How unusual is the United Kingdom Coalition (and what are the chances of it happening again)?

Charles Lees

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This article draws upon insights from theoretical and empirical studies of coalition behaviour in multiparty politics to examine the formation of the United Kingdom coalition following the general election of 6 May 2010. It argues that the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is not unusual in historical terms or in the context of contemporary European politics; and that although it is a break from the more recent pattern of postwar British politics it nevertheless does conform to expectations in the light of the coalition literature. The article also provides a comparative analysis of the impact of Britain's ‘First-Past-The-Post’ (FPTP) electoral system on party competition and an examination of the performance of the Alternative Vote (AV) system and argues that if the United Kingdom retains FPTP then a return to single-party government in 2015 is highly likely; and it is not inevitable that the introduction of AV would significantly advantage the Liberal Democrats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-292
Number of pages14
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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