Taking your time forming a government

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 20th April 2015

Some things can be done in a hurry, but forming a Government certainly shouldn’t be one of them. In our recent report, Working Together, we set out the guidelines for forming power-sharing arrangements based on the experience of successful coalition and minority governments in Scotland, Wales and across the world.

In 2010, the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives attempted to plan five years of government activity in just five days of frantic back-room talks. If 2015 sees more power-sharing negotiations, will it be similarly rushed?

Back in 2007 Former Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan decided to play the long game in his negotiations with Plaid Cymru, taking a full two months to negotiate their coalition agreement. Negotiating the formation of a government is never going to be easy, and as Rhodri Morgan attests in our new report, it can be difficult and stressful. But investing effort at the start helps ensure that the next five years will be successful. Beyond the obvious gain of having a full plan for the coalition’s legislative agenda, taking your time leads to a more stable coalition to deliver it.

Like any relationship, the stability of a coalition rests on all the parties knowing what they’re getting into from the start. Internal disagreements can be nipped in the bud before they threaten the government’s stability, and ministers can be more open with where parties disagree with each other, as they have already agreed their programme of action.

As our report shows, it’s better to take your time to put together a solid plan for government, than risk years of inaction or instability because your plan ran out. You can read the full story behind Rhodri Morgan’s 2007 coalition in Chapter 1 of Working Together.

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