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 […]

Some final thoughts on the Reform Act

In my first post on the Reform Act, I addressed the proposal of allowing a caucus to implement a leadership review upon a petition of 15% of the elected members and a secret ballot vote garnering over 50% support. This was complemented by a brief look at how this process has worked in other jurisdictions. My second Reform Act post focused on the proposal that we remove the party leader’s veto over riding nominations. This last post will focus on Chong’s proposal that caucuses elect their chairs and admit and eject caucus members based on the 15%/50% rules employed to trigger a leadership review. I will start by saying that I honestly have no real opinion concerning the matter of […]

Parliamentary reform would work

In a recent article, Don Lenihan argues that parliamentary reform won’t “force a government to engage in meaningful debate” and reverse the fact that Parliament is, in his words “broken”. Lenihan writes: MPs like Michael Chong and Nathan Cullen remain hopeful. They think that the right combination of rules and procedures can fix Parliament. Unfortunately, if “fixing” it means rekindling meaningful debate, they are wrong. House Speaker Andrew Scheer’s ruling on the F-35s last week inadvertently shows why. Scheer argues that a minister cannot be charged with misleading the House unless it can be proved that he/she intended to do so. Intentions, however, are slippery things. (…) Scheer’s point is that, when a minister declares that he/she is not lying, […]

Legislating free votes

I have written a number of posts on that touch on the issue of whipped votes and MPs toeing the party line (for example, see here, here, here, here and here). During the current election campaign in the Canadian province of Alberta, the Wildrose Party has promised, if it forms the government, that it will introduce the Alberta Accountability Act, which will legislate into being such initiatives as fixed election dates, voter-initiated recall and referendums, as well as free votes in the legislature. On the issue of free votes, the Party explains: Government MLAs being forced to vote as instructed by the Premier is an undemocratic tradition that has evolved over many years. Legislation overriding this tradition, making free votes […]

No backbench rebellions, please, we’re Canadians

There has been much media focus in the United Kingdom over the numerous government backbench rebellions among both Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs since May 2010. This is regularly monitored on the website. By September 2011, the number of Coalition Commons rebellions so far this Parliament stood at 150, a rebellion rate of a rebellion in 44% of votes. Sixty-six of those rebellions involved Liberal Democrat MPs, a rate of a rebellion in 19% of votes. More recently, Mark Pack took a closer look at the Liberal Democrat rebellions, and provided quite a few interesting statistics which you can read here. I have previously written that such large scale rebellions are practically unheard of in the Canadian House of […]

On toeing the party line: three-line whips

(Note: See this post for statistics on how often Canadian MPs vote with their party.) In an earlier post, I discussed how UK MPs tend to be far more rebellious than their Canadian counterparts, frequently voting against their own party. In that post, I noted that large scale rebellions were, for all intents and purposes, non-existent in Canada; party discipline is much, much stronger in Canada (and from what I understand, in Australia too). Tomorrow (24 October 2011) there will be a Backbench Business debate on holding a referendum on British membership of the EU. The motion, from Conservative MP David Nuttall reads: “This House calls upon the government to introduce a bill in the next session of Parliament to […]