I recently asked the General Secretary of the TUC at a meeting at the Enterprise Forum whether we are now in a new era of coalition and increasing consensus in the UK. The fact that she was attending such a meeting, that a former Labour Minister was working for Boris and I myself had led a coalition in Local Government, were all interesting pointers in that direction.
It is an intriguing question, as when we look back in fifty years, will coalition Government be the new norm in the UK, as it has been for many years in countries all across Europe?
This would have been a daft question just a few years back, with tribal politics in the UK being the norm. Over the past 100 years in Westminster, with a brief tweak in the 1970s with the Lib/Lab pact, power has consistently shifted back and forth between the two main Parties.
Then in 2010, the earth moved and a new shiny Coalition was born, in the midst of turmoil, crisis and financial disaster. Of course at the time, many worthy ‘experts’ and ‘commentators’ predicted that the coalition would fall apart in months and that it would be a mere blip in the political landscape.
Four years on, the UK economy is forging ahead in the UK under the Coalition Government, leading the way in the G7 and western Europe. Despite all the clever predictions, the Coalition continues and looks likely to do so up to the General Election in May 2015.
Looking at the polling, the Labour Party are in the doldrums, no where near where they need to be to be a Government in waiting. Any experienced soothsayer of opinion polls would say that on current trends, it looks like the outcome of the next election is most likely to be somewhere near where we were in 2010, with the Tories being the largest party, either with a small majority, or as they were four years ago, the people who had to form a Coalition to run the country.
Tribalists in all parties will of course baulk at this assertion, all no doubt claiming in public that they are fighting for outright majorities but they would say that, wouldn’t they? But at a recent dinner of twelve senior public affairs professionals, nine predicted a Conservative led Coalition and three predicted a Labour led Coalition post May 2015. None were predicting an outright win for any party.
If they are right, then this means a period when we have had at least a decade when we have had coalition Government in the UK, a huge change in UK national politics and it might not end there.
Are the citizens telling the politicians something currently, which the political class has not woken up to yet? If they are, what does this mean for companies and organisations who want to engage with the political process? Is Coalition Government the new norm in the UK?
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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