The NT should repeat “This House” – a taste of what happens when you have a minority government

The NT should repeat “This House” – a taste of what happens when you have a minority government

This should be screened again before May 7th

Suddenly people are talking about a possible minority government after the general election because of the way the maths appear at the moment. With the polls looking so tight with UKIP and the SNP expected to have much bigger contingents at Westminster it’s quite likely that neither LAB or CON will secure a majority and a future coalition very difficult to achieve.

Last year I wrote enthusiastically about James Graham’s “This House” chronicling the period 1974 until Mrs. Thatcher’s victory in 1979. It enjoyed a second sell-out run at the Olivier at the National Theatre and was also part of the NT Live when productions are screened to cinemas and other venues throughout the UK.

It is set in the whips offices of both Labour and Tories from the February 1974 election being called through to 1979. We watch first the period when Labour tried operate without a majority and then as it tries to govern with a majority of 3 after the October 1974 election.

Death, defections and by-elections soon whittle that down to zero and the play portrays some of the apparently crazy measures taken to keep the ship afloat when Labour didn’t have the numbers. The need to bring even critically ill MPs into the Palace of Westminster for major votes is a major part of the drama.

The Callaghan government, of course, fell on March 28th 1979 when it failed to win a confidence motion by the smallest of margins – just one vote. The SNP voted with the Tories.

It’s wonderfully funny but also very contemporary illustrating the huge difficulty party managers have in working with “the odds and sods” – the other parties who might help.

    Given the current political numbers I’ve suggested to the NT that it should screen it again in the run up to the general election. It could be highly relevant

It would be a reminder of the huge challenges of minority government which, I’d suggest, are much greater now than in the 70s.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble

Mike Smithson

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