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Tim Bale and Christine Dann, "Is the Grass Really Greener? The Rationale and Reality of Support Party Status: A New Zealand Case Study," Party Politics, 8 (May 2002), 349-365.

First Paragraph:
Despite their being vital to the setting-up and survival of minority governments all over the world, we neither know nor understand very much about the motives, behaviour, treatment and fate of support parties. Though 'the real world of coalition politics requires that they should be', such parties 'have not been built into the body of coalition theory' (Pridham, 1986: 17). Even explanations of minority rule that point to the role of support arrangements in facilitating such administrations make only suppositional, if signifi- cant, forays into the territory (e.g. Strøm, 1990; though see Bergman, 1995). The same seems true for moves to meld formal, deductive coalition theory and the more inductive 'comparative (European) politics' concerns with party systems and competition (Laver and Schofield, 1990: 8&endash;11; Pridham, 1986). It also applies to the otherwise encouraging attempt to shift from a near exclusive focus on coalition formation to coalition maintenance &endash; 'the black box of coalition life' (Timmermans, 1998: 429; see also Mitchell, 1999; Thomson, 1999; and Pridham, 1986). This is a pity, both in terms of theory and practice. Support parties are one of 'the many lacunae that still remain in our knowledge of cabinet coalitions in parliamentary democracies' (Müller and Strøm, 2000: 591). Forgetting them will diminish both our understanding and the relevance of our work for people actually involved in politics &endash; many of whom may be active in parties for whom formal participation in government is not necessarily either likely or in their best interests.

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Last Paragraph:
The jealousies that arise in such relationships can waste a great deal of nervous energy that might be better spent elsewhere, with only the dominant partner in the 'marriage' really benefiting in the end. During a discussion on the Greens and the government in New Zealand, the president of the junior coalition partner, the Alliance, told a reporter: 'it's a bit like we are in the bedroom and the mistress is in the next room'.15 A few months before, at a Green caucus meeting, one member had likewise joked that while Labour may be married to the Alliance, the Greens got to be its mistress. This earned a swift but lamenting retort from a colleague that the relationship was neither so close nor nearly so much fun!