Archbishop of Canterbury raises questions about coalitions that apply here too.

It won’t come as a surprise to most Tories that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams isn’t a fan of theirs, though I imagine even they are surprised at the quite frank criticisms he has levelled at them in his editorial for the New Statesman which is previewed here.

Williams focuses on the speed and depth of reforms that the Tories and their coalition partner are making but for me, the most interesting point he raises is that of whether the coalition has a genuine mandate for making such reform. I don’t question the validity of the coalition and neither should anyone else, but surely it’s right to question whether a party that failed to gain a majority on the strength of it’s manifesto should be able to forge ahead with it anyway thanks to the support of a party with a markedly different manifesto?

The question can be applied here in Northern Ireland, quite obviously. Where we have a system that guarantees coalition, is there really any point to a party putting out a manifesto when it really is nothing more than a list of promises they have little hope of fulfilling? Tom Elliot was right to talk about an agreed programme for government but it was never likely that he would follow up on it and it still wouldn’t resolve the issue that the public can’t really vote for specific reforms or radical change.  Instead they have to blindly support broad ideology in the hope that it will produce the right result after it’s been through the coalition mill.

There’s no easy solutions to the problem but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying to find them.


  • Peter Doran

    Most questions about the deficits in our style of governance, including the mandatory coalition and lack of opposition, point to the potential significance of a greater role for civil society. Its a mark of the weakness and dependency of our civil society that people are waiting around for the political elites to serve up a fully serviced and funded civic forum.I doubt that Vaclav Havel and others insisted on grants and State-sponsored secretariats before getting on with the business of forming a decisive opposition.

  • andnowwhat

    Comparing the type of coalition in London and our’s is an apples and oranges scenario.

    If one must compare the 2 I would say that our’s is more of a genuine coalition in that neither party is dictating everything.

    With the very few exceptions, the LD’s have totally failed to do what the second party in a coalition is meant to do. They have simply kow towed to Cameron and lent themselves as a cover for his policies.

  • @andnowwhat

    I wasn’t really comparing the 2 coalitions other than to use Williams comments about a lack of mandate as a discussion point to look at the way in which our coalition sets about governing.

  • andnowwhat

    Hi Ed.

    When we vote we do so in the full knowledge that we are getting a coalition. Clearly that is for reasons based on our history and the mad society in which we live.

    One could well argue that the increased success of SF and the DUP is indeed a mandate based on (primarily the latter part of) the last assembly period.

    There is a defacto opposition in the UUP and the SDLP and their election results reflect the circumstances in a material way.

  • nightrider

    A local coaltion with limited remit.

    Sammy is the middle man.

  • qwerty12345

    As someone else says we pretty much know what we are getting here when we vote. Not so sure the people in GB knew what they were getting certainly not the Lib Dems.

    Thanks for the link nightrider. Always good to remember what a snide brat Emerson is. This just says it all:

    “David Anglia (Alliance)

    Dept of Crime and Punishment

    Appointed under a cross-community compromise where Sinn Féin and the DUP agree that dealing with the legal profession should be left to someone who went to university”

  • Cynic2

    Beardie Weirdie who relies on invisible friend in the sky speaks out.

    That about says it all

  • Rowan Williams makes a valid point but it does not have a solution

    You could argue that it is doable if political parties to agree the terms of a coalition in advance of a general election. You could not achieve that without altering the whole nature of politics. It is also likely to become muddled and confused. Lets suppose that happened. A party spokesman might say the following before the election:

    “Here is our manifesto if we win outright. Meanwhile, we have agreed with the Chalk and Cheese Party that this is our joint manifesto if neither of us wins outright but still have enough seats between us to form a government.”

    The poor voter is then left utterly confused. He decides that he prefers the joint manifesto. But then he has to decide which of those two coalition parties is most likely to win the seat. AV might have helped to sort that out but the referendum has gone.

    Sorry, but we have to just hope that we dont get coalitions too often and accept the nature of compromise when they do happen.

  • andnowwhat

    Just heard on the news that Williams also took hard swipes at Labour for not having a strong agenda to counter the ConDems.

  • Neil

    Jeez, I remember when Emmerson was funny. A long, long, long time ago now. was hard to bate.

  • andnowwhat

    Ahh Neil. Emmerson is guilty of a new and common crime among your blogger types, delusion of grandeur.

    I give you Paul Staines AKA Guido Fawles as further evidence m’lad