Gerry Mander MP is back in the House


I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again

The Who’s lyrics seem especially aposite as the “new politics” starts off by resorting to some very old, 19th century, politics – rigging electoral and political systems to suit those in power.

The proposal to put into the legislation for fixed-term parliaments for the UK a provision that it requires a 55% vote to dissolve parliament is ludicrous in several ways.

First, it is clearly a short-term expedient solution to the problems of the current two-party coalition government. As such it is absolutely no way to design constitutional change.

Second, the way it has emerged – cobbled together in the back-rooms of the coalition negotiations – is almost certain to get the backs up of just about everyone who wasn’t included in this stitch-up. It is true that in fixed-term parliaments the same rules do not apply as in our current parliament. It is true that a vote of no confidence can’t automatically lead to a dissolution and fresh elections, or there’d be no point in having a fixed term. But coming up with a solution to this problem is a matter for serious thought and an inclusive constitutional commission, not a back room stitch-up to meet the short-term needs of one government. What were they thinking – or rather they clearly weren’t thinking?

Third, it is in any case unworkable. Parliament can pass an Act OK – but it cannot stop a majority of 1 overturning the provision of that Act requiring a 55% majority at any time. Only a constitutional provision in a written constitution with safeguards against simple majority tampering could provide such a secure provision for a “55%” rule. An Act of Parliament doesn’t cut it. Again, who’s genious idea was this?

And next comes an Act to reduce the number of MPs, change the way the Boundary Commission works and redistribute seats. Will anyone seriously trust the Lib-Con Coalition to do this in a disinterested, impartial, and inclusive was after this 55% fiasco? Gordon Brown had to cope with an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the first few weeks – this looks like an outbreak of foot in mouth disease in the first few days.

—–

PS

Since I wrote this the following interview appeared from Philip Hammond. It could not be clearer that the 55% idea is about political advantage and has nothing to do with a fair constitutional principle.

Hammond: Decisions on spending will make govt ‘unpopular’

  • 12:17
  • Philip Hammond MP
    • 14/05/10
    • Philip Hammond MP, Transport secretary
    • Daily Politics, BBC 2

Mr Hammond said the difficult decisions that the government would have to make on public spending would “quite likely” make the government unpopular. He added that the five year fixed term parliament, and the 55% rule for triggering an election, would give the government a full term to show the benefits of those tough decisions.

“I think putting in a supermajority – a 55% – requirement sends a clear signal about what we are going to do here. The tough decisions that have to be taken will make the government in office quite likely unpopular and over a five year period we will work through the initial reaction to tough decisions and we will start to deliver the benefits to those tough decisions,” Mr Hammond said.

He added: “Over the period of time delivering the benefits so people can see those tough decisions have been a form of medicine that works that fixes the problems the country is facing.”

The 55% rule in particular has been criticised recently, but Mr Hammond responded: “The intention here is to send a clear signal that this coalition arrangement to start with is going to last the distance, is going to go five years, allow the business community, international investors to see that there is a clear commitment to dealing with the country’s problems over that timescale.

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About Prof. Colin Talbot

Professor of Government (Emeritus). Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
This entry was posted in Politics, Whitehall. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gerry Mander MP is back in the House

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