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Keywords:

  • hung parliament;
  • minority government;
  • coalition;
  • Westminster;
  • Whitehall

The return of a hung parliament at the 2010 general election is a serious possibility. But due to Westminster's limited recent experience of parliaments under ‘no overall control’ there is little institutional memory in Whitehall or Westminster, and even less public understanding, of what the implications would be. This article sets out to analyse the principal challenges that would be faced by government, opposition, parliament and the media in the event of a hung parliament. Drawing on experience from Canada, New Zealand and Scotland, we discuss the difficulties that may arise during the immediate government formation process and in the course of making minority or multiparty governance work on an ongoing basis. We conclude that a hung parliament need not undermine political stability or effective governance, but that all actors would need to adapt their behaviour and should therefore prepare carefully for this eventuality.