British Politics

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 418–442

A partnership of unequals: Positional power in the coalition government


    • Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London, Surrey TW20 DEX
Forward Thinking

DOI: 10.1057/bp.2012.18

Cite this article as:
Royal Holloway Group PR3710 Br Polit (2012) 7: 418. doi:10.1057/bp.2012.18


This short article reports the findings of a collaborative class project involving final-year undergraduate students enroled at Royal Holloway, University of London. It adapts Patrick Dunleavy's measures of ‘positional power’ to explore the distribution of influence within the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government. It examines both prime minister David Cameron's and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg's share of power inside the cabinet committee system, as well as the two coalition parties’ overall share of power, and further compares the distribution of power among ministers in the coalition with the distribution of power in Tony Blair's third-term government and Gordon Brown's government. The results suggest, first, that the Liberal Democrats were in a position to wield greater influence across government policy than implied by their initial allocation of government posts; and, second, that prime ministers have become increasingly reluctant direct participants in the cabinet committee system.


coalition governmentpowercabinet committeesprime ministerscore executive

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012