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This is Rather Spectacular

Monday 5th July 2010

Nick Clegg retreats on no-confidence votes.

Nick Clegg today performed the first big U-turn of the coalition when he announced rules to guarantee that a simple majority of MPs will be able to vote down a government and trigger a general election.

The fuss about the dissolution of parliament (not the passing of no-confidence votes, which is a different thing) centred on the proposal for the requirement of a 55% majority to pass a vote to dissolve. The argument centred on how parliament should require a simple majority to dissolve, rather than the 55% limit. Opponents of this policy said that this limit was engineered to allow the coalition to decide when to dissolve parliament (which betrays a colossal misunderstanding of current parliamentary procedure, but that’s somewhat incidental at this point).

I really don’t understand how this is a U-turn. The opposing argument was that a simple majority would not be sufficient to dissolve parliament, and today Clegg has announced that actually the government will introduce a higher requirement – a 66% majority – to dissolve parliament. OK it’s different to what was originally proposed, but it’s not exactly a U-turn and it’s certainly not bowing to the opposition. I mean, they wanted it to just be a majority of MPs, so if they were thinking straight they would be even more opposed to the higher limit. As far as I can tell, the initial announcement back in May had nothing to do with changing the rules for no-confidence votes, and was all about moving power for dissolving parliament away from the Prime Minister and instead giving MPs that power. Today’s announcement doesn’t change that at all, so where’s the “big U-turn”?

I guess I shouldn’t expect anything else from the Grauniad though…

Clegg is currently trending on Twitter, in response to today’s announcement. A lot of it is negative, with some people saying things like “well I voted Lib Dem, and I won’t make that mistake again”. Huh? The Liberal Democrats have never been coy about their commitment to electoral reform, so the things Clegg announced today really shouldn’t come as a shock, especially to people who voted for the party. I mean, I’d sort of expect those people to have an idea that the people they voted for are committed to such major things!

Quite honestly, I can find nothing controversial in the announcement (except perhaps the date), so much of the negative reaction is a bit perplexing really.

Posted at 10:23 pm | Posted In: Rant Tagged:

7 Comments:

Lucy

Tuesday 6th July 2010, 7:26 pm

I still don’t entirely get this. Actually I think I do, if someone can explain to me what a dissolution of parliament is (as opposed to a vote of no confidence) – but I least I know that I am confused!

I’m quite irritated with the massive number of Lib Dem ‘deserters’, saying that Clegg’s betrayed them. It’s not that I like having a Tory-led coalition, but at the end of the day, Clegg stuck to his PR principles in seeking to form a government first with the party who got the majority share of the vote. A LibLab minority governent would have been completely untenable, and a Tory minority government still wouldn’t have got anyone anywhere on electoral reform (and we’d have just had a thoroughly unsatisfactory repeat of the election x months later).

Cameron’s blatently getting Clegg to announce all of the bad news to the press, though, which also pisses me off, and I do worry that in the future the Liberals will receive a lot of flak for what will have actually been Tory-led policies.

Dickie

Tuesday 6th July 2010, 8:20 pm

A lot of the criticism is mad. Criticising the Lib Dems for changing their stance on things is stupid – it’s a coalition, and the Lib Dems are the junior partner in that coalition! If it was a Liberal Democrat majority government (and isn’t that a thought?!), then the criticism might be fair. But it isn’t, so it’s not.

And yeah, I agree. I’d obviously rather not have Tories in charge, but at least with the Liberal Democrats there in the Cabinet we’re seeing some good stuff happen, and they’re helping to alleviate some of the pain where possible.

Labour’s opposition at the moment seems incredibly childish. They’re just opposing everything without saying what they’d do. Or realising that some things (eg the budget) have roots in their own policies in government…

Are Clegg/Lib Dems really announcing all the bad news? The worst so far (that I can think of) is the budget, and Osborne announced that. Clegg’s announcement yesterday about electoral reform is (well, to me) pretty good news. And seeing as he’s the one with the responsibility for looking after that, seems fitting for him to announce it.

A vote of no confidence requires 50%+1 MPs to pass (and the current reform proposals do nothing to change that). If passed, the government must resign. As I understand it, if at this point a government can be formed which can hold a confidence vote, that government takes power.

So lets say everyone but the Tories wanted to gang up in a coalition in THIS parliament. They could call a confidence vote, and if every non-Tory MP voted against Cameron, the government would fall. At this point, the non-Tories could appoint their own government, which would last until the next election.

A dissolution of parliament means that a new general election is called. All MPs have to re-stand if they want to retain their seat, and the result of the election determines who governs. Currently, the PM has the choice over when to dissolve parliament (which makes the criticism of the 55% proposal look ridiculously stupid). It’s good that they’re giving parliament this power (and requiring a 66% majority) because it stops governments from calling an election when they think they’re most likely to win.

Lucy

Tuesday 6th July 2010, 10:06 pm

Awesome, thank you. It really isn’t complicated, but somehow my brain has made it that way…

Flix

Monday 12th July 2010, 9:14 pm

As a point of curiosity…what newspaper do/would you read?

I’ll pass on political commentary, for now. :P

Dickie

Monday 12th July 2010, 9:53 pm

I don’t particularly read any newspaper. I read the occasional article online, when someone else links to one (usually saying something along the lines of “look how stupid this is”). Much of my news comes from the BBC, as well as a variety of blogs and things that I follow (and that are listed to the right).

I do have a subscription to Private Eye though, which is very good indeed.

Jenny

Wednesday 14th July 2010, 6:32 pm

I read The Times mainly, and The Guardian. my opinions are slightly left of The Times but I lose patience with The Guardian sometimes. I probably mainly agree with much of what the Beeb says.

What about you?

Flix

Wednesday 14th July 2010, 8:31 pm

Hah, Jenny I had you down as a full on Guardian hugger. I swear you’ve had some Murdoch based rants?

I’m The Times. Largely because it’s the one I was brought up on and I like real life newspapers rather than online news sites, most of the time.

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