in coalition and minority government, in a new report entitled Working Together: lessons in how to share power.
The report offers personal insights from British and overseas politicians on how to negotiate and manage power-sharing arrangements. It comes just six weeks before expected talks between the parties following what is likely to be an inconclusive General Election result.
Former whip and junior minister Jenny Willott giving candid insights into her experience of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Westminster coalition
Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales, sharing his recollections of negotiating with Plaid Cymru and how to deal with the internal party politics of coalition
Andrew Burns, leader of Edinburgh City Council, on his experiences leading Scotland’s only Labour/SNP coalition council
Former Treasury special adviser Julia Goldsworthy on the machinery of government and how to make coalition work in Whitehall
Former First Minister of Scotland Lord Jack McConnell discussing his time in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, demonstrating that coalition can be long-lasting and achieve real policy change
Former New Zealand Labour minister Darren Hughes  on the different ways in which minority government can be made to work
There are also important contributions from abroad, including former Irish minister Ruairi Quinn, former Prime Minister of Lower Saxony David McAllister, and Professor Dennis Pilon of Canada.
Working Together offers five key lessons for party leaders in May:
1. For coalition to work, there needs to be a common sense of purpose – clear aims and a united vision for what the parties want to achieve together
2. It takes time to negotiate. Deciding how to govern a country is not something that should be rushed. And sometimes, the longer it takes, the better the outcomes
3. Parties need to sign off on any power-sharing arrangement if it is going to achieve legitimacy. This can take the form of special conferences or other means of gaining party members’ assent
4. Power-sharing comes in numerous forms. Each nation can develop models of coalition or minority government which fit with their own political culture
5. Coalitions aren’t easy. They need constant dialogue, good personal relationships between protagonists and mechanisms for resolving disputes if they are going to work
The report comes after a recent Electoral Reform Society survey suggested that people want to see parties working together. In a poll of the 40 most marginal Conservative-Labour constituencies  (ie. the areas where the traditional two-party battle ought to be fiercest), the ERS found that:
78% believe the Opposition should work with the government on issues they agree on (against just 9% who support the opposite)
54% believe Parliament works best when no party is too dominant so that cross-party agreement is needed to pass laws (against just 28% who support the opposite)
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“As we near a General Election which is almost certain to produce a hung parliament, now is the right time to draw on politicians’ rich experience of power-sharing, both in the UK and across the world.
“There’s a common misconception that coalition and minority government is new to the UK. In fact we have a wealth of knowledge on power-sharing, from the devolved administrations, from local government and now even from Westminster. Those preparing to enter into negotiations could do worse than heed the advice of politicians with real experience of sharing power.”
Commenting on the trend towards power-sharing, Katie added:
“People’s wishes have changed. They want to see multiple parties competing for their votes, and then working together when they get to Westminster. That means coalition and minority government are likely to become the norm in the future, and not the exception.
“But we have an archaic voting system that tries to cram people’s varied wishes into a two-party framework. We need a more proportional electoral system so that power-sharing negotiations can be conducted on a legitimate basis, after people’s wishes at the ballot box have been accurately taken into account.”
1. A strictly embargoed copy of the report, Working Together, is available at /ers/sites/default/files/Working Together ONLINE(1).pdf
2. ComRes interviewed online a representative sample of 1,002 GB adults living in the 40 most marginal constituencies where the Conservatives and Labour shared first and second place between them at the last General Election in 2010. Of these 40 constituencies, 25 currently have a Conservative MP and 15 currently have a Labour MP. Each constituency is represented in the sample equally, with results weighted to be representative of all adults in all 40 constituencies as a whole. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. Fieldwork took place from 15th to 24th November 2014.
3.Darren Hughes is also Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society.
4. ‘Working Together’ will be launched on the 24th March at the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House in Westminster, 11:00-12:30, with Rhodri Morgan, Jenny Willott MP, and Sir George Young MP speaking on a panel chaired by Katie Ghose. Please RSVP to Will Brett (firstname.lastname@example.org / 07979 696 265) if you would like to attend
For interviews and information contact Will Brett on email@example.com / 07979 696 265