Lessons from Denmark in governing in coalitions…

No Friday thread this week. Instead, riffing off William Scholes column in The Irish News [H/T Kate], who found this interview in the FT with the Danish PM, Helle Thorning-Schmidt:

If you want to govern, you have to govern with other parties. If you are a minority coalition, you have to find a majority for your policies. And it can be very hard because it takes long discussions. But, in many ways, is it not good that you have to create things in a pragmatic way and you have to listen to other points of view and find the best solution?

Denmark of course, as again Ian has noted, is a far more communitarian society than ours. But the question could be raised in our is case is: do any of our parties actually want to govern?

, ,

  • IJP
  • Mc Slaggart


    Are the Unionist parties not just one party in reality?

  • Ian,

    Looking at what you wrote, there are a number of ways an opposition could be meshed with mandatory power sharing. First, parties could be designated as the official opposition within their category: the SDLP in the nationalist group and the UUP in the unionist group. Second, voters in a particular election could vote to replace one of the parties ruling in the Executive without replacing the other. This way if nationalists were satisfied with Sinn Fein they could keep it, while unionists switched parties or vice versa. Third, the GFA could be modified to replacing absolute majorities in both main categories with a weighted overall majority. This would have the added benefit of better accommodating the Other category and thus giving people an incentive to vote for Alliance or similar parties.

    Now the biggest problem is that parties that benefit from the present system are the ones that would have to vote in favor of any replacement.

    “Are the Unionist parties not just one party in reality?”


    Most nationalists seem to consider Alliance to be a unionist party and the differences between Alliance and the DUP on most matters are much greater than those between Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

  • IJP

    Mc Slaggart

    No. One is sectarian but still vaguely competent (at least electorally). The other is sectarian and incompetent.


    This may be my bias, but I don’t see your first paragraph as a benefit at all.

    Firstly, “Other” voters do not benefit. They don’t want the “Other” category to do well; they oppose categories at all.

    Secondly and frankly more importantly, you would still have parties wedged together whether they like it or not; and you would also have an Executive formed before it has agreed on a single policy. We’ve already seen the result – years of inaction.

    My proposal removes the bias towards voting or even designating “Unionist” or “Nationalist”. Perhaps more importantly still, it allows parties to negotiate Executive formation on policy rather than just number of positions, which in turn changes their relationship with the electorate because now policies (and policy priorities) matter.

    My proposal also removes all the offices. A new Executive would be at liberty to have a single First Minister, for example; or to change the number of Departments; or to institute Junior Ministers (similar to the first Scottish Parliament); or to have double Junior Ministers with a few senior Cabinet Secretaries (the current Scottish system).

    The underlying point is that parties would no longer just be wedged together to then argue over every single policy issue. They would agree on policies before the Executive was formed, and those policies would in effect be binding.

    Re Alliance, Nationalists only consider Alliance a “Unionist” party when it suits. But when they are talking about how soon Nationalists are going to have more MLAs than Unionists, they are suddenly quite content for Alliance not to be Unionists…! 🙂

  • Mc Slaggart



    Jayus, the platitude party. If they ever grew a backbone then I would think they amounted to something.

    Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh.”