With the opinion polls for the UK General election remaining stubbornly fixed to a result being ‘no party will have an overall majority’, the focus for some is already turning to the post election negotiations which many commentaries believe will be where the real election result will be determined, as opposed to in the ballot box itself.
Sir Gus O’Donnell who brokered the Tory-Lib Dem coalition negotiations in 2010 stated recently the “public foreplay” was already starting between the poltical parties, and therein the pre-conditioning and drawing of battle lines or rules of engagement for any future negotiations are being established.
A number of solutions are possible if there is a no majority government; a formal coalition as we have now is certainly the ‘cleanest’, a confidence and supply deal (whereby a smaller party agrees to vote for a major parties key policies, like the budget, and is rewarded by being supplied some of the smaller parties manifesto pledges being activated) or a minority government which has the risk of not knowing if they’ll get policies voted through the house of commons.
Until the votes have been counted we won’t know for sure, but this time round a formal two party coalition may not be as easy to form – predominantly as a number have already been formally discounted; Labour have said they won’t work with SNP, UKIP have said they won’t work with Labour, Lib Dems have said they won’t work with UKIP, and SNP have said they won’t work with Tory’s. Therefore the chances of there being more than one smaller party propping up a larger party to form a multi-party coalition creates even more intrigue.
A vital element to any successful deal being done, as with all negotiations, is having a hard, aligned and stress-tested essential position whereby a deal will not be done at all unless that position is met. These are being called the “red lines” in the political circles at present; Trident, future Scottish referendum, ending austerity measures, in/out Europe referendum to name a few. However in the world of politics it seems things are not always as hard and fast as in the commercial world at times……. Remember the Lib Dems pledge on student tuition fees in 2010 that they then revoked to get into power? Power – is that not what all politicians want? What will each smaller party give to get a taste of power in some form or other, and what will the big parties trade to keep/get them into 10 Downing St and give them the power to run the country. Will we again see manifesto pledges broken, traded, forgotten as part of the negotiations.
And that’s where the “balance of power” is going to be so interesting to watch in the coming weeks. Who holds the balance of power at the start of the negotiations on May 8th and how will that balance swing? Which of the factors that can influence balance of power will be used?
• Who will use time to better their position. How much time will they have. Who will be in control of the time. How long will the people of the country allow for negotiations?
• Who will have what BATNA’s (or plan B’s). How do you negotiate with multiple parties simultaneously?
• How much conditionality will be used – ‘if you give up that manifesto pledge of yours then we’ll give up that one from ours….”
• How much will people and personality affect the negotiations? Will any of the leaders not do deals given the person leading the other party. How would Nicola Sturgeon and Ed Milliband resolve some issues?
• And what can be read from previous situations – will anyone think that Nick Clegg will hold firm on any of his manifesto pledges this time?
Obviously a minority government could try it alone, or for once the opinion polls could be significantly wrong – only time will tell. But certainly the next few weeks are going to be fascinating to watch and intriguing to dissect from a negotiation perspective.