Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Who says who stays, who goes?

I'm intrigued by the Constitutional Arrangements established by the Cabinet Office for this election.

As I understand it, if the governing party receives the most seats but fails to gain a majority, it assumes a right to continue in power until winning or losing the vote on the Queen's speech.

Perhaps this is just a formal iteration of an acknowledged procedure. Yet my memory tells me the convention was that the Monarch herself decides who will be allowed to try to form a government.

I'm not actually advocating the Conservatives form an alliance with the LibDems, or with any other parties, but, in theory, there are potentially stronger options available than Brown trying to cling to office with a minority government.

Is this another instance of our constitution being 'modernised' by politicised officials—just like those in Brussels?

I presume the Queen's opinion on this constitutional matter also hasn't been sought.

UPDATE: Wed 5th May
Professor Robert Hazell, of the Constitution Unit at UCL, tonight confirmed the impact of the constitutional arrangements he has recommended for the event of a hung parliament.

If Cameron gains the most seats, but less than a majority, by Friday morning he'll be claiming victory and a right to form the next government—with or without others' help. But according to the newly defined procedures, Gordon Brown will still get first bite at the cherry.

If Brown can fix an arrangement with other parties that could survive the Queen's speech, then he'll be able to continue in government and the Conservatives (despite winning most seats) won't get a chance to offer a plausible alternative.

This doesn't sound very fair to me.

Professor Hazell may be called to defend his recommendation, together with Gus O'Donnell at the Cabinet Office.

N.B. Hazell is an expert in constitutional reform research that is substantially funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which in turn is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is of course Lord Mandelson's department.


Dave Gould said...

Who would actually prop up a Labour govt though?
Not the SNP, not Plaid Cymru, not the Ulster Unionists.

Not Nick Clegg either unless there's a significant swing back towards Labour tomorrow (according to what Clegg said on the 25th).

The only time I forsee it being unfair is if there were 4 parties and no likely pairing led to a majority.

Martin S said...

Ah. I see. The Dark Lord rules over us all. All praise the Dark Lord. Or else...

Anonymous said...

Reply to DG,

It's Friday morning now and still no result. But as you will now know Gordon appears to be clinging on and the LibDems seem his only salvation.

Since Labour came second not third, Clegg could reverse his pledges and still do a deal with Labour.

The figures and stats are a confusion. Most seats lost by Labour since 1931, yet their defeat doesn't seem as bad as John Major's in 1997.

At this moment I'm betting on Cameron meeting the Queen soonish, though not necessarily before Brown.

Dave Gould said...

I'm guessing the picture is a bit clearer by now.

Clegg has kept his word and is trying to do a deal with the Tories.

Alternate options for Clegg are:
1. Refuse to deal with anyone -> new election and possibly chaos on the financial markets.
2. Anti-Tory coalition which probably doesn't have enough seats to see through the Queen's Speech - and David Blunkett, John Reid and Diane Abbott have said it wouldn't work.

Is Clegg using it as a bargaining chip? Does he think it could get through a vote on electoral reform and then call a new election?

To me, there are 2 interpretations of what's going on:
a) the Con-LD talks are going well - they're very co-ordinated in their comments to the media and they have a very loose agreement on what would be mutually acceptable in an electoral system.
b) Clegg feels he has no choice.