Well, don’t just believe me.  Skim through the powerpoints put together by the Institute for Government, a non partisan body that is an expert in, well, government.   This scatter chart is particularly telling:

Yes, one-party dominated parliaments have run worse deficits.  Consider – if Brown had had Cable or Osborne to rein him in over 2002-7, would the structural deficits have been (a) higher or (b) lower?

Another slide demonstrates that the government-formation process in the UK is likely to be far less than in hordes of other countries. It explains ‘Confidence and supply’ – the arrangement Julian reckoned might be plausible in a Lib -Con world.  It also discusses the dynamics of governing in a minority government.  One of my concerns under our wacky system might have been the Conservatives somehow hoping to ‘time’ a new dissolution to reflect badly on the others; but this reminds us that even if they say ‘we can’t govern’, they run the risk of the other parties resisting a call for dissolution and putting in their own man.   “Cameron resigns; Miliband/Clegg takes over” – headlines that would cause a lot of Home Counties scrambled egg to be splattered over the Daily Telegraph”.

Vote for a hung parliament.  They work: they reflect truly the dispositions of the sovereign voter; they enable difficult fiscal decisions to be taken with consensus; they turn intra-party bickering into inter-party negotiation.  And they mean change.   What’s not to like?

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5 thoughts on “Hung parliaments: stable, disciplined, workable

  1. Oddly enough my colleague and I were discussing this chart (and there’s another a few pages before or after on government effectivenes) the other day.

    My criticism of it is that if your best fit line doesn’t actually go near any of the points you should reconsider whether it actually tells you anything or whether in fact might there be two or more relationships going on? I mean I can kind of see a ‘countries that had housing booms’ set and another one (this is clearer in the government effectiveness chart, where there’s obviously two sets of data – southern/eastern europe and western europe/other OECD).

    Also devil in the details – take Norway, which actually had a budget surplus of 11% of GDP, and that deficit of 7% doesn’t include oil. I’m not quite sure why that would make sense in analysing the potential impact of hung/majority govenments (in fact to adjust it would help the pro-hung parliament angle, although really i would delete it as being an overly special case).

    I also thought one should perhaps take a longer run of data than just 2010.

  2. Of course you are right: this scatter shows a very weak relationship either way. But this is precisely why claims that a Hung Parliament is bad just need to be discounted. A longer series fit would be better.

    What really matters is whether profound fiscal consolidations (ie dD/dT) are aided or hindered by minority gov. Sweden is the obvious example one way – UK the other

  3. Although I agree with the broad point that hung parliaments cannot be automatically correlated with poor governance, the complexities of inter- and intra-party networks and relationships are, I would argue, poorly captured by the fairly simple model in the slides. Japan, for example, in the 1990s was only nominally a majority government owing to the deep divisions and factionalization within the ruling party.

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