Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

A Tale of Two Very Different Coalition Governments

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

A Tale of Two Very Different Coalition Governments

Article excerpt

Within hours of the result of the general election being confirmed on the morning of 7 May, the London Evening Standard offered this headline on its front page: "Get Out of Number 10, Gordon". Over the next few days, a consensus against the prime minister remaining in office hardened: a minority Labour and Liberal Democrat government, supported by Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists plus the lone Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was not deemed legitimate.

Yet, despite the complicated electoral arithmetic, a rainbow coalition was neither beyond the boundaries of constitutional possibility nor common-sense politics. David Cameron's Conservative opposition was significantly short of an overall majority, its share of the vote up by less than 4 percentage points from its 2005 election defeat.

A Labour-led minority government did not come to pass; and while there is no point fighting old battles again, we note with great interest events in Australia. After 17 days of intense negotiation, the Labor Party's Julia Gillard continues as prime minister, with a working majority of one in her country's lower house (the Green Party will hold the balance of power in the upper house). Australia has its first minority government since 1943, a precarious alliance based on a "confidence and supply" arrangement not dissimilar from the one discussed in Conservative and Liberal Democrat circles before 6 May. It could fall on the result of a single by-election.

Nevertheless, the promise of an array of progressive policies is tantalising. Because of the two independents who ultimately decided the election--Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott--the new Australian government is committed to delivering a rural infrastructure package worth A$10bn ([pounds sterling]6bn), which includes investment in schools, as well as the creation of a countrywide high-speed broadband network. …

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