Saturday, May 15, 2010

Double-dealing Tory Leaders?

This week I've discussed some of the machinations of the formation of the new British coalition Government, and warned of the dangers of the Prime Minister giving away the historic right of Parliament not only to declare no-confidence on a simple majority vote, but to dissolve on a majority as well. The situation exists whereby the present coalition could falter and the Government lose the confidence of the House, yet there would be no way to dissolve Parliament and resolve the question. Now, today's Daily Mail says and Members of Parliament-both Conservative and Labour-are fighting back against a serious threat to both the parliamentary system and Britain's "unwritten constitution:"

The Prime Minister sought to head off his first rebellion from backbenchers by insisting the controversial new rules were up for debate.

Mr Cameron has been warned that his attempts to increase the number of MPs required to force a General Election would lead to a 'zombie Government' that would stagger on even if it was dead on its feet.

The new Prime Minister wants to bring in legislation allowing him to govern for five years. Under the change, he could be removed only if 55 per cent of MPs voted for the dissolution of Parliament.

At the moment, MPs can kick out a government in a no-confidence vote with a majority of just one.

Senior Labour MPs have publicly opposed the 'stitch-up'. But Conservative MPs also began breaking ranks for the first time yesterday to criticise the plans.

In an embarrassing retreat, Downing Street suggested the Commons vote on the controversial reforms might not even be whipped - as previously expected.

There was also speculation that Mr Cameron could start the Bill off in the House of Lords, where it is almost certain to be defeated by peers.

This would provide him with a face-saving opportunity to ditch or amend the plans.

Senior Tory backbencher Christopher Chope told Radio 4's The World At One that the plans were 'unsustainable'.

He said: 'If the present Government was to lose its majority in Parliament and wasn't able to operate as a minority government because it didn't enjoy the confidence of a sufficient number of MPs, then what is being suggested is that it would be able to carry on. That would be, basically, a recipe for anarchy.'

Fellow Tory MP Philip Davies added: 'The Government can only continue as long as it has the confidence of a majority of MPs.

'You cannot have a situation where a government changes the percentage to suit its own end.

'If a Labour government was doing this, I would be wholly opposed to it and I am now. It is totally unacceptable to change the rules of the game like this.'

It is good to see that there is some unity among political parties in an area where it really matters-threats to a country's basic governmental structure. However, Prime Minister David Cameron is quickly losing the trust of many of his backbench MPs because we now learn that he gave in to his coalition partners and sacrificed many areas of Conservative Party policy not out of necessity, but because he didn't like many Conservative policies and was looking for an excuse to have them scrapped anyway:

The disclosure of just how easily – and willingly – the Conservatives surrendered key commitments to Mr Clegg threatens to spark a backlash against the shotgun wedding between the Tories and the Lib Dems.

The Lib Dems seized the chance to scrap some of the policies most cherished by the Tory grassroots – including abandoning their promise to grab back powers from Brussels and not to increase capital gains tax.

‘Our negotiating team said the Conservatives told them, “There is something in your manifesto we would like to concede, can you add it to your list?” and “There are some things in our manifesto that are daft which we would be delighted if you would veto”.

Lord Greaves said Tory Right-wingers would be horrified when they discovered how easily their team surrendered key policies – and how keen they were to dump them for Lib Dem policies.

Former Tory Cabinet Minister Norman Tebbit warned last night: ‘David Cameron may regard the Election result as a blessing in disguise since it allows him to take the Tory Party to the Left.

‘That may please the bright young things around him who include former Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters, but not our traditional supporters. Many will stop canvassing, stop raising money and go back to running their own lives.’

This kind of duplicity is quite familiar to American "small-c" conservatives, who must deal with it all the time from our so-called "conservative" politicians. It also makes one wonder about David Cameron's authenticity as a person. If these stories have any truth to them, they show a Leader who simply doesn't care what the grassroots of his own political party actually thinks or believes.

For David Cameron's sake, I hope they aren't true, because if he loses the confidence of his own backbenchers and party faithful as Leader, his Government will quickly falter.

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At Thursday, May 20, 2010 12:51:00 PM, Blogger Linders said...

David, this isn't about diluting the power of Parliament, but taking power from the Prime Minister and giving it to Parliament.

At the moment, the Prime Minister can request a dissolution of Parliament at any time, for any reason. Under these new proposals, Parliament could request a dissolution with a 55% vote.

The 50%+1 status for a vote of no-confidence in the administration remains, as before.


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