What happens if there's a hung Parliament? - March 11, 2010
A guide to process and procedures
A new pamphlet from the Hansard Society and the Study of Parliament Group, published today, examines what will happen if there is an uncertain election result - with particular focus on the implications for Parliament.
Who Governs? Forming a coalition or a minority government in the event of a hung Parliament sets out what will happen if no party has overall control. The authors (Robert Blackburn, Ruth Fox, Oonagh Gay and Lucinda Maer) explore the constitutional process of forming a government, the role and impact that parliamentary procedure will have in the process, and examine the constitutional issues regarding the calling of a second general election. Drawing on past history, they examine the lessons to be learnt from the devolved legislatures, and international comparisons, and explore what impact, if any coalition and minority government might have on the culture of politics in the next Parliament. Finally, they assess what role constitutional and parliamentary reform may play in any post-election inter-party agreement.
Key themes explored in the pamphlet include:
- Who wins - the party with the most seats or the most votes? What does this mean for formal coalitions or informal agreements with other parties?
- Who has first call on forming a government?
- What's the constitutional position vis-à-vis a second general election?
- What is the role of the Queen?
- How long can the politicians take to form a government?
- What happens to Parliament if the election result is uncertain?
- What impact will parliamentary procedure have on the process of forming a government - will it help or hinder?
- What effect would a hung Parliament have on the House of Lords and the Salisbury Convention?
- What effect will the financial markets have on government formation?
- Does a hung Parliament mean weak government?
- How will MPs balance Westminster and constituency duties in a hung Parliament?
- How important will electoral reform for the House of Commons be in any post election inter-party negotiations?
Dr Ruth Fox, Director of the Hansard Society's Parliament and Government Programme and joint author of Who Governs? Forming a coalition or a minority government in the event of a hung Parliament commented:
‘In the event of an inconclusive election result, Parliament will be the ‘theatre' in which the decisions of the political leaders play out. Our recent Audit of Political Engagement found that the public see Parliament as an institution with declining influence on their everyday lives. But a general election that results in no overall control will see renewed interest in Parliament as it moves centre stage. So it is vital that the public, politicians and the media understand the process and procedures that will influence the politicians in the decisions they may have to make after the election.'
For further information, contact Virginia Gibbons at the Hansard Society on 020 7438 1225 or 07812 765 552
- The Hansard Society is the UK's leading independent, non-partisan political research and education charity. We aim to strengthen parliamentary democracy and encourage greater public involvement in politics. For more information about other Hansard Society publications visit the website at http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/
- The Study of Parliament Group was founded in 1964 to study the workings of Parliament and Parliamentary institutions: its membership brings together staff of UK Parliamentary institutions and academics active in this field. The views expressed by members of the Study of Parliament Group are not necessarily those of the Group. The Group's website http://www.spg.org.uk/ provides further information about its activities.
- The authors: Robert Blackburn is Professor of Constitutional Law at King's College London. Ruth Fox is Director of the Hansard Society's Parliament and Government Programme and a member of the Executive Committee of the Study of Parliament Group. Oonagh Gay is chair of the Study of Parliament Group and a member of the Hansard Society Council. She has worked at the House of Commons Library for 27 years and is currently head of the Parliament and Constitution Centre. Lucinda Maer is a Senior Research Clerk in the House of Commons Library and a member of the Executive Committee of the Study of Parliament Group.