David Cameron speaks during PMQs

Clarifying PMQs

Dale Smith has an interesting post dissecting proposals for reform of Question Period in the Canadian House of Commons as put forward by the Liberal Party. He raises some valid points, but also makes a notable error, which I will endeavour to correct here. Smith writes: Part of what’s been the beauty of our QP as we have structured it is that the PM can be called upon to answer any question on any day, with no advance notice. That’s not the way it works in Westminster, where the PM is given questions in advance. This isn’t 100% accurate. Most of the time, the UK Prime Minister does not know in advance what questions will be put to him or […]

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ICYMI 16 September 2015

The National Assembly of Quebec adopted a motion to put an end to clapping in the Chamber by MNAs during the daily Oral Questions. This is, in my opinion, a very good thing, and I hope other Canadian legislatures move in a similar direction. Regular readers will remember that I am not a fan of clapping in the Chamber. New Labour Party leader and Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn was front and centre for his first-ever Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). Corbyn took a very different approach to PMQs. He put out a call to the general public asking them to submit questions he could ask of the Prime Minister and received over 40,000 responses. The Leader of the Opposition […]

The premise on which it is based is that the job of a party leader is to lead his party in Parliament. That presumes that what goes on in Parliament matters, but what goes on in Parliament matters, in large part, to the degree that party leaders are answerable to its members.

Andrew Coyne

A tale of two leaderships

Over the past few days, there have been two quite momentous events in terms of political party leadership. In the UK, under new leadership selection rules, a candidate with virtually no caucus support was the overwhelming choice of the Labour Party’s membership in their first-ever One-Member-One-Vote (OMOV) leadership vote. Meanwhile, in Australia, Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister Tony Abbott was tossed by his party caucus, and replaced in that role by leadership challenger (and former party leader who himself was tossed in favour of Abbott) Malcolm Turnbull. All in the space of a matter of hours. Turnbull is now leader of the party and Prime Minister. On Twitter, Canadian political commentators have been pondering these two events, particularly the […]

David Cameron speaks during PMQs

Job-sharing PMQs

As expected, Jeremy Corbyn easily won the Labour leadership vote. As part of his plan to “shake up politics”, we also learned that Corbyn plans to step aside during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) and let other MPs question the PM. I have written frequently about how oral Questions work in the UK House of Commons. PMQs differs from the other departmental questions in one important way: it is the only oral questions session where two specific Members are allotted a fixed quota of questions. The two members in question are the Leader of the Opposition, who gets to ask six questions of the Prime Minister, and, since 1997, the leader of the next largest party, who is allocated two questions. In […]

To ensure effective governance in the transition period, it is essential that the Prime Minister and government do not resign until the next regular government has been formed.

Dr Petra Schleiter and Valerie Belu

Remedial Tutorial on Government Formation

Quite dishearteningly, the leaders of the three main federal political parties have made erroneous statements regarding government formation following a hung parliament result. All three have stated that the party with a plurality of the seats gets to form the government: In an interview with the CBC, Conservative Party leader and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following comments: Q: HERE’S THE QUESTION THOUGH. UM IS IT A CORRECT ASSUMPTION TO MAKE THAT WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP, IF WE’RE IN A MINORITY SITUATION, WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP WITH THE MOST SEATS SHOULD FORM THE GOVERNMENT? A: Yeah that’s my – that’s I think how conventionally our system works and for good reason and that’s – that’s my position. Obviously […]

The more the whip disempowers individual MPs, the weaker the party looks collectively. Hence the whole will be much stronger if it exerts less control over its parts, enabling members to show their individual strengths, troublesome though they may sometimes be.

Julian Baggini

Rebel with a whip

Author Julian Baggini wrote an op ed for the Guardian in which he calls on Jeremy Corbyn, should he, as expected, emerge as the winner of the Labour leadership contest, to ban the use of the whip. The whip is the official in a parliamentary party caucus who purpose is to ensure party discipline. The degree of whipping varies from one legislature to another. In the UK, whipping is mostly limited to ensuring MPs are present to vote and that they vote according to official party policy, while in Canada, the powers of the whip are far more extensive — many would say even excessive. There is a lot that I could comment on in Baggini’s piece — which I […]