The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Un-hanging Parliament

I came across this at lunchtime: a Canadian analysis of how the Conservative-Liberal coalition in the UK will simultaneously introduce fixed, five-year parliamentary terms and at the same time prevent the government from calling an early election. (Why Canadian? Because Canada has a fixed-term parliament, but, as Stephen Harper demonstrated in 2006, it isn't a fixed term if the ruling party doesn't want it to be.) The whole column is a bit wonkish, but it describes something approaching an intersection of game theory and UK constitutional law:

[I]f you look at the text of the Conservative-Lib Dem accord, it...says 55% would be required for “dissolution,” that is for dissolving the House and calling an election. This is a crucial difference [with a vote of no confidence]. Significantly, too, the provision comes at the tag end of the paragraph establishing a fixed five-year term of government. Because it’s the guarantee of it.

What it means is that if the government were defeated in the House — by the usual 50% margin — Prime Minister Cameron could not simply go the Queen and ask for dissolution. He would have to get a vote of 55% of the House to permit him to do so. So he could not wriggle out of the coalition, or the commitment to a five-year term, by engineering his own defeat (still less do what Stephen Harper did, and call a snap election, without even the fig-leaf of defeat to justify the breach).

A note about velocity: I'm posting less lately because I'm on a pretty intense project at work, and because this term's Duke workload is actually larger than first term. I'll explain what that means when I have a spare moment.

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