The vast majority of British voters have zero interest in Prime Minister’s Questions. Nor, once the initial novelty had worn off, would they have any more interest in watching People’s Questions. It’s only politicians who think the weekly interrogation of politicians is of major national significance.

Dan Hodge

Do we need a Peoples’ PMQs?

UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband recently floated the idea of a weekly “public question time” where an audience representative of the country would question the prime minister on any issue of the day. Miliband was a bit short on details regarding how this would work. Apart from stating that the audience should be representative of the country, the only other details he provided was that the public PMQs should be held in parliament at least every two weeks, but preferably weekly. On the surface, it’s an interesting idea, but it also raises a number of questions. First of all, how would these people – representative of the country – be selected? Would it be a completely random process, you […]

The 1922 Committee

There has been a lot of discussion among Canadian political pundits of caucus-driven party leadership challenges. I thought it might be a good idea to explore how that happens in practice by looking at procedure followed by the UK Conservative Party. The UK Conservative Party is interesting to me because it uses a hybrid system to select a new party leader. The caucus will narrow the choice of candidates down to two, and only at that point will the party’s wider membership vote to select a leader from those two candidates. Everything begins, however, with the very important 1922 Committee. The 1922 Committee, also known as “the 22”, is a committee of backbench Conservative MPs. The committee was formed in […]

The Reform Act and the issue of leader selection

Most opposition to the Reform Act seems to be focused on the proposal to allow a party caucus to trigger a confidence vote in the party leader. As I indicated in my first post on the bill, I am not opposed to this reform. I do, however, have some concerns that the Act does not go far enough; it does not allow the caucus to also select a leader (other than on an interim basis). In recent days, a number of columnists have also singled out this particular omission as problematic (Chris Selley, Dale smith and Jeff Jedras). I’ve explained that, in terms of party leader selection, Canada is an outlier. Our party leaders are selected by the party membership, […]

David Frum misses the point

“Parliamentary control of the executive—rightly conceived—is not the enemy of effective government, but its primary condition.” Bernard Crick, The Reform of Parliament, 1970, p 259 David Frum is not a fan of the Reform Act. What underlies Frum’s objection to the Act is a blurring of the distinction between, on the one hand, the legislature and the Executive, and on the other, party and government. It’s not that Frum doesn’t understand that these distinctions exist – he does – to a degree, at least. But he doesn’t seem to understand them well. Frum doesn’t want to relinquish one iota of a party leader’s control over candidate nominations. He writes: No party can perfectly protect itself against ever nominating crooked or […]

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 […]

More thoughts on “The Reform Act”

Another reform being proposed by MP Michael Chong in his Reform Act (see this first post for background) is removing the party leader’s veto over riding nominations. Currently, the Canada Elections Act stipulates that the witness for a nominated candidate must file with the returning officer in the electoral district in which the prospective candidate is seeking nomination: “an instrument in writing, signed by the leader of the political party or by a person referred to in subsection 383(2), that states that the prospective candidate is endorsed by the party in accordance with section 68.” [67(4)(c)] The Reform Act proposes instead: 4. Paragraph 67(4)(c) of the Act is replaced by the following: (c) if applicable, an instrument in writing, signed […]