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Xxxii Why look in a crystal ball when you can read the bloody book? ANEURIN BEVAN Introduction British government is party government- but that does not ensure that it is good government. The conventional view of Westminster democracy has taken for granted that party government was both necessary and desirable. Only by placing all the powers of government in the hands of a single party could a country be effectively governed by politicians strong enough to take unpopular but necessary decisions.

Intentions identify what a party would like the government to do about problems facing the country. It is sometimes argued that the policy intentions of politicians are so much "campaign oratory," empty phrases that no one (least of all the politician voicing them) expects to take seriously. Yet if this be so, it still leaves a question: Why are they proclaimed? If a party's policy intentions are meant to be misleading, who is fooled: the politicians who formulate them, or the electorate? A party can try to carry out its policy intentions only if it is in government.

The Socialist government returned to office in 1982 may well find that circumstances force it to act in ways that it had attacked as anti-Socialist when in opposition. In Germany, the resignation in 1982 of the Social Democratic government under Helmut Schmidt has given the Christian Democrats their first taste of office since 1969, but it has not given the new ruling party any more powers than the old ruling party had to deal with the economic difficulties facing Germany today. Examining the impact of parties upon government produces both good and bad news: parties make less difference in reality than they claim in their rhetoric.

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