By @nedsimons - 3rd June 2011
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have managed to forge a coalition which is remarkably harmonious, effective and decisive, according to a report by constitutional experts.
University College London's Constitution Unit said that the internal "ructions" which have dominated the headlines hide the fact that most conflict is within the two parties rather than between them.
Based on interviews with 90 Whitehall insiders, the report, "Inside Story: How coalition government works", concluded that across whole swathes of policy the coalition partners have discovered little difference in their policy responses when confronted with the "hard choices" of government.
“People feared that coalition government would be weak, quarrelsome and divided” said the Unit’s director Prof Robert Hazell.
“But in the first year the coalition has been remarkably stable and united. Everyone we interviewed in Whitehall says how much more harmonious the coalition is compared with the rivalries and infighting of the Blair/Brown years”.
According to the report published today, departments across Whitehall have a real commitment to making the coalition work and there is much less of the "factionalism and infighting" of the previous Labour government.
It points to particular success stories of good working relationships between ministers of different parties including Michael Gove working with Sarah Teather in the Department for Education, and Andrew Lansley and Paul Burstow in the Department of Health – despite the current battle over NHS reforms.
In fact the most serious disagreements are seemingly more often between ministers of the same party.
The report cites classic interdepartmental disputes between Conservatives Ken Clarke and Theresa May on justice versus security and between Lib Dems Vince Cable and Chris Huhne on business disliking climate change policies.
And coalition government may have also intensified the conflict between front benchers and backbenchers.
"Decisions are now mostly determined outside the parliamentary party and within the government, leaving the backbenchers becoming particularly alienated in a coalition," the report noted.
The first nine months of the coalition saw more rebellions by government MPs than in the entire of Tony Blair's first term. In the first year all but two Lib Dem backbenchers have rebelled at least once.