Should the largest party have the right to form a government?

Questions To Which The Answer Is “Er…” – Number 7


Should the largest party at Holyrood/Westminster always have the right to form a government?

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22 thoughts on “Should the largest party have the right to form a government?

  1. Right to try to form a government first, yes. But if the SNP had not been able to cobble together a vote of confidence in Alex Salmond in 2007 it would also have been right for us to attempt another deal with the Lib Dems.

    Not sure I see the Nat-bashing angle in this, am I being dim?

    1. There it is – the very words in black and white for the whole world to see, this is all about nat bashing than having a proper discussion about the issues affecting Scotland.

  2. Yes. Whoever is largest has that right. That is the gentlemans agreement across all parties? SNP would be first to agree with this Have you just there arent any difficult questions for the snp to answer hence this rather baseless attempt!

  3. Yes,of course.

    But simply because a party has a right to form a government, doesn’t mean you agree with that government.

    Does LabourHame agree with the SNP because they trounced you in May? I suppose the answer to that given your question is ‘errrr’.

  4. No.

    The process whereby First Ministers are chosen does not seem to be in need of change. That may not be so true of Prime Ministers, but the last time an election was close enough for it to have been of more than academic interest was in February 1974.

    And, just for the record, I’m every bit as puzzled as Mr Skinner.

  5. The First Minister would differ from the views expressed above:

    SNP leader calls for alternative alliance to coalition government

    “The assumption by some that the only option now available for a new UK Government is a Tory-Liberal pact is not correct.

    “There are alternatives and far more progressive outcomes available should politicians have the will to seize the moment. Plaid and the SNP are indicating that we do.”

    1. If the Lib Dems had been so utterly unreasonable and intransigent to stick to the positions they’d just been elected on a few days before and failed to create a coalition with the Tories then that’s surely fair comment? Other options were available, if not particularly practical…

  6. To state the obvious, the Holyrood & Westminster Parliaments are different.

    In Holyrood we are not supposed to have one party with an overall majority, so in most cases it will be up to the party who has the most seats to either form a minority government, or to form a coalition. Theoretically, the party with the most seats could actually form the opposition, which could have been the case in 2007 if the unionist parties had formed a bloc & voted for their own First Minister.

    In Westminster, it is usually the case that one party does have overall control. When it isn’t the case, then the party with the most seats would have to try & form a coalition. The Liberal Democrats did not need to join that coalition. An alternative government was possible – but Labour itself killed that off.

    1. And the rowback begins…

      This, of course, is the nationalist hypocrisy and dishonesty the post was intended to expose: the largest party has the right to form a government, unless the largest party is the Tories, in which case it’s okay to cobble together a coalition to deprive the winners of the prize.

      1. Or maybe they just want to do what is in the best interests of Scotland? That makes a Labour lead coalition slightly better than a Tory one.

      2. There’s maybe a distinction to be drawn here between “right to try to form a government” and “right to form a government”? The latter surely only applies if they win a majority, if a coalition needs to be formed and there are multiple viable options for doing this then the largest party might not be able to form one for whatever reason.

        This is particularly the case at Westminster where claims of moral right are somewhat undermined by the rather paltry vote share required to win the largest minority of seats.

      3. You are clutching at straws here. Did Labour or did Labour not have discussions with the Lib Dems in the aftermath of the general election?

        What were you talking about?

        1. It’s quite simple, really: The formation of an anti-SNP coalition in 2007 would have been condemned by the SNP as anti-democratic, yes?

          But Salmond advocated an anti-Tory coalition, despite the Tories having a far greater lead over Labour than the SNP had over Labour in 2007. Straightforward double standards. I understand why the SNP adopted that two-faced position, that’s politics.

          In other words, if an anti-Tory coalition (as advocated by the SNP, who still bang on about the “lost opportunity”) was justified in 2010, then an anti-SNP majority was just as (more than?) justified in 2007.

    2. You are quite correct to highlight the point that there was an alternative to the ConDem coalition at Westminster.

      The kingmakers were.of course, the LibDems who decided to support the party which had gained the most seats. Nothing wrong with that, it was their choice. (and it will be suprising if they ever recover from that decision)

      However, the numbers were there for a Labour/LibDem/SNP/PC alliance (Sinn Feinn were always unlikely to take their seats at Westminster) and as Douglas Alexander said at the time

      “The constitutional conventions are very clear….it’s not the party with the largest number of seats that has first go – it’s the sitting government”

      Labour, and in particular Browns intransigence, killed that off.

  7. And btw, the article doesn’t say what you’re alleging. Nowhere in that article does it say the tories had no right, or that other parties could get together to deprive them of power. You’re making a massive baseless assumption. All it says is there are other options to a tory/libdem pact. They could be: tory minority govt, tory/labour pact, tory/plaid/snp/and others in a massive rainbow coaltion….. But the article doesn’t name any at all.

    But just pick the one that suits your point the best, ignore the rest, and continue with the same narrowed viewpoint, outdated policies and forget about truth or voters. Suits everyone fine

  8. Nowhere in that statement does he say that the largest party does not have the right to form a government. Just that there are other alternatives available.

    Was that really going to be your main point?

  9. Loathe as I am to agree with Douglas Alexander, he was and is correct that the convention is for the sitting government to explore a means of staying on. It is up to the Parliament to decide the government; the voters only decide the arithmetic that will be involved in that decision.

    Nonetheless, there are conventions and there are political realities. Labour was bloodied by the Tory resurgance in 2010, just as they were bloodied by the SNP ascendency in 2007. In both cases, the decision to continue was taken from them by the decision of the Liberal Democrats to not form a government that didn’t involve the largest party in Parliament.

    Anyway, this is hardly a pressing issue for Scottish Labour, is it? Given that there isn’t a Scottish election until 2016 and you don’t possess the guile or the political power to unseat the existing Nationalist majority before then, perhaps some of this discussion time would be better spent planning constructively instead of pointless sniping from the sidelines?

  10. The constitutional convention in almost every country with regular coalition governments is that it is the right of the largest party to attempt to form a government first. This is usually followed quite strictly. One of the issues with the coalition negotiation last year was that Britain does not have a set of formal and informal rules for coalition formation which made it a lot more messy.

    In a sense the question requires a question of ‘When should the largest party not get to form a government?’ and the answer to that is surely when the largest party is deeply unpopular but the opposition is, itself, fragmented. An example of this might come from the latest Slovak election.

    Ultimately, however, parties will always be held to account for their actions. It is up to political parties to make sure sure that their decisions on entering coalition chime with the preferences of their voters. A political party which enters government and fails to represent their voters will ultimately be punished by those voters, whether in single party or coalition government.

  11. The whole question is nonsense as one system of election was originally designed to produce coalition government and the other antiquated system was designed from a two party state resulting in dictatorship by the reds or blues.

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