Politics of Coalition: How the Conservative - Liberal Democrat Government Works Hardcover – 1 Jun 2012
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'Robert Hazell and Ben Yong's fine book The Politics of Coalition has...shown that enforced partnership has helped to revive the working of cabinet government.' --Philip Collins , The Times, 14th December 2012
'An essential resource for anyone with an interest in the Coalition, its workings behind the scenes, and its prospects for the future. Packed with facts, insights and telling detail.' --Benedict Brogan, The Telegraph
'The Politics of Coalition provides an invaluable route map to the way the Conservative/Liberal Government works - and identifies important lessons to guide politicians, officials and the media if no party wins an overall majority at the next election.' --Rt Hon Peter Riddell, Director, Institute for Government
One expects that, at least for the short term, courses in contemporary British politics will lean heavily on this book to introduce students to what happened after the Gordon Brown Government left office. Again, in the short run, fresh research on the British government and parliament will likely find this book to be a starting point....This is a remarkable piece of research in that it is based to a considerable degree on interviews with nearly 150 people....Serious followers of British politics will turn to this book frequently. It offers much structure and process about the operation of the British parliament that is not available in any other single source. --T. P. Wolf, British Politics Group Quarterly, Fall 2012
One really couldn't get much closer to history in the making. Almost before the ink was dry on the coalition agreement, the experts from UCL's Constitution Unit were exploring behind the scenes in Whitehall and Westminster to discover the secrets of this strange new hybrid. The result is The Politics of Coalition, an incisive and insightful study of how the coalition government operates and the implications for party politics and the way Britain is governed...there is plenty of food for thought for all the parties in this absorbing book, as the coalition leaves its honeymoon period well and truly behind. --Alison Thomas, Public Servant, July 2012
Robert Hazell and Ben Yong s work, The Politics of Coalition: How the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government Works, is a very readable volume, written mostly in the style of an introductory politics textbook and based on extensive interviews with the participants, including at very senior levels. The book is well done, readable, comprehensive and has a few gems lurking in the revelations from all the interviews ... --Mark Pack, Liberal Democrat Voice, 16th July 2012
... one of the most significant analyses of the dynamics of two-party government in Britain we've seen since 2010. This work is thoroughly rigorous in its approach, eschewing any kind of narrative in favour of academic assessments of various aspects of life in coalition . --Alex Stevenson, politics.co.uk, 19th June 2012
'The story behind ministerial doors is told by a remarkable book, The Politics of Coalition...' --Mark Hennessy, The Irish Times, 16th June 2012
...a genuine and significant contribution to serious scholarship has been made here. The analysis of the formation of the coalition and the drafting of the coalition agreement is comprehensive, and will be drawn on in future histories; and if the authors are able to draw on the same cast of characters to write a full obituary of the coalition after its demise, they will be able to produce an authoritative and memorable account. In the meantime, it is well worth reading by those with a serious interest in the way Britain's current government functions. --David Green, Progress, August 2012
This book is pure gold - contemporary history at its best. It will fascinate those inside the Coalition, those who witness its developing emotional geography from Parliament and the general public keen to know how - what is, for the British - a very peculiar practice, is working out. ... ' --Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London
This book offers an excellent analysis of how Coalition government has worked in the UK. It explains through a series of succinct case studies how and why the coalition government works, what effect it has had on British politics and what may happen to it in the future. It should be an essential part of any modern British politics course. --Dr Ben Worthy, Lecturer in Politics, Birkbeck, University of London
'This book is pure gold - contemporary history at its best. It will fascinate those inside the Coalition, those who witness its developing emotional geography from Parliament and the general public keen to know how - what is, for the British - a very peculiar practice, is working out.' --Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London
About the Author
Robert Hazell is Professor of Government and the Constitution at University College London, UK, and the Director of the Constitution Unit in UCL's School of Public Policy. Ben Yong is a research associate at the Constitution Unit. Their research was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
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Top customer reviews
The book is well done, readable, comprehensive and has a few gems lurking in the revelations from all the interviews, such as the limited involvement of Andrew Lansley and Paul Burstow in drafting the health section of the Coalition Agreement. Perhaps the one thing it lacks is surprise, due to the regularity with which both the Constitution Unit (where both authors are based) and other bodies, such as the Institute for Government, have looked at the workings of coalition government since 2010. If you are familiar with those previous articles and pamphlets, then little in this book will surprise. Its real strength is in being an effective summary of the knowledge so far, capturing many of the administrative lessons for future coalitions, such as the need to properly resource the smaller partner(s) so that they can cope with the workload involved in trying to have a view across all government policies.
The style of the book is rather different from many political science studies, for as the authors say in the Preface:
"In academic literature generally, there are few studies of how coalition government works in practice. That is in part because of difficulties of access ... and in part because of the academic predilection for theoretical modelling, for studying the formation and termination of coalitions, but not their actual operation... An additional problem [is] ... the preponderance in political science of quantitative over qualitative work."
Instead, this book is light on theory and numbers and heavy on the fruits of over 140 interviews with those experiencing how coalition works.
A constant theme is the tension between stability - showing that the coalition can work by governing successfully - and distinctiveness between the coalition partners - necessary for political success yet also a potential danger to the coalition's stability.
Another is the way the practical details of being in government can trip up a coalition's junior partner. Most obviously, the lost of Short Money and the decision to cut the number of Special Advisors left the Liberal Democrats short of capacity to cope with the workload of government. More subtly, having a Liberal Democrat in charge of a policy area with which the party is closely associated is not necessarily a benefit. The logic of doing this is obvious, but it also means that if coalition compromise means the party cannot fully deliver its manifesto polices in that area then it is also very directly associated with the misses as well as the hits.
Vince Cable's role at the head of the department which introduced the highly controversial tuition fee changes in part illustrates this. Having Cable as the Secretary of State in charge of the process meant the party secured many changes of detail to the plans; it also meant the plans were very much seen as Liberal Democrat plans rather than as Conservative plans the Liberal Democrats were reluctantly having to accede to thanks to coalition in a way that has worked for the party in some other areas.
For the civil service, however, the book paints a generally happy picture with coalition resulting in less sofa government, more structured decision-making, clearer policy plans and a stronger role for the Cabinet.
All in all, well worth a read for the lessons for the future, especially as not all the lessons are ones for a post-2015 world.
The United Kingdom's lack of experience with coalition government has left a knowledge gap not just in the public sphere, but within our political institutions itself and this book not only details the evolution of the learning process that all actors had to go through; but also offers its own contributions on how the process could be improved and communicated more effectively both within the corridors of power and to the public - relevant; as many would suggest that Britain could be facing another hung parliament in 2015.
A must read for anyone who wants to understand how a coalition in the United Kingdom works in practice rather than how it is portrayed in the mainstream media.
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