Some of you may have heard of Sam Freedman, an excellent chap behind interesting Conservative ideas on education, and top Twitterer . He has asked me and another defender of interparty horsetrading “how long would this have to go for before you decided it wasn’t a good idea?”
Well, let’s distinguish a few things:
- What we are used to and what is normal in other countries
Let’s return to those excellent slides from the Institute for Government, hattipping the peerless Nick Timmins of the FT and Westminster Blog along the way. Here is slide 11:
I’ve just done some quick research on the vital question: “of those countries taking over a week to form a government, how many have descended into social chaos, bond default, wolves roaming the streets and the only valid currency, snout?” Totting up my numbers quickly, I get zero. The Germans take weeks, and still their trains work. Calm down, dears
- Let’s distinguish how it is for Westminster Political Nerds and Normal People
For those of us plying our trade in Westminster, for whom the decision about the make up of the next government is rather crucial, this may feel like hell, like watching World Cup penalty shootouts for days on end. But for the rest of the world it looms less large. Yeah, of course we need a government soon, but business is still continuing – I mean, check out the massive Euro bailout, which seemed to happen with some UK input.
- Distinguish what is happening now and normal horse trading in ‘majority’ rule
Can you remember the rows about ID cards (2004-8), VAT on Fuel (1994), Maastricht, and so on? We are always having to do negotiations with groups with radically different interests. Just this time, the groups stood, honestly, on different manifestos at the election
So, SamFr, my answer is: from the country’s point of view, this could go on for a while – and under future voting systems, might well do so. Whether it is in anyone’s political interest is another matter.