Vir Cantium

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Category Archives: Constitution

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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Queen in Charge?

Lord Mandelson has denied that he is effectively “in charge” of the Titanic country while both Gordon and Harriet are on holiday. Which means that he probably is in the driving seat .. but then, what’s new?

All this does raise the interesting question (for anoraks like yours truly, at least) of what the legal “order of succession” is as far as the position of head of government is concerned.

The thing is, though, that it’s surely all rather academic … after all, who appoints the Prime Minister in the first place? In whose name is the government run? Of course, it’s the monarch. I would have thought that after all is said and done, it is the Queen who is ultimately in charge.

What’s that? An unelected person in charge of the nation? Now where have we heard that before….