Hazell's partisanship is evident in his comment on the referendum: "The Constitution Unit had warned since June 2010 that the referendum would be defeated if so little time was allowed for public information and education." This statement assumes that electoral reform is desirable and that it was a function of his unit — a university-based research institution — to provide advice helpful to the deputy prime minister.
Hazell's pro-Liberal Democrat zeal emerges in the admiring final sentence of his main chapter: "It will be hard for the Lib Dems, having started in government as civilised partners, to turn themselves into more brutal ones; it does not come naturally to them."
Hazell has combined such overt partisanship with a claim, as a former civil servant himself, to be providing a politically neutral assessment. This is the other pole of the work of the Constitution Unit — intentionally technical publications whose sheer unreadability increases their credibility. The Politics of Coalition falls in this second category. However, the mechanisms it describes and recommends are by no means politically neutral. Prejudicial assumptions form the bedrock of the analysis.
Hazell and the Constitution Unit claim that the book's authority derives from the access provided by the Cabinet Secretary with the consent of Cameron and Clegg. This enabled the researchers to conduct 25 interviews within No 10 and the Cabinet Office (including 13 with officials). There were an additional 122 interviews with MPs, employees of party organisations, civil servants and the media. This meant that information was based on "a qualitative action research approach . . . based mostly on interviews and done in real time".
This is a valid method but in this case evidently encountered two difficulties. First, the unattributed quotations from informants used in the publication suggest that they tended to be cautious and to speak in general terms. The case studies included in the book are limited: the study on the issue of a Bill of Rights is unfairly critical of Cameron and is wide of the mark in its reportage.
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