A warning to the smaller parties: the toxic nature of coalitions

The election in just over a month will likely result in no party being able to form a majority on its own. Coalition's can be a dangerous game.

May 7th's election will likely result in a parliament with two or more parties being needed to form a government.

There are a few options for the smaller parties such as confidence and supply and voting on an issue by issue basis. There is also of course: coalition. For smaller parties coalitions are arguably the most effective way forward as coalitions put them in the heart of government, able to produce and influence policy that matters and allowing them to make a difference.

But coalitions can lead to a dangerous path: coalitions can hurt the smaller party as seen in various cases in the UK and across Europe.

Just look at the Liberal Democrats in the UK who have gone from being a party getting almost 1 in 4 votes in 2010 to a party that is struggling to get 10% in the polls. Meanwhile the Conservatives have enjoyed poll scores of up to 37%.

Look to Germany where Angela Merkel's former coalition partners - the FDP - have suffered a similar fate to the Liberal Democrats in the UK. In 2009 they went into coalition with Merkel's CDU, but in 2013 they failed to win any seats.

There are exceptions of course: in the Scottish Parliament the Liberal Democrats did not take a hit when they entered into coalition with Labour before the SNP came to power.

Coalitions can be dangerous for smaller parties. But yes, they can get things done. The Liberal Democrats have raised the basic income tax threshold, helped create the 'world's first National Green Investment Bank', and introduce the Pupil Premium, among other policies. But as the elections near the smaller parties - UKIP, the Lib Dems, the Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the DUP - should think carefully before going into a coalition with another party. There will be benefits but the detriments could be incredibly damaging.


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