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May 12th, 2010


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11:28 am - Fixed term Parliament?
If the Tories have really persuaded the Lib Dems to vote for a fixed term Parliament - no election until 2015 whatever happens, like in the USA - then they can literally screw them any way they like for five years. 'You're my wife now Dave Nick' I can't believe the Lib Dems sold themselves that cheap.

That appears to be what has just been announced on the BBC (there is a telly set up in the office at work where I am now). I haven't been able to find it confirmed online. How would it even work if the Tories lose a vote of no confidence find themselves in a position where they can't pass legislation?

ETA Thanks to coalescent for this pointer:

BBC here: We understand that under the new agreement for fixed-term parliaments, the only way to remove the government between elections would be a vote of no confidence with the support of 55% of MPs. At present, any no confidence vote requires only 50%, plus one MP.

The Tories thus gave themselves a vote of no confidence threshold too high for the Lib Dems to challenge them. Pursuing the marriage analogy - they just took away the possibility of divorce.

(42 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:andrewducker
Date:May 12th, 2010 10:32 am (UTC)
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Did they say that a vote of no confidence couldn't bring down a government?

Because that would be a massive change - I'd want to see the actual wording of the law.

If it's just that it's changed from "The PM chooses when to go for reelection" to "Every 5 years" then I'm in favour of the change.
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From:coalescent
Date:May 12th, 2010 10:56 am (UTC)
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Beeb is reporting that no-confidence votes will require 55% which, if my maths is right, means Lib Dem revolt couldn't do it. On the upside, that does avoid this doomsday scenario.
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From:communicator
Date:May 12th, 2010 10:56 am (UTC)
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It's what a guy just said on camera, but he may have been over-excited.
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From:watervole
Date:May 12th, 2010 11:09 am (UTC)
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It's the Lib Dems who wanted the fixed term. That's been a policy of theirs for some time.

It stops governments being able to call a quick election, whenever they're ahead in the polls, in order to improve their number of seats.
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From:coalescent
Date:May 12th, 2010 11:27 am (UTC)
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Indeed, there is the point of principle to consider here as well, you're right. :-)

I don't think there's a clear winner or loser, politically. Yes, it removes the option of "divorce" (without significant internal Conservative dissent); on the other hand, it makes it much easier (safer) for the Lib Dems to oppose specific bills, doesn't it?
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From:watervole
Date:May 12th, 2010 11:43 am (UTC)
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I wouldn't expect them to oppose bills (except in cases like the marriage tax break where they've already agreed to abstain). If you make a deal, you should stick to it. (and I expect the Conservatives to stick to their part of the deal for the same reason)
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From:communicator
Date:May 12th, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC)
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There's a big difference between 'You can't choose to go early' and 'you can't be forced to go early', and it seems they have decided ont he latter
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From:watervole
Date:May 12th, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC)
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They're not in a position different from that of any other majority government(between them they represent over 50% of the voters, so they're a majority in seats and votes).

It's the former that is the change from the past. They can't choose to go early if things are going well for them (which I feel is how it should be), but a vote of no confidence can still push them out if they really get it wrong.
From:peake
Date:May 12th, 2010 11:21 am (UTC)
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The 55% rule probably won't apply to this parliament anyway (that would probably amount to retrospective legislation), so it doesn't really relate to the current balance of parties.

But you are right that the Lib Dems seem to have sold themselves very cheaply indeed. Deputy PM is a meaningless position, and none of the other cabinet posts amount to much of any real value. And the horsetrading on policies seems to have gone largely the Tory way.

I am, as I write, planning my resignation letter from the party.
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From:andrewducker
Date:May 12th, 2010 11:43 am (UTC)
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Interesting. Most of the writeups I've seen have it as the Lib Dems getting what they wanted more than the Tories did (£10,000 income tax base, banking reform under Vince Cable, no change in inheritance tax, more money for poorer schoolchildren, referendum on AV).
(Deleted comment)
From:huskyscotsman
Date:May 12th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
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I'm very surprised that the fixed term is 5 years and not 4. Maybe I just didn't read the Liberal manifesto closely enough? 5 years may be the current limit, but it's the "clinging on for too long" limit. Grown-up governments go for 4 years. Weird.

And that 55% thing is just bizarre. They won't actually encode that one in law, surely? It's stupid to have laws applying to future governments that have an explicit arithmetic dependence on the way the seat allocations happened to work out in this one.

What an incredibly strange compromise. The fixed-term thing will just be passed into law, it looks like, while the AV thing has to go to a referendum that it might lose. (Will the referendum itself use AV?) And AV isn't even proportional.
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From:communicator
Date:May 12th, 2010 01:08 pm (UTC)
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I have heard but not seen five years mentioned so far, but I'm not sure I am keeping up with developments. I never thoguht of that but you are right - they could win the referendum and still not get even AV.
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From:coalescent
Date:May 12th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)
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I've seen the referendum reported as being "on an alternative vote system" and "on the alternative vote system". Obviously a rather significant difference! I suspect it is the latter, but I'm waiting to see the wording in the agreement...
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From:coalescent
Date:May 12th, 2010 01:40 pm (UTC)
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From the agreement:
The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.

It's not clear there whether the 55% applies to this Parliament, or only from the *next* Parliament, is it?
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From:communicator
Date:May 12th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)
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Yes, that just arrived in my inbox too. It appears to me to be a binding motion applying from minute one.

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