Route 66

A quick post on Clegg’s announcement today in the Commons that the Government could only be dissolved if two-thirds of the House voted in favour (cf. the original plan for 55% to be needed, rather than a simple 50%+1 majority, which is what’s required for a vote of no confidence).

At first glance this would seem to be even worse. If requiring 55% is undemocratic, and cements the coalition in place for five years, then two-thirds makes their position even more entrenched. Even with a significant rebellion it would be virtually impossible to get two-thirds voting in favour of dissolution. So you’d end up with a situation where the Government could lose confidence votes, but stay in power, hanging on grimly till the bitter end of their five year term. Although Clegg is also saying that if a Government loses a vote of no-confidence, and then can’t form another Government within 14 days, then an election has to be called.

Clegg’s take on this is that it’s actually a democratic move, as it prevents the Government going to the country early, i.e. it takes the power to call the election out of the hands of the Executive (for which read, the Prime Minister) and gives it to the legislature. Hmmm…

I have to get on with unpacking crates now, but my feeling is… if we’re having a referendum next year on AV, shouldn’t all these other major constitutional issues, for which the ConDem coalition don’t have a mandate, be put to the country too? Cutting the number of MPs by 10% and five-year fixed term parliaments are pretty major changes.  Why not  let the public have a say?

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  • Herb  On July 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Did you miss the part of the statement that no-confidence votes are now going to be put on a statutory status rather than being a convention, that no-confidence votes will remain 50% + 1, and that if after 14-days after the passage of a motion of no confidence a government cannot be formed, Parliament will be automatically dissolved and a new election held without the need for a two-thirds vote? I believe this revised plan has been adapted from the Scottish Parliament model, passed in legislation under Labour, except the interval for forming a new government is 28-days in Scotland.

    Supermajorities for important votes affecting the very basis of democracy are not unusual in other parts of the world: a two-thirds vote is required by both the House of Representatives and the Senate of the U.S. Congress to send a constitutional amendment to the states for ratification, and also to override a Presidential veto.

  • Mike  On July 5, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Loads wrong with the current commons setup, too many MPs inequal consituencies. Wasted vote if it is anything other than Labour in Bristol S for example.

    For a start, how about the speakers roles being appointed outside elected constituency commons members?

    As how can Dawn both play to win for her constituents in Bristol S and be referee for the commons at the same time?

    I would do this rant on her blog, but she’s not quite as open/aware to the wonders of the internet as you are. (There’s another one – all MP’s are required to blog to justify their voting patterns to their constituents!)

  • Paul N  On July 6, 2010 at 9:19 am

    So do you think giving the power to the legislature and removing it from the executive is a democratic move or not ? Would you leave it as it is, so a government can call an election when it likes ? Do fixed term parliaments bring stability or not ?

    I think we need to be clear here about the difference between a vote of no confidence and dissolution. They are entirely separate things.

    Clegg: “These proposals should make it absolutely clear to the house that votes of no confidence and votes for early dissolution are entirely separate. We are putting in place safeguards against a lame duck government being left in limbo if the house passes a vote of no confidence but does not vote for early dissolution.”

    Regarding putting other decisions to a referendum as well, I’m all for real democracy, but critics would argue that this was a slippery slope. How many other policy questions would be added to the the voting paper ?

  • kerrymccarthy  On July 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Herb… yes I did, sort of, and now appreciate that it was to a degree a U-turn, in that under the original proposals the coalition could have narrowly lost a no-confidence vote but could have carried on regardless unless 55% could be mustered to vote for dissolution, whereas now it falls within 14 days of a 50%+1 no-confidence vote if it can’t form a coalition which commands the confidence of the House. So yes, it’s a step in the right direction. But I still think 5 years is too long for a fixed term parliament. It should be 4.


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