What’s the big deal? Policy sticking points for post-election negotiations

The prospects for post-election talks between the political parties have often sounded like a logic puzzle during this campaign.

Leo has ruled out a coalition with Brad, on the terms insinuated by Johnny. Meanwhile, Brad and Ryan have refused to comment on those same terms, though Ryan has used the opportunity of being asked the question to suggest that Leo will have no option but to strike a deal on a vote by vote basis with Johnny. Leo likes yellow whereas Brad does not dislike green. In 3 years, Johnny will be twice the age that Ryan was 15 years ago. Who has the most apples?

But it doesn’t have to be like this. All the parties have published detailed manifestos and we can use these to work out the potential scope of a deal. In the end, the numbers of seats they have won in the new Parliament and other political facts will make a big difference. However, we can use the degree of policy agreement – or disagreement – as a starting point to frame the kind of discussions they will be having.

This briefing note looks in detail at the substance of four potential post-election discussions: those between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats; Labour and Liberal Democrats; Labour and SNP; and Conservatives and UKIP. In each case the briefing identifies the likely sticking points for a deal – and how these might be resolved. While current polling suggests that any post-election deal may involve more than two parties, this briefing assumes that the core agreement will be based on negotiations between two parties which may then be supported by one or more additional parties.


  • Contrary to what the parties may have said during the election campaign, we find that the prospects for potential deal-making are good.
  • We find the deal that has been most fervently ruled out by one of the likely deal-makers – Labour, commenting on doing a deal with the SNP – looks to be the most achievable, particularly if done on an issue-by-issue basis.
  • A new deal between the current partners of the Coalition, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, appears more difficult as it will require more negotiation and compromise between the parties than we might assume at first glance. Arguably, the two parties have used up most of the consensus that there is between them during the previous Parliament; and the next one looks more difficult.
  • While it is unlikely there will be a comprehensive agreement between the two parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be able to agree on most of the ‘big ticket’ items, with one notable exception – university tuition fees.
  • A Conservative-UKIP deal is easily achievable on issues of domestic policy. The key to any negotiation will be agreeing the date on which a referendum on EU membership is held.

Download The Report: PDF

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