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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Friday, May 14, 2010

Using Good Judgment in the Exercise of One's Rights

Yesterday's incident on the Tennessee House floor where House Speaker Kent Williams collapsed should remind us of the responsibility which comes with the right of a free press:

It shouldn't surprise anyone that as a blogger/political columnist I believe in a nearly unfettered free press. Further, I do not hold to the notion that a "free press" is limited to the established news media. All citizens have a right to the free press, and in our day and age that includes the internet-any citizen has the ability today to cover the news and, most importantly, to express opinions on that news. As someone who covers the General Assembly for The Examiner as part of my own blogging and writing activities, I believe Eric Schelzig had a right to be there and to photograph the proceedings of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Eric Schelzig is very good at what he does, but it might suit him-and all of us-to reflect on using our right to freedom of the press with both discretion and dignity.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Diabetic Shock

House Speaker Kent Williams collapsed on the House floor today from what was apparently diabetic shock.

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Britain's Strange Coalition

A coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is now a reality in Britain. One of the concessions that now-Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to in entering into government with the usually Left-of-Center Liberal Democrats was that the term of Parliament would be fixed to five years. In other words, Cameron has essentially agreed to give up his historic right to ask the Queen for a dissolution of Parliament and a fresh election. As former Conservative Party Chairman Norman Tebbit writes, a fixed-term Parliament could create a real problem if this coalition should fall apart:

If we have legislated for a fixed term Parliament, what happens then? What if no one can command the confidence of the House of Commons and there cannot be a general election to resolve the issue?

As they say, marry in haste and repent at leisure.

It is one thing to allow for legislation to prevent a sitting Prime Minister from moving for an election merely because it is politically advantageous, but it is quite another to fix the term of Parliament so that it cannot be dissolved at all before a certain date and no election can be called. A fixed term doesn't seem like a big deal to us here in the U.S. because we are used to two critical differences-the first is the separation between the legislature and the executive, and the second is that our elections are frequent enough (every two years) to resolve questions of confidence and who has real governing control.

In a parliamentary system, however, a government that loses the confidence of the legislature becomes dysfunctional and unworkable almost immediately. If this coalition falls apart and Her Majesty's Government fails to keep the confidence of the House of Commons, the Prime Minister must have the freedom to go to the monarch and ask for a dissolution and a new election. If he cannot do that under such circumstances, it could paralyze government in Britain for months or even years, forget mention of what it might do to the economy.

It will be interesting to see how this "change" across the water plays out.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Would You Cut?

Republicans need to be asking Tennessee Democrats what they would cut from the budget in these fiscally trying times:

Perhaps our friends in the party opposite are living on some different planet where the State economy is booming, employment figures look as though this were the mid-1990's, and tax receipts are through the roof. The reality of course, is that fewer Tennesseans have the resources to spend extra and so tax collections will be down for the foreseeable future, and State government has to plan accordingly. As a result, the question facing legislators dealing with this year's budget will not be "will there be serious cuts to State spending" but "where will the cuts in State spending come from." Rather than step up to the plate and accept the budget situation we are dealing with, Tennessee Democrats blather on about Republicans "hurting teachers and State employees," the latter being quite important since Democratic Leadership (though not all Democrats in Tennessee) worship at the altar of the state, and serve the Creator Government, who is blessed forever, Amen.

Rather than telling the Democrats that their present set of arguments are faulty (those who have an awareness of the present world financial situation, something that may be admittedly lacking among Tennessee's Democratic Party Leadership, already know that), why not call their bluff? If the Republican proposal is so terrible and hurts so many, let us ask the Democrats the obvious question:

What would you cut?

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Time For Cuts to Save the State

Tennessee is ready for our radical lesson in budgetary responsibility:

"We're going to have to make some hard choices," Rep. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) told The Examiner this morning, "but we know that we have to balance the budget. Some people are going to be hurt by these cuts, there's no getting around it, but we have to be fiscally responsible and do what is required of us." Niceley said that in some cases, the choice it to make some cuts now or make massive cuts and have much larger-scale State layoffs later. "I hate that it has come to this, but it is what it is," Niceley said.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Ramsey Rising

Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey is now ready to run for Governor-in earnest:

In spite of the obstacles to raising money (roadblocks the Lieutenant Governor desperately tried unsuccessfully to remove during last year's legislative session) Ron Ramsey has stayed in the race, however. Yes, Ramsey raised over $2 million before the gavel went down on the second session of the 106th General Assembly, but he hasn't raised a dime since January. The odds are still stacked against him because of that tremendous disadvantage, but Ramsey seems to believe he can make up for the shortfall very quickly.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Enduring for the Faith

John 15:26-16:4:

But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning.

These things have I spoken to you, that you may not be scandalized. They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God. And these things will they do to you; because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things I have told you, that when the hour shall come, you may remember that I told you of them.

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