22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition

David Runciman writes:

In a hung parliament, should the MPs who hold the balance of power side with the party that came first in the election, or the party that came second? The reason for going with the winners is democratic propriety – they can claim more of a mandate – plus a desire to avoid the embarrassment of being seen to prop up a coalition of losers. The reason for going with the losers is that they need more propping up, so it should be possible to screw bigger concessions from them. The more tenuous the coalition, the greater the opportunities for extortion. Propriety and embarrassment v. power and blackmail – which is it to be? Well, this is politics, so which do you think.

(LRB 16 December 2010)

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