Second, and to be expected given the attachments of the lead author, the interviews with politicians and party personnel were disproportionately with Liberal Democrats. There were 52 meetings with Liberal Democrats and 39 with Conservatives. In the House of Commons elected in 2010, Conservatives outnumbered Liberal Democrats by a margin of more than five to one.
Some of the most important questions are not discussed. Answers to them are assumed.
- An introductory chapter by Eimear O'Casey stresses thatcoalition governments are the norm "in much of the rest of the world" and particularly in the European Union. A table on page 15 is titled "Size and Contents of Coalition Agreements in 15 European Countries". The writer ignores some of the long-established democracies such as the US, Australia or Canada, where coalitions are rare. Nor does she explain why we need to pay more attention to New Zealand (whose recent reforms have been none too successful), Germany or Ireland. The underlying assumption of the presentation is that continental European models should provide the frame of reference for the UK. The crucial question of why we should pay so much attention to the political structures of our geographical neighbours is ignored.
In a world in which technology has greatly lessened the significance of geographical proximity, the rationale for adapting our constitution to those of nearby countries with different histories and cultures is far from obvious. At the very least, the case needs to be justified and not just assumed.
- For purposes of comparison, the book treats Scotland and Wales as if they already are separate sovereign "countries". The combination of stress on the European dimension and on the devolved administrations reflects the longstanding assault advocated by some constitutional reformers on the UK's national government and legislature.
- In much of the book, there is an assumption that the junior coalition partner should not be content to fill particular ministerial posts but should act as a full and equal partner over the entire range of government departments. Given the large superiority of the Conservatives in number of MPs, this has important practical consequences: the authors recommended six extra (publicly financed) Liberal Democrat special advisers or "spads". The Constitution Unit celebrated on its website that this suggestion was then implemented as the direct result of its research project.
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