Doomed to fail? The challenges of coalition government for Westminster and Whitehall (4 Nov 2010)

Uploaded by UCLLHL on 08.11.2010

>> Thank you very much for that introduction.
The first test for me
of the technology is whether I've unmuted this microphone.
I think I have, can everyone hear me?
>> Yeah.
>> Yes, good.
Now, the tradition of these lunchtime lectures is they run
absolutely to time.
We've actually started 1 minute early.
But we promised to finish at 1:55 and I promised to try
and finish my talk at 1:45 to allow lots of time
for questions and discussion.
I'm going to cover lot of ground rather quickly,
20 slides in about 30 minutes.
So forgive me, I can see some experts amongst the audience,
if we skate over rather a lot of things rather likely.
But you're welcome to pursue those things
when we get to the discussion.
In the introduction, briefly, let me add my credentials
as well for talking to you today.
Last year, in the constitution unit, we did a lot of work
on hung parliaments and we published a report in December
and published it with the institute
for government whose sub title was "the challenges
for Westminster and Whitehall".
And you will remember in the 3 or 4 months before the election
when the opinion polls began to turn and it became clear
that there might be a hung parliament.
There was then a lot of detailed planning, contingency planning
in Whitehall for that possible eventuality.
And in February, the cabinet office published a draft chapter
of a new cabinet manual, a chapter entitled "elections
and government formation".
And very timely for today's lecture, Sir Gus O'Donnell,
the Cabinet Secretary only this morning, was giving evidence
to a common select committee about the contents
of that new cabinet manual.
And I was one of the small numbers
of constitution experts consulted
about the cabinet manual.
And since the election and the formation
of the new coalition government, I followed developments very,
very closely and indeed I have to do a detailed research study
of the new coalition government and how it works.
But that all depends on a research funding proposal
which I submitted back in the spring
and which will be determined tomorrow.
So, all of you please, keep your fingers crossed for me
and for our grand application tomorrow.
Now, let's see, here we go.
This is what I'm hoping to cover in 30 minutes.
So the first big question, are hung parliaments here to stay?
Is this flash in the pan
or is this a harbinger of things to come.
Then to talk about the stability of coalition government,
and I'm going to talk about the stability
of coalition governments in general and then focusing
on this one in particular and its prospects and I'm going
to talk about 3 of the early political reforms
that the new government is planning to introduce.
And indeed they have already introduced 2 bills
into parliament on these topics, on fixed term parliaments,
the referendum on electoral reform that they have to hold
in the spring and their plans to reduce the size
of the House of Commons.
And the conclusion that I'm building up to is
that the serious risks of failure for one or more
of these political reforms may threaten the coalition itself.
So, starting then with are hung parliaments here to stay.
And this first slide shows how dominant was the two-party
system look out there, when in the 1950s,
labor and conservatives, the two main parties combined regularly
polled 95 percent of the popular vote.
But in my lifetime, that has gradually declined
until at the last election 2010.
They got only 65 percent of the popular vote.
What had happened?
Well, a third party, the Liberals,
now the Lib Dems have got about 25 percent of the vote
and minor parties, half a dozen of them have gradually crept
up so that they between them are getting
about 10 percent of the vote.
And here is that same information in words
and these are the results from the last election.
The Lib Dems who we thought didn't do very well.
In fact, by historic standards,
did very well in the last election.
It was only that after the Clegg [inaudible]
with the televised debates, they didn't do quite as well
as people had expected.
But they got their second best result over
and indeed they got 1 percent more of the vote
than they had in 2005.
And the minor parties between them, as I have said,
vote 10 percent and I put them in order of their importance
in terms of sharing the vote.
UKIP got 3 percent, the BNP got 2 percent, the SNP just
on the 2 percent, et cetera.
And the result of the gradual incursions of the Lib Dems
and the minor parties is that in the last 4 parliaments,
there have been at least 75 MPs who've been neither labor nor
conservative and therefor hung parliaments,
all the electoral experts say are more likely in the future.
And if that proves to be the case,
we are in effect joining the rest of Europe
where hung parliaments are the norm.
And intriguingly, coalition governments are also the norm
because all those countries with diagonal lines are countries
with coalition government.
Note there are very few countries
with single party majority government, in fact only 4,
Spain, Portugal, Greece and Hungary.
Note another interesting thing
which is the ideological composition
of those coalition governments, because this coloring of green
and blue is to denote conservative liberal coalitions.
And there is an ark of countries across Northwestern Europe,
9 countries in all which have coalitions
of the conservatives and the liberals.
So, the ideological alliance which happened here in May
and was thought to be a rather uncomfortable one
because people supposed that the Lib Dems would have felt
ideologically happier in bed with labor rather
than conservatives, that would cause no eyebrows to be raised
in much of Northern Europe.
I'm not suggesting this is a pattern in Northwestern Europe,
this is just the current state of affairs.
Now, next question, all coalitions
in general inherently less stable.
This slide shows the results of a very big cross national study,
composing 48 countries since the Second World War.
And what it shows is that as one would expect,
the most stable form of government in terms
of how long governments last is indeed single party
majority government.
But the next most stable is coalition government,
what the experts call a minimal winning coalition
which simple means a coalition composed of the minimum number
of parties sufficient to have a majority.
And minority government is not much less stable than that kind
of coalition government.
So in general, coalition government can be
relatively stable.
Let's move on now to a particular coalition government
and consider some factors which might affect its stability.
And the first and very important factor is the time taken
to form it.
And in the week after the election,
I got several phone calls from colleagues in Germany
who are horrified at this.
They thought this was indecent taste
to the point of recklessness.
How could any government be formed in the space of 5 days?
Here's Germany, averaged 40 days.
In their minds, that's how long it takes
to conduct serious negotiations
and to agree a coalition agreement.
But remember we were starting from a very different place.
The media and public expectations in Britain are--
that a change of government takes place within 24 hours,
famous removal vans in Downing Street.
And this year, there was a further set
of very heavy pressures from the city and the money markets
about the possible impact on the [inaudible]
if we had a prolonged period of uncertainty.
>> So the politicians conducting the negotiations were
under those jewel pressures and they were in no doubt
that they had rather [inaudible] little time.
And that's why as we know, there are negotiation agreement
in just 5 days and they then published the more detailed
program for government 7 days later.
So that's the paler red on my chart.
Twelve days in all, before the program
for government was published on the 20th of May.
And by international standards, the program for government was
in fact relatively detailed.
This is detail measured crudely simply by length.
And here's ours at 14,000 words.
Note, another reason why the Germans might be in shock.
It's very nice when some national stereotypes
are fulfilled.
Very thorough, the Germans.
But as you see, we're quite close to a lot
of other countries in terms of the length and hands detail.
There were 400 separate policy items
in the program for government.
So in a remarkably short space of time,
they did [inaudible] a relatively detailed agreement.
And there was a third document less noticed published the next
day on the 21st of May by the cabinet office
which I call the coalitions procedural agreement.
But the slide shows its official title
"the agreement [inaudible] and reform".
It's much shorter, it's only 2 or 3 pages long and what it sets
out is the agreement between the conservatives and the Lib Dems
in terms of how the coalition will be managed.
And it says at the top that they intend this government to last
for 5 years through until May 2015, that all our relations
with each other in the government will be based
on goodwill, mutual trust and agreed procedures.
What in New Zealand has been summarized very well
as a doctrine of good faith and no surprises.
And in particular, everything in an effective coalition depends
on very close consultation and a high degree of trust
between the prime minister and deputy prime minister.
And we know that there is a good relationship between Cameron
and Cleg and I don't think that's just [inaudible]--
I think that's genuine.
They do get on very well together.
My main concern about the consultation between them
and the coalition agreement formerly provides
that every document or piece of information that goes
into number 10 has to go to the deputy prime minister as well,
is whether Clegg and his office have the capacity
to handle the volume of that daily and weekly traffic.
Because number 10 is a big well established machine with
but 150 people by international standards is very small
for head of government office.
But by comparison with Clegg's office,
where his private office has just 4 senior officials
and he has 4 special advisers, he has a very tiny staff
and resources available to him to cope
with that enormous daily influx of stuff.
Recently, just last month,
his office has been slightly strengthened
in that a more senior official, Chris Wormald,
the Director General and in charge of the Economic
and Domestic Affairs Secretariat
in the Cabinet Office has been made formally its head.
But Chris Wormald still has his day job as DG in charge
of the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat,
so he's got to be jolly busy doing that
and I think this is slightly token.
And Clegg has also been in effect assigned
about 4 policy advisers in number 10 who are his kind
of seconded policy unit, but that's still based in number 10.
It's still very small by comparison
with the resources available to the prime minister.
And I think Whitehall has a genuine difficulty in coming
to terms with the idea of 2 centers of power at the center,
because Whitehall is so used to the center being number 10.
And I think it's difficult
for number 10 themselves voluntarily, deliberately
to create another big center of power which inevitably
to some extent they might see as no alternative power center.
So, so far so good, but as I say, there are concerns I think
about whether Clegg and his office can keep up their end
of the coalition or whether when staff goes
into the deputy PM it disappears
and his office risks becoming a black hole.
Now-- no, we did come to that.
Briefly just to finish on the coalition procedure agreement
and the structure of cabinet committees,
we have a new top cabinet committee called the coalition
committee with equal numbers of the conservatives and Lib Dems
and it's co-chaired by the prime minister and deputy PM.
And the coalition procedural agreement says
that any unresolved issues can be referred
up to the coalition committee by the chair or the deputy chair
of any cabinet committee.
And each of those cabinet committees has a chair
for one party and a deputy chair from the other.
And the engine room
of the coalition is the coalition operation
and strategic planning group, so called,
not formerly a cabinet committee.
And forgive me, there's a mistake on the slide
because the key members of it are Danny Alexander
and Oliver Letwin who were respectively
in effect the authors or general coordinators
of the election manifestos of the Lib Dems
and the conservatives and they were key right hand man
to their party leaders.
But you will know, and this is the reason for my mistake here,
when David [inaudible] only weeks
after the election was forced to resign
and Danny Alexander replaced him as chief secretary
to the treasury which--
especially with planning the expenditure cost has been an
immensely demanding cabinet job.
Danny Alexander in effect was no longer available
to play his role as coalition manager.
And so far as I know, he has not been replaced in that role.
So that is another important gap on the Lib Dem side in terms
of coalition management.
But it may be the happiest applause if he's exonerated
by the parliamentary status inquiry will return
to the government.
And then maybe Danny Alexander might return
to his coalition manager role.
Last slide about this coalition and how it went.
It will be managed and these are the arrangements in parliament
where again the agreement formerly commits both parties
to support all government policy and legislation saved
on 4 particular topics where they have agreed to disagree.
The same way applies to both parties and they have
in effect a partly shared [inaudible] office.
And in the House of Lords the same rules apply,
so all government business will be whipped
on both parties in the Lords.
And that's interesting because in the House of Lords
under the last government, there was no--
a rule majority for any party
and indeed the last government was regularly defeated
in the House of Lords.
The work of my colleague Meg Russell has shown how
under the labor government from 1997 to 2010,
the government was defeated over 500 times in the House
of Lords compared with only 5 defeats in the same period
in the House of Commons.
So the Lords was a very effective check in particular
in terms of scrutiny of government legislation.
But the Lib Dems who have the key pivotal votes in the House
of Lords on our committee by the coalition agreement
to supporting the new government.
And so, I wait to see whether the Lords will defeat this
government as frequently as they defeated the last.
But the other signs are possibly promising
in that the government did suffer 3 defeats
in the summer months.
Now, I'm going to talk next
about 3 key constitutional reforms which are part
of this government's agenda and on all of these,
the policy lead rests with Nick Clegg as the deputy PM,
because most of these agenda is a Lib Dem agenda including this
first item fixed term parliaments.
>> The argument for fixed term parliament is
that they deny the incumbent government the right
to sec the [inaudible] of the election
to suit his own electoral advantage.
And as a secondary argument
that they might commit greater stability and predictability
in terms of the conduct of government
because if we all knew well in advance the day's--
the next election, it would allow for better planning
and longer term decision making.
But two main issues need to be resolved, one,
the length of the fixed term and secondly,
how do you provide a safety valve to allow
for an early dissolution of parliament
if the government becomes completely ineffective
or parliament itself becomes deadlocked.
On the length of the fixed term, the point I want to make
on this slide is that 5 years,
the term that the government has gone for is by international
and by western standards long.
In New Zealand and Australia,
they have maximum terms of 3 years.
Any politicians and officials
in these countries would wish it were otherwise and
but 3 years is the max there.
In those parts of the Westminster world,
outside Great Britain, where they have introduced fixed terms
and it is a growing phenomenon, they have all opted for 4 years.
So in Canada, the federal level, they have a fixed 4-year term
and in those Canadian provinces and similarly
in these Australian states that have gone for fixed terms.
And here in Great Britain, in the UK, I should say,
where we have introduced fixed terms which we did 10 years ago
in the devolution legislation, we also went for 4 years.
And in continental Europe, whether about 15 countries
that have fixed term regimes,
a dozen of those 15 have gone for 4 years.
So 4 years is a pretty strong international norm
and 5 years is long by international standards.
What about the safety valve for midterm resolution?
Well, you may remember that there was a terrible hoo-ha
in the summer when the government initially proposed a
55 percent threshold before the government itself might seek a
dissolution of parliament in part
because the 55 percent seemed uncommonly close
to the government and majority in parliament who try
to [inaudible] 56 percent.
And they've since amended that better the policy
and they now proposed
that before the government can propose a dissolution
of parliament, it needs to carry a 67 percent vote
which would require a very substantial cross party support.
But the traditional rules
for no confidence [inaudible] introduced
by opposition parties remain the same with a 50 percent threshold
and the bill before parliament amendment provides
that if outer is successful, no competence [inaudible],
no alternative government has been formed within 14 days,
then parliament is automatically dissolved
and fresh election is held.
My question is whether this is all unnecessarily complicated.
I'm not yet convinced that we need a dual threshold.
And again, if you look around most of the rest of Europe
where they have fixed term laws, they have a single threshold
for triggering a midterm dissolution.
It's either assemble or an absolute majority.
And we don't have time to go on my last point, let us move on.
The next big constitutional reform were again,
the Lib Dems are in the lead, is there a plan for referendum
in 6 months' time next May on electoral reform.
And it is in this bill,
whose former title is the parliament [inaudible] system
and constituents' bill introduced in July
and it had its second reading in September
and its committee stage last month.
There's a nice irony in terms of the voting system proposed
because we all know the conservatives are strong
supporters of first past the post.
The Lib Dems have been longstanding supporters of STV
and at the last election, the MU party
which proposed a referendum on the alternative vote.
AV was the labor party, the party now in our opposition.
But this is all part of the compromises
in the coalition agreement
and the agreement commits both parties to support the bill
which they have done so far in the House
of Commons and in the Lords.
But come the time of the referendum, they will be free
to campaign on opposing sides.
And there is a political deal at the heart of this bill
which combines two separate policies and I'll talk
about the second one in a moment namely
that the Lib Dems were terribly keen
to holding an early referendum.
And the conservatives were very keen to make an early start
on reducing the size of the House of Commons.
Will the referendum be one?
Well, electoral reformers fondly supposed
that if only the public are given the chance to vote
for a better voting system, of course they will.
I think that is very na ve.
Voters know nothing about electoral systems,
I've done research on that.
That's something I can say quite confidently,
and they care even less.
And it is seriously difficult to explain the difference
between first past the post and AV.
Why? AV is not a proportional voting system,
it's preferential one and if you replay the last election
under AV, which is not an easy thing to do,
it requires guesswork and these are not my figures.
But it is guessed that at the last election,
AV might have given the Lib Dems 20 more seats
and the conservatives 20 less.
So it's not a very big difference.
And come the referendum, there will be a welter of argument
and counterargument which I think risks living the voting
public thoroughly confused.
Not leased because there is seriously little time allowed
to try to educate and inform the public.
The government hopes that it will get its bill passed
by the end of January.
And that leaves just 3 months for public education
and information before the referendum
in the first week in May.
My hunch is that the public, if they are still confused,
and the best slogan for the no campaign will be
"if you don't know, vote no" and if the public do vote no,
they will do what the public did in 2 provinces in Canada,
namely Ontario and British Columbia
where in the last 5 years they have held referendums
on electoral reform.
Starting I have to say from much more propitious second senses
from the point of view of the electoral reformers
and in both cases the proposition was defeated.
Reducing the size of the House
of Commons is the 3rd constitutional reform
and this is in the same bill as the referendum on AV.
And the plan is to reduce it from 650 MPs to 600.
That requires a wholesale review
of all parliamentary constituency boundaries.
The difficulty is how to do that in the life
of just one parliament.
Given that previous boundary reviews have lost it a terribly
long time, the last one ran from 2000 to 2008.
So, the bill says we are going
to drastically [inaudible] this process.
We are going to abolish the whole system of local inquiries
and the conservatives also want much more equal sized
constituencies with a tolerance of any plus or minus 5 percent
because they think that will help reduce the bias
in the operation of first past the post against them.
Now, as it happens, it will reduce some of the bias.
The expert's estimate may be about a third and--
but it won't make any difference to the rest
because the rest arises from a more efficient distribution
of votes for labor and those are differential turnout
between labor supporting
and conservative supporting constituencies
and changing the rules won't do anything
to change those differences in electoral behavior.
Nevertheless, that strong conservative belief
that if they get more equal sized constituencies it will
advantage them electorally lends few to the accusations
that the government is gerrymandering the system.
I think those accusations are unfounded
but the accusations are flying around.
And the conservative belief
that this will help them doesn't help defend themselves
against the charges of gerrymandering.
So, this bill I think will have a difficult passage
in the commons because 50 MPs,
many of whom have only just arrived now,
in effect being invited to sacrifice their seats
and compete against their colleagues
for new constituencies.
>> And then the Lords I think,
it would have a difficult passage
because I think there will be lots of concerns raised
about the changes being made
to the parliamentary boundary review crisis.
Now, I'm coming into my last 3 minutes and my last 3 slides.
So, beginning to sum up.
The argument I've been putting to you today is
that a possible failure of one or more
of these political reforms
in my view may threaten the future of the coalition.
The Lib Dems and Clegg is clearly on the record
on this sup-- enter the coalition in large part
to deliver the Lib Dems longstanding
and deeply held agenda of political
and constitutional reform.
And Clegg has put himself in the lead on that agenda and if some
of these reforms fail, the Lib Dems have only one person
to blame.
And under Clegg's leadership, they have in my view gone
at it far too quickly with a mad rush into legislation.
These two votes were introduced in July with no white paper,
no green paper, no public consultation of any kind.
They picked I think an unnecessary fight
over the 5-year term for fixed term parliaments.
The referendum on AV I think is highly likely to be lost.
They face accusations
of gerrymandering parliamentary boundaries even though
as I indicated I think those accusations are unfair.
And the Lords reform is something I don't have time
to go into in my talk but I'm happy to discussing questions
which the Lib Dems fondly supposes any matter
of political will is far more difficult than that.
So, what might happen next?
Well, one possibility would be that if the Lib Dems do fail
on one or more of these reforms and begin
to feel very uncomfortable politically,
and it's worth mentioning
that the latest opinion poll published today apparently shows
the Lib Dems on 9 percent and that may
or may not be a rogue poll, but remember they got 24 percent
of the election, so that is a hell of a crash just
in the first 5-6 months of this government.
That will create big tensions.
There are always big tensions for a junior coalition partner
and historically when the Lib Dems have been involved
in coalitions, they have split.
That's a-- just slight distortion
of the historical record because they split in past coalitions,
more about entry into the coalition
than about its breakup.
But the general point is coalitions create great tensions
for political parties and in particular
for the junior partner.
A [inaudible] thing the Lib Dems might do is
at some stage during the life of this parliament
to leave the government but to continue to support it on supply
and confidence, and that would allow them in the run
up to the next election
to develop greater distinctiveness vis-a-vis
the electorate.
And the final point I want to leave you with is the question
of whether if in future we do have more hung parliaments,
the norm is going to be coalition government
or whether we might see instead minority government.
What will develop as the UK tradition?
In continental Europe, as I showed on that earlier slide,
coalition government has become very much the norm,
but there are some exceptions.
Denmark is one, where they have hung parliaments election
after election, but for the last 30 years or so,
they've had minority government.
That's the Danish tradition.
And so in my final slide, this is the British history
in the 20th century and here are the coalition governments.
That's the Second World War one, the national government
in the '30s, First World War,
and postwar coalition government.
But look, we've also had experienced a
minority government.
So in the 20th century, there were 6 minority governments.
So, what do you think in the future is going
to become the British way if we have more hung parliaments?
Now, we've got 6-7 minutes for questions and if I may,
I'd like to take them in groups so we fit
in as many as possible.
So, there's one to ask a question.
Could you put your hand up?
Yes, one there.
Does he need a microphone?
>> Yeah.
>> Yeah. And if we could have two mics?
And second question from anyone.
Yes? Could we have a mic up at the back
to that gentleman there?
You sir.
>> John Strafford [phonetic].
John Curtis has said that--
Professor Curtis has said that if AV does go through
and the coalition successful, the conservatives
and liberal democrats will approach the election say
in vote 1, 2, Conservative-Lib Dems or Lib Dems-Conservatives.
And if they do that, that conservative party
and the liberal democrats will be--
will do much better and the one that will actually lose
out will be labor party.
So wouldn't that make them the conservatives go soft
on their opposition to AV?
>> Thank you, yes.
>> I just wondered why you thought House of the Lords,
overthrowing them was so difficult?
>> Wow, that's a big question.
John Strafford's question is a very interesting one
about what the tactics will be all the political parties
if we have AV.
And we don't know under this coalition whether towards the
end of this parliament they will remain
as it were fairly tightly we did.
And even if we don't have a coupon election,
which means the conservatives
and the Lib Dems having agreement not to stand
against each other in various scenes.
Nevertheless, there are different forms of alliance
between tight and loose.
But it all depends I think
on how unhappy the Lib Dem supporters are with being seen
to be getting more firmly into bed with the conservatives.
And it may be that they will want
to distance themselves a bit come election time
because they may want to maintain the option
of maybe negotiating next time
and possibly forming a coalition with the labor party.
I mean who knows what the electoral fortunes
of the conservatives might be come the next election.
And if the labor party looked as though they might be on track
to do better than the conservatives,
the Lid Dems don't want
to be too closely tied to the conservatives.
Lords reform-- the political difficulty is
that although formally all three major parties are
on the same page in that they are all committed
to a largely elected House of Lords,
internally within each party, they are deeply divided.
And so the strength of support
for that policy is not strong in any one party.
And it's not that strong in the House of Commons.
It's often supposed that the main obstacle
to Lord's reform is the House of Lords.
Not so. The House of Commons isn't equally serious
parliamentary chamber that any bill has to go through,
and in terms of the detail, all proposals
for an elected House of Lords.
When the Commons are forced to address that and think
about the consequences of an elected Lords,
something that they didn't normally think about, they--
many of them will find the possibly stronger
and more legitimate House of Lords quite threatening.
So, I think in the Commons as well as in the Lords,
any bill for an elected Lords would face a very
difficult passage.
More on this side?
Yes, one up at the back, and can we have a second or third hand?
Anyone in the middle?
No? You sir.
>> Would the-- does the vote on AV indicate to you a--
indicate that parliament was trying to assert itself
as a stronger body and in a way that the devolution
and the joining of the EU has taken away some of its power?
>> So, the question is does the vote on AV connect--
>> Represent an assertion of trying to gain some of the power
that it's lost in devolution and joining the EU.
>> Right, thank you.
>> I wanted to question your view
that people don't know what AV is.
If you take London, we had mayor elections which had been done
under a similar system to the AV and also various other parts
of the country, you have mayors elected there.
So people-- I'm suggesting that some people are aware of it
and therefore it has got the few you expressed slightly.
>> Thank you.
So-- and a third one there, and this is the last run.
So anyone else who wants to get
in the question, raise their hand.
>> Just very briefly.
I wonder if you could expand on the issue
of fixed term parliament, right?
You were saying that you though the dual threshold was
unnecessary, complicated.
And I just thought if you could explain how you think--
what would be a better approach?
>> Thank you.
Taking those three, the first question was,
is there any connection between the proposed referendum on AV
and the loss of parliamentary sovereignty
because of devolution and the EU.
And I don't think there's any connection.
No, I think choosing a different version of system for the House
of Commons is a separate and pre-standing issue.
I was challenged as to whether people are really as ignorant
about voting systems as I suggested.
Well, we did some research on this 8 or 10 years ago
for a commission established by the unit and service bios
on Britain's experience of new voting systems because we wanted
to understand what public attitudes were
to the new voting systems in London, in Scott, London,
Wales and to the new voting system
for the European parliamentary elections.
And I remember being very struck by the evidence that came back
of how little people understand about voting systems.
Indeed they don't even understand first past the post.
So I would take a small bet with you, sir, that if I had money
to do a similar research in 6 months' time
and if we did public attitude and public knowledge surveys
around the time of the referendum
to test public knowledge of voting systems including AV,
my guess is we will get the same pretty depressing result.
You and I are in a very small and sad minority
in being interested in these things.
Fixed-term parliaments, I was asked to say a bit more
about the dual threshold and what my answer would be.
Well, by raising the question
in effect I think I'm questioning whether that needs
to be a dual threshold.
The only circumstance in which the 67 percent threshold
for a government initiative dissolution would buy it might
be if we were back with single party majority government.
And it would then make it difficult for that government
to seek a dissolution midterm on its own.
It would need the support of one of the parties on the other side
of the House of Commons.
And that is one argument for maintaining a higher threshold
for government initiative dissolution.
But otherwise I would be perfectly comfortable
with a single threshold of 50 percent, whether the proposal
for dissolution comes from the government
or from the opposition.
Very good, and I look to my manager
but we are now I think at finishing time.
>> I think it is time.
So thank you very much Professor Robert Hazell
for this very insightful lecture.
Thank you all for coming today.
>> Thank you.
[ Applause ]