Friends with benefits: A temporal comparison of electoral pact negotiations in the British context
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Electoral pacts between British political parties have been mooted more often than folk memory or current academic literature would suggest. There has been little attempt to tackle them empirically, and comparative theory on pre-electoral coalitions is formative at best. This article uses a comparative framework to historically trace three cases where pre-electoral coalitions have been seriously discussed by British political parties – one that was eventually fully operational, and two that ultimately were not formed. It posits a strong role for party leaders and elite-level dynamics in explaining the success and failure of negotiations between parties, and finds them to be an enduring example of intra-party collective decision making. There also exists a clear divide between success and failure in negotiations dependent on whether pacts are perceived to be electorally expedient, or intrinsically damaging to short and long-term party goals. These are based on contrasting interpretive standpoints on the constraints of Westminster and voter perceptions of coalitions.