Rethinking hung parliament outcomes

With a little less than five months to go until the next UK general election in May 2015, the general consensus amongst pundits and pollsters is that there will be another hung parliament. UK Parliamentary Election Forecast has been releasing daily seat projections based on polling trends. The most recent forecasts have predicted either a tie between the Conservatives and Labour, or else one of the two major parties marginally ahead by a handful of seats or less. In every instance, however, each party is well short of the 326 seats needed for a (one-seat) single party majority government. This reality has prompted a number of news articles and opinion pieces speculating on the problem of government formation following the […]

The situation of Parliament during a prolonged period of political crisis

I have previously written about the convention of caretaker government here, and here. That convention holds that during an election campaign, the ministry continues to hold office until a new ministry is sworn in. There are, however, limitations on what a minister can do during both the election campaign and the period of government formation following a general election. For Canadians (as well as people in the UK, Australia and other countries), there normally isn’t much of a delay in forming a new government following a general election. Usually, it is known on election night which party will form the government. This isn’t always the case, however. In 2010, in the UK, it took five days of intense negotiations between […]

Some interesting links: rebel MPs, e-petitions, hung parliaments, and political disengagement

1. Rebels of the Chamber Isabel Hardman has a fascinating piece looking at some of the most rebellious backbench MPs in the UK House of Commons: Once an MP starts down the route of the serial rebel, it seems easier for the whips to leave them be. Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, is one such example. “A whip called me once, saying: ‘I just wanted to confirm that you will definitely be voting against us tonight’,” he says. “I replied, yes, your intelligence is right.” 2. Procedure Committee releases its report on e-Petitions In an earlier post, I reported on a hearing of the UK House of Commons Procedure Committee into the Government’s e-petitions scheme. The Committee recently released its […]

Understanding government formation

There is some confusion in Canada (and elsewhere) as to how government formation occurs following a general election, particularly when an election results in a hung parliament. This post will attempt to provide a basic overview of the process. First, there are a couple of key concepts to understand and keep in mind. 1. In Westminster parliamentary systems, voters do not elect governments You may frequently read media reports saying that recent polls show that a minority or majority government will be elected. This is false. Canadians, including at the provincial level, do not elect governments, we elect a parliament. The vote you cast is for your local MP or provincial representative only. You are not casting a vote for […]

On responsible media

In the lead-up to the May 2010 United Kingdom general election, opinion polls showed that in all likelihood, the election would result in a hung, or minority parliament, that is, a parliament in which no single party would have a majority of the seats in the House of Commons. The last hung parliament in the UK had occurred in 1974, and so a hung parliament result in 2010 would be a new experience for many – voters, politicians and the media alike. Consequently, several think tanks in the UK set out to publicly educate both voters and the media. As the Institute for Government noted in a written brief to the UK House of Commons Select Committe on Political and […]

Keyword post: Short answers to various queries

The following are answers to questions based on recent keyword search activity which has led people to this blog. 1. How many signatures does an e-petition require for it to be debated in the UK Parliament? First of all, there is no guarantee that any petition will be debated in Parliament. Under the UK Government’s new e-petitions scheme, if an e-petition gets 100,000 signatures that will only guarantee that it will be referred to the Backbench Business Committee for consideration for debate in the House of Commons, however, the Committee is free to consider scheduling a debate on any petition, regardless of the number of signatures it receives. In other words, garnering 100,000 signatures will not guarantee a debate, and garnering […]