I like this description of election campaigns and coalition government in this week’s Economist:
In countries where coalitions are the norm, election manifestos are like battle plans: they signal a party’s hopes and intentions, but are not expected to survive the first moments of coalition combat. Especially in countries with proportional representation, voters cast their ballots with a view to maximising the dose of their favoured ideology or special interest in whatever government takes shape.
I think it accurately describes the issues Britons have experienced in dealing with the first coalition government in a generation. We simply aren’t used to it, and so we judge the coalition by single-party standards and no part of the coalition comes off well.
If the referendum on AV is successful, it’s something that we are going to have to get used to however, as coalitions could become a lot more commonplace, as indeed they are in many other countries already.