Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

The 55% Thing

Like James, I have not blogged too quickly on the 55% debate, though I did draft a piece up on Thursday before deciding that I ought to have something of an idea of what the heck I was talking about.

To be honest, I am finding it difficult to get too worked up about the whole thing, though I probably should. Perhaps it’s because I know that much of the public will have little interest in it, given that now that the shape of the new government is settled most people are more interested in the mundane business of work and looking forward to the summer holidays. Therefore my mind is not made up, despite what follows.

I am still not comfortable with the idea that any government should change a parliamentary convention just for short term – or one term, to be more precise – convenience. I appreciate the numbers of course: non-Conservatives make up 53% of the seats in the Commons, so if the coalition broke up a dissolution would not necessarily follow – but is that the way it should be?

A confidence vote will still, as far as I am aware, require only a simple majority. Is it right that when a government no longer has the confidence of the house a general election should not follow? Put aside the example of Neville Chamberlain’s government in 1940; we are not fighting a world war. What would it do to the image of politics and parliament in the eyes of the voting public if the head of a government which can no longer govern still clings on as the result of a procedural adjustment?

Clearly the 55% is relevant only to the current coalition’s circumstances. I would not be disappointed if the proposal fell in what is rumoured to be a free vote. Should it stand, however, it should have a sunset clause that is effective no later than the end of this parliamentary term – if not before.

One other point springs to mind: if our Government is to establish a principle that a minimum 55% majority is required to change the status quo, then can we expect the same threshold (or higher, why stop at 55%?) to be applied, say, to the referendum on electoral reform?

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One response to “The 55% Thing

  1. Nicholas Bennett May 15, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    If a government cannot command a majority then, in the words of the great constitutionalist M Python, it should cease to be. I suspect that second thoughts will lead to this proposal being dropped.

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