openDemocracyUK

Governing without majorities

Stuart Wilks-Heeg
16 April 2010

The Democratic Audit has just published a paper on what we are now learning to call 'A Balanced Parliament'.

The key points it makes are:

  • Parliaments in which no single party had a majority of MPs, or out of which a coalition government was formed, were the norm in UK politics before 1945.
  • The somewhat pejorative term, ‘hung Parliament’, was not introduced into British political debate until the 1970s; in an increasingly multi-party system, the term ‘balanced Parliament’ would be preferable.
  • Recent electoral trends suggest that single-party majority governments will become less likely in the UK, even without reform of the electoral system.
  • The Cabinet Office model for determining the appointment of a Prime Minister in a ‘hung Parliament’ is based on a questionable interpretation of precedent and is flawed.
  • Recent discussion of the possibility and implications of a so called ‘hung Parliament’ has failed to consider these issues from a specifically democratic standpoint.
  • If the general election produces a ‘hung Parliament’, serious deficiencies in the UK’s constitutional arrangements may well produce a controversial appointment of the next Prime Minister and create a moment of constitutional crisis.

You can read it here

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