May 12th, 2010
|02:39 pm - More on this|
From the Conservative Lib Dem coalition negotiations document:
6. Political Reform
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.
I feel that a no-confidence vote is a proxy for having enough support to pass legislation. I would like to know what happens if a government only commands 46% of the votes in the House. They will not be able to go, but they wont have any ability to legislate.
ETA - BBC “The Lib Dems have called a special conference on Sunday to allow their membership to vote on the coalition agreement. It’s already been approved by the powers at the top, but in a statement the Lib Dems say they “remain a democratic party, and we believe it is right to consult our membership on this momentous occasion in our party’s history”.
It remains to be seen whether the Lib Dem rank and file will vote for this
I agree. If you don't have the support of the house then you don't have the support of the house.
In that situation I can see everyone else basically voting down everything the minority government tried to pass, until they vote themselves out of office.
Possibly the idea is that it prevents a fully tied situation, with a single vote tipping you between two different coalitions, but it seems terribly clumsy to me.
Possibly just to avoid the 1979 situation ...
1979: Early election as Callaghan defeated
Prime Minister James Callaghan has lost a parliamentary vote of confidence by a minority of one - forcing him to call an early general election.
The vote of "no confidence" was brought by opposition leader Margaret Thatcher and the government's downfall was announced at 2219 BST.
The House of Commons carried the Conservative motion by 311 votes to 310 making Mr Callaghan the first Prime Minister since Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 to be forced into an election by the chamber.
A vital vote was lost through the absence of Sir Alfred Broughton, Labour MP for Batley, who was too ill to attend.http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/28/newsid_2531000/2531007.stm
If a party only commands 46% of the votes, then as long as the other 54% vote in a particular direction, then law still gets passed/killed, or even if only 4.1% is willing to side with the government.
And if a government *wants* to go, then I'm sure they can find another 10% willing to vote in favour of dissolving parliament to reach the 55%
but if a government doesn't want to go... in my opinion they should have to
I can just about see the case for fixed term - after all, the only goal of the Chartists that has never been achieved is annual parliamentary elections - but I'm unconvinced by the need for five years. Maybe three? Or take a leaf out of (many) councils' books, and have one third of the seats up every three/four years - less dramatic than an all-out election, but perhaps more stable to have a regular turnover. You could do it with clusters of three neighbouring constituencies, one of them up at a time, to keep some sort of rough balance between types of areas (natural Labour, natural Tory, etc).
I see no benefit to the country, but lots of benefits to the government.
Even more on this
Does this mean we have no choice but to have a Cameron government for 5 years? Not at all. No confidence votes will still stand, including on issues such as voting down a budget. If 50%+1 MPs vote against the government on this then the result is either the resignation of government or the dissolution of parliament. Even assuming that (quite unlikely as it is) Cameron will force it so that you cannot dissolve parliament this way, it still means he'll have to resign as Prime Minister and the Queen will have to ask someone else to form a government.
Edit3: Some feel this is all undemocratic and without precedent. Scotland operates fixed term parliaments, and their threshold for dissolution is 66%, higher than 55%. The reason for this is because fixed term parliaments are intended to keep on going, if a coalition fails the first course of action should NOT, under a fixed term parliament, be an election...it should be giving another coalition or minority government the chance to rule. They also have a 28 day release, which means if no-one is able to gain power to govern, to protect against the sort of thing I state above about keeping a parliament crippled, an election is automatically called. I'd fully expect that to be the case for the UK as well, though we have to be calm and wait for the full details.
Where are they from? These seem to be fair and democratic people saying 'It will have to be done in this way, because the alternative would be undemocratic and unfair'. But as I have said, I think politicians have unique temptations, and we need systems that don't just assume they will act fairly. Why for example would Cameron 'have to' resign if 50%+1 MPs vote against the government? The law is specifically changing so he won't have to.
D'oh, I linked to your post rather than the source
Does that mean that the Con-Lib coalition will now be in power for the next five years come what may?
No. The legislation will provide for a general election to be called if 55% or more of the Commons votes in favour. The convention since 1782 has been that a significant defeat on a major issue can lead to a vote of no confidence in the government. If they lose that vote then they are obliged to resign or call a general election. This happened twice in the last century – in 1923 and 1979.
The fixed-term parliament legislation will take away the power of a prime minister to call an election in these circumstances. But it will also mean that if the government falls the sitting prime minister can try to form a new coalition government from among the opposition parties. If that fails in other fixed-term parliaments, such as in Germany, the head of state can call an election, but in Britain there is no wish to involve the Queen in such decisions.
So they have settled on a threshold of 55% of MPs to force a general election. The 55% figure is significant because the Conservatives have 47% of MPs and it ensures that the Lib Dems cannot simply walk out of the coalition and vote with the opposition to call a general election as they can only muster 53% of the vote.
Cameron will have to resign if 50+1% vote against and he cannot form an alternative coalition, because the confidence motions are now going to be separate from the motion to hold an election. More on the Guardian's liveblog
"The 55% figure is significant because the Conservatives have 47% of MPs and it ensures that the Lib Dems cannot simply walk out of the coalition and vote with the opposition to call a general election."
This I think is the essence of my point. I am going to stand back now, and watch the Lib Dems do this to themselves, because they seem set on it.
It's just possible they're doing it as a point of principle rather than for the politics of it, you know; from the reading I've done over the past couple of days, this seems like a good and sensible way to run fixed-term Parliaments, even if it has a risk to the Lib Dems in this specific one. Although actually, I think the benefit to them outweighs the risk. They can still walk out of the coalition, but it means that if the Conservatives want an election they have to vote for it themselves, they can't force the Liberal Democrats into doing it on their behalf.
Yes. As with most simplistic views on complex issues, I find the reasoning somewhat lacking. :-)
|Date:||May 14th, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)|| |
Exactly. Word has it they wanted 66, which is what Scotland Act gave Holyrood, but Tories brought it down to 55. Anything below that would be really bad for the principle of fixed terms.
Confidence votes don't change, at all, this removes a power from the PM, to ask for dissolution at will, and gives it to the House, to vote for dissolution with slightly larger requirement.
If it was just 50%, then in future PArlts, a Govt elected on a majority of one could wait six months, vote to dissolve, then try for a stronger mandate, which would mean we don't actually have fixed terms.
Whereas at 55%+, Govts have a working majority, risky to go early as could be reduced in punishment, etc etc.