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 […]

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 […]


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. The UK Labour Party is in the midst of a leadership contest which has not been going to plan. The most left-wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, looks set to win on the first ballot, if recent polls are accurate. The Telegraph has a very helpful explanation of who’s who in the race, what some of […]

OMOV can co-exist with stronger caucus control over the party leadership; the two are not mutually exclusive. What is being proposed in the much-watered down Reform Act does not go anywhere near as far as what either Labour or the Lib Dems do; indeed, it isn't even mandatory for parties to adopt any of its proposals. Would Canadian parties be willing to move in this direction? That, sadly, is doubtful, despite all of the extremely good reasons for why they should.

Some thoughts on party leadership

Is the use of One-member-one-vote (OMOV) incompatible with a parliamentary party’s caucus having a degree of control over the party leadership? This is a question that surfaced as MP Michael Chong’s Reform Act faced opposition in the Canadian Senate. One Senator explained his opposition to the bill on the grounds that it would (potentially) give sitting MPs the right to ditch the party leader, which would upset the party membership which had elected said leader. Maclean’s Aaron Wherry has an excellent piece dissecting this point. On Twitter, Will Murray (@Will_Murray) tweeted the following: 1. Whether people like it or not, the Canadian political/parliamentary system has moved beyond the idea the caucus picks the leader. (link) 2. Each party now uses […]


Why Canadians should pay close attention to the UK election campaign

There will be a general election here in Canada in 2015, most likely in the fall. There is incessant speculation that the election may occur sooner than that, but as per our not-so-fixed election date, we will go to the polls in October. Before Canadians vote, there will be a general election in the UK, on May 7. And Canadians should be paying very close attention to the campaign and vote. Here are a few reasons why. 1. There will be debates. Probably. While leaders’ debates are old hat in Canada, the 2010 UK general election saw the first ever televised leaders’ debates. This time around, there are three debates scheduled. The first two (April 1 and 16) will feature […]

Coalition government: not liked, but expected

A few years ago, I wrote a post exploring why the very idea of  coalition government became such a negative thing in Canada. I’ve also written a number of posts explaining that, in the United Kingdom, coalition government has become the expected outcome in the event of a general election which results in a hung parliament (this being the most recent one). UK polling firm Ipsos Mori today released its Political Monitor January 2014. Along with the usual data regarding voting intentions and satisfaction with the various party leaders and the economy, there are some very interesting numbers regarding the outcome of future elections. A majority (51%) of those polled believe that the 2015 general election will result in another […]