Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Point of Interest: "UK's Hung Parliament." Will the Conservs Marry the Lib Dems?

Britain's inconclusive election

Struggling for power says The Economiist

As Conservatives and Lib Dems keep talking, Britain still has no new government
May 9th 2010 From The Economist online

DAVID CAMERON, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, the leaders of Britain’s three main political parties, appeared in public together, at a ceremony to commemorate Victory in Europe day, on Saturday May 8th. But behind the public decorum, a fierce and urgent struggle for the right to form the next government is continuing.

Later on the 8th Mr Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, and Mr Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, met privately in central London. On Sunday morning teams of negotiators appointed by the two men convened in talks facilitated by the civil service. The purpose is to see whether the two parties can reach an agreement that would enable a new government to be formed—following the general election on May 6th that, for the first time in Britain since 1974, returned a hung parliament, in which no party has overall control of the House of Commons.

read more;


  1. Confidence vs dissolution

    One of the problems with the Westminster system is the ability of the Prime Minister to call an election whenever they want. In the past - in 1951 in New Zealand, and every four years in the UK - this has been abused to go early when the polls are in the government's favour. In New Zealand, we now have a strong presumption that this is not permitted - governments calling an early election tend to be punished. But in the UK, it is the norm; their parliamentary term is technically five years, but elections tend to happen after four.

    The solution to this abuse is to remove the prerogative power of the Prime Minister to call an election, and instead fix the term of Parliament. Over in the UK, the LibDems have secured an agreement to do this as part of their coalition agreement. But the rider to this is causing some discussion:

    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.
    Incredibly, this is being widely reported as raising the threshold for a vote of no confidence. That would of course be dangerous and undemocratic, a denial of the fundamental rule of the Westminster system that the Prime Minister must hold the confidence of the House (as opposed to the confidence of only 45% of the House). But the agreement doesn't actually suggest that. Instead, as with the reporting around this whole election, it shows that the UK is still trapped in the mire of pluralitarian, FPP-thinking.
    The important point, which people are failing to distinguish, is that unseating a Prime Minister is not the same thing as dissolving Parliament and calling an election. The UK has traditionally conflated these, in that Prime Ministers defeated in a confidence vote have resigned and called an election. But it doesn't have to be that way. If, for example, there is someone else who commands the confidence of the House, then they could be appointed Prime Minister. UK political tradition is explicitly designed to thwart this - the defeated PM gets to rob their opponents of their victory by forcing an early election as a final act of spite.

    The Tory-LibDem coalition's proposal fixes this. Now, if a Prime Minister is defeated, Parliament will have to work to find another one. Only if they explicitly vote with a supermajority do they get an early election. But the problem isn't that 55% is too high a threshold for calling an early election - rather its that, against the backdrop of an unfair electoral system which regularly hands parties more than 60% of the seats on only 40% of the vote, it's not high enough. This "fixed term parliament" arrangement will work fine in a hung Parliament - but will be utterly useless under UK politics as usual
    by Idiot/Savant

  2. Britain Has New Prime Minister

    Britain has a new Prime Minister and a new government as five days of political deadlock has come to an end. Prime Minister Gordon Brown resigned as Britain's top politician on Tuesday evening, making way for Conservative leader David Cameron.

    Queen Elizabeth appointed Conservative leader David Cameron as the Prime Minister Tuesday evening.

    He is to form a coalition government with Britain's third largest party the Liberal Democrats, ending 13 years of Labor leadership.

    Speaking outside his new residence - number 10 Downing Street - Mr. Cameron said the road ahead won't be easy.

    "This is going to be hard and difficult work," said David Cameron. "A coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges but I believe together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs."
    read more;


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