The ‘Quad’ is a high-level executive committee that comprises of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Danny Alexander and is one of the coalition’s key decisions making bodies. Typically the Quad meet to ‘iron out’ matters that may be contentious between the Lib Dems and Tories prior to formal cabinet meetings. Cameron has tried to set about changing the style of his premiership, away from Blair’s more informal style dubbed ‘sofa government’ and has been praised by officials for his ‘return to formality and commitment to process’. However can the Quad be seen as a considerable step backwards?
Cameron formed the Quad with the intention to iron out and discuss the issues that may arise during a coalition government of which you would presume there would be many. However it seems, unlike the tensions in New Labour and Major’s governments, where leaks were a frequent occurrence, the coalition has been fairly stable. Could this be because the Quad is where major decisions are made and then passed by cabinet? Does the Quad act as a clearing house for policies? It is too early to tell, but does the Quad undermine ‘cabinet government’?
Cabinet government: Under the Westminster system, members of the cabinet are collectively responsible for all government policy and decisions are made collectively. Although, in theory, all cabinet decisions are taken collectively by the cabinet, often these are undertaken by sub-committees and ratified by cabinet.
So, at face value, the foursome can be:
1) Seen as a continuation of Blair’s frequent informal bilateral meetings criticised by Lord Butler in his Iraq inquiry.
2) It can be seen as undermining the convention of collective cabinet, which suggests that cabinet discusses and debates issues together, freely and thoroughly.
3) It can show the limitations to the coalitions bid to reverse Blair’s premiership style. The realities of power over theory.