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Martin Laffin , "Coalition-Formation and Centre-Periphery Relations in a National Political Party: The Liberal Democrats in a Devolved Britain ," Party Politics, 13 (November 2007), 651-668.

First paragraph:
The British Liberal Democrats provide a valuable case study of the role of national political parties in federal or devolved systems as mechanisms linking the central and devolved levels. This role remains little researched despite recent trends towards greater regionalization across Western Europe (Hopkin, 2003). In the British case, Labour Party links are important in understanding the evolution of intergovernmental relations given the dominant role of the party at both levels and the limited role of the formal intergovernmental institutions (Trench, 2004). Indeed, the Labour Party has tended to act as a force for policy convergence across England, Scotland and Wales (Laffin and Shaw, 2007). Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has been displaced in Scotland and Wales as the main opposition party by the two regional nationalist parties, the Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru. The new electoral systems, with their 'list' members elected by proportional representation, have enabled the LibDems to become major players in Scottish and Welsh politics. This article analyses the role of the LibDems as a national party forming sub-national coalitions with Labour, and thus provides evidence of the role of national, state-wide third parties in devolved systems of government and on the processes of coalition-formation and maintenance at the sub-national level

Figures and Tables:
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Last Paragraph:
The case of the British LibDems provides important evidence of how national parties work in devolved systems, the dynamics of sub-national coalitionformation and the impact of nationalized parties on public policy in devolved systems. The LibDem national and sub-national elites have coordinated themselves informally, and not through the traditional mechanisms of party discipline. To date, they have acted as a nationalized but not a centralized party, despite the devolved nature of their federal constitution, with the Westminster leadership coordinating rather than controlling policy. Centre- periphery relations within the party have had a reciprocal character, with a more balanced flow of influence both ways than has been the case for the Labour Party. The LibDem case is one of a party, lacking the discipline and party solidarity traditionally associated with a party like Labour, yet which has still been able to ensure that similar policies were implemented across devolved, sub-national governments. The sub-national LibDem elites did negotiate effectively, not least in ensuring that Labour signed up to specific policy commitments. Yet these commitments reflected the national LibDem policy programme rather than policy programmes evolved specifically within the Scottish and Welsh political contexts.

Last update November 2013