Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies

Inaugural lecture: Games without frontiers

Fri Mar 07 12:22:00 GMT 2014

Charles Lees (Professor of Politics)

Charles Lees

— Professor Charles Lees using Rubik's Cubes to represent the challenges facing coalition governments (how different groups have to work together).


Professor Charles Lees presented his inaugural lecture on 19 February 2014. In his lecture he answered the questions:

  • how do coalition governments form?
  • how long do they last?
  • what can they achieve?

Speaker background

Professor Lees has written extensively on comparative politics, policy, and methodology and was previously based at the University of Sheffield.

His research has been based on furthering our understanding of the complex interactions of political institutions, political strategies, and cultural context on a global level. This has brought with it many challenges, such as the relationship between:

  • depth vs. breadth of analysis
  • micro vs. macro level explanations
  • rich description vs. abstraction

In particular, his work has focussed upon coalition governments and how they convert manifesto pledges into practice.

Listen to the inaugural lecture

Understanding coalition theory

In his lecture, Professor Lees outlined that the earliest coalition theories were not focused on governments, but instead looked at games and different groups coming together to make decisions. Many of these approaches were based on mathematics theories.

Many of these approaches later came under criticism though because they neglected ideology and other contextual factors.

Professor Lees has built on the works of Robert Axelrod and Abram de Swaan to develop his own theoretical framework; the three-stage hybrid coalition framework.


Three-stage hybrid coalition framework

  1. Parties want to be part of a collation with the smallest majority and the smallest possible number of other parties.
  2. Parties want to be part of a coalition where they can act as the Median Legistator; controlling the majority in parliament and hopefully the coalition.
  3. Parties have strong time preferences, therefore preferring office-seeking over policy-seeking, short term policies over long term policies, and familiar coalition arrangements over new ones.

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