Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections

Ruling out partners

Will you rule out a coalition with?

Will you rule out any formal agreement with?

Will you rule out any agreement with?

These questions come from the politicians, the dimblebariat and members of the public (presumably learning from their elders if not their betters)

These questions should be banned. I know, what about “free speech”, but …

These questions are not helpful. And consequently any answer is “unlikely to be helpful” (™ MT). OK perhaps “strongly discouraged” rather than outright banned.

Party leaders who faced with a choice of dodging these questions or ruling out any co-operation with others, tend to first try dodging and then go all out for the arrogant claim that they will not need to have any grubby agreements because they will win.

Politics is grubby, and each party’s programme is already a murky agreement which either represents a compromise between the various groups that form their own internal coalitions or represents the diktat of the ruling group.

Politicians need to realise that unless our lottery voting system deals up a freak result (like a party getting an overall parliamentary majority on an extreme minority – say less than 30% – of the vote) they will need to do some form of deal, and until the votes are cast they do not know with whom they will have to do a deal.

Doing a deal means that you will not be able to implement the whole of your manifesto – but without a parliamentary majority you should not be able to do so anyway! And if you do not have that parliamentary majority you will not be able to implement anything unless you do a deal.

If you are not actually a party member – and fewer and fewer of us are – it is rare for us to totally agree with a single party’s manifesto. (It is probable that many party members do not agree with every item in their manifesto – watch spokesmen swing when an interviewer detects lukewarm support on a particular issue.) Therefore it should not be a bad thing if, post-election, the manifestos go into a melting pot.

We are a parliamentary democracy that means we elect a parliament (not a government). That parliament should represent the diversity of views in the country. If it represents that diversity, it (the parliament) should then take on the role creating a programme for government. This means doing deals and give and take. If an MP broadly accepts the result of those negotiations they sit on the government benches; otherwise they sit on the opposition benches.

Until recently our voting system – combined with a 2 party or 2½ party system – has generated clear majorities – albeit combined with see-saw politics. That time seems to be passed, so unless we accept the dictatorship of the minority, we need to see coalitions.

And that means no “red lines” and “no ruling” out of potential partners.


The system would work better with electoral reform – with preferential voting and multi-member constituencies.

This ensures that parliament best represents the diversity of opinion in the country – so any post-election negotiation is likely to involve all significant points of view.

It also ensures that no party has disproportionate representation – and consequently is not seen to be wielding power that it does not deserve.


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