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In case you missed it

UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow gave an interview at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival earlier this month in which he provides insight into the role of the Speaker and why he was attracted to the position. The University of Edinburgh Business School have very helpfully provided a recording of it free of charge should anyone be curious as to what was said at the event. [pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#336699″ class=”” size=”5px”]”Labour made a deadly error when during the last Parliament it removed the institutional say of its MPs in its own leadership contests, as we are now seeing.”[/pullquote] The UK Labour Party is in the midst of a leadership contest which has not been going to plan. The […]

Hdr_parliament

Reflections on the 2015 UK General Election

First of all, I must say I am deeply disappointed with the results. Not because the Conservatives managed to win a majority of the seats, but because any party was able to do that! I was truly looking forward to a very messy hung parliament; days, if not weeks, of talks and negotiations between the various parties; and a chance to see the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act come into play. Alas, that is not to be. I — like most viewers I would imagine — was incredibly surprised by the exit poll results announced as soon as the polls closed. Not so much by the forecast that the Tories would be the largest party — that I had […]

This is also the main reason why I really don't like the use of the term "minority parliament". I would much prefer it if Canadian reporters used "hung parliament" or "balanced parliament"; that way, much of this sort of confusion could be avoided.

Erroneous things written by political commentators

It’s become painfully clear to me that a number of reporters and columnists who cover politics don’t fully understand how a Westminster parliamentary democracy works. I’ve written a number of posts dissecting really, really bad articles, but even in mostly good pieces, you often find one or two glaring howlers. Here are a few recent examples. The general election on May 5 in the Canadian province of Alberta is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in decades and could possibly result in the end of 44 years of Progressive Conservative (PC) Party governance. However, political polling being rather hit and miss these days — and it was certainly a miss in the 2012 Alberta general election — […]

The constitutional rule is that the politician who can command the confidence of the House of Commons becomes PM. This could be the leader of the second largest party, if he can secure sufficient support from third and minor parties.

The Constitution Unit

Government Formation Revisited

I’ve written a number of posts exploring the issue of government formation in a hung parliament, but in the lead-up to the May 7 2015 UK General Election, a number of helpful guides and videos on the issue have appeared. While they specifically address the current situation in the UK, the basic principles apply here in Canada as well (except for the conditions imposed by the UK’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act). Preparing for another hung Parliament: 9 key questions answered : The media and voters may assume that 2015 will then see a replay of 2010, with the swift formation of another coalition government. Not necessarily so, as explained by the former director of UCL’s Constitution Unit, Prof Robert Hazell in […]

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Much ado about the Fixed-term Parliaments Act

It would be remiss of me to not comment on the growing worry over the UK’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FPTA) and its possible consequences should the May 2015 election result in another hung parliament, as most pundits expect will be the case. While I wrote a fair bit about the FTPA when it was going through the legislative process back in 2010-11, I will briefly outline its main features. Unlike Canadian legislation fixing election dates, the FTPA is binding. The duration of a parliament is set to five (5) years, and the Prime Minister cannot unilaterally call for an earlier election. The royal prerogative of dissolution has been removed. That said, an early election is still possible, by one of […]

First, the people don't choose who governs in a Westminster parliamentary system. We do not vote for governments -- we vote for our Member of Parliament, and we elect a Parliament. It is the make-up of that Parliament which determines what party -- or parties -- will form the government.

On dumping first-past-the-post for all the wrong reasons

In an earlier post, I explained how Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson was wrongly pinning the blame for most of the problems facing Canada’s parliament on the country’s voting system, first-past-the-post (FPTP). Today a similar article has appeared in the UK media, Hung parliaments are on the up across the world – it’s time to dump first-past-the-post. This opinion piece is far worse than Simpson’s. The author, Richard McGinley, demonstrates a notable misunderstanding of how the Westminster system of parliamentary government works. He also calls for a change of voting systems, because FPTP (occasionally) leads to hung parliaments, but fails to acknowledge that PR systems almost always result in hung parliaments. It’s all very confusing. McGinley begins saying: THE […]