On forcing out a party leader

As touched on in my first post on the Reform Act, some critics of the bill argue that formal rules establishing a procedure by which a party caucus could initiate a vote of confidence in, followed by the possible removal of, its leader aren’t necessary since caucuses already have that power. Alice Funke, for example, writes: there is nothing in the law currently preventing party caucuses from doing this very thing now, and indeed they have done so frequently in our current system: Joe Clark was pushed into a leadership review, Michel Gauthier was pushed out as leader by the Bloc Québécois caucus, a good part of Stockwell Day’s caucus left him and the Canadian Alliance and joined the remainder […]

The length of two swords

Recently, the brilliant UK actor Philip Glenister (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, State of Play, Mad Dogs, Hidden, etc.) was interviewed on the Andrew Marr show in connection with his latest role, that of Chief Government Whip in the play “This House“, which is set in 1974, when Labour had a shaky minority government.The discussion turned to the innately adversarial nature of politics in the UK House of Commons, with Marr noting that the play was in some ways an attack on the British parliamentary tradition, that of two sides against each other, and that underneath, there was a dream of a better way of doing things, a call for politics to be more consensual. Glenister noted that UK […]

Parliaments, PMOs and Social Media

On Tuesday, 31 January 2012, Education Secretary Michael Gove appeared before the House of Commons Education Committee. It is the Committee’s mandate to monitor the policy, administration and spending of the Department for Education and its associated arms length bodies, and having the Minister give evidence allows them to scrutinize his work, performance and policies. This in and of itself is not remarkable. What is different about this meeting is that in advance of the session, the Committee asked the public to suggest questions via twitter. By all accounts, this rather novel approach was a huge success: “We have been overwhelmed by how many there have been… For the last few days, there have just been hundreds and hundreds and […]

Some interesting links

1. The Big Society The Canadian media has recently been reporting that the current Conservative Government is considering emulating the UK Coalition Government in adopting David Cameron’s Big Society. Some of what has been written here in Canada is critical of this, which is their perogative, but I found that they often failed to adequately explain the plan. See, for example, this post by Murray Dobbin, in which he dimisses the initiative as “social engineering from the right” and pointing out that the Big Society “scam” has been “widely ridiculed” but makes little effort to explain how it’s supposed to work. I am not argueing for or against this initiative, but I did think some Canadians (and perhaps some Brits) […]

On pairing

Pairing is a parliamentary practice whereby two members of parliament from opposing political parties may agree to abstain where one member is unable to vote, due to other commitments, illness, travel problems, etc. The rationale behind the practice is to maintain the relative distribution of seats in the House so that a party’s strength is based on who was elected, not which MPs are ill that day, or had their flight delayed. There are slight variations in how pairing is organized in different jurisdictions. UK House of Commons As explained on the UK Parliament website, Pairing is an arrangement where an MP of one party agrees with an MP of an opposing party not to vote in a particular division. […]

On electing a Speaker

In an earlier post, I explained the role of the Speaker in Westminster parliamentary systems, and briefly touched on how the Speaker is chosen. In this post, I will expand on that topic since there seems to be a degree of interest in the topic, according the blog’s search statistics. Canada: House of Commons The Constitution Act, 1867 requires that the Speaker be elected by the House of Commons: 44. The House of Commons on its first assembling after a General Election shall proceed with all practicable Speed to elect One of its Members to be Speaker. Prior to 1986, this amounted to the rubber-stamp approval of a Member nominated by the Prime Minister, and was usually, but not always, […]