Saturday, May 15, 2010

Did I miss Labour's Holyrood Democracy Riots?

I am willing to accept that I am remarkably unobservant. I am perfectly capable of being so absorbed in my own little fairytale dream world that I could quite possibly not see Michael Schumacher or Tom Baker, both long term idols of mine, if I walked past them in the street.

I find it hard to believe that even I could have missed a series of pro democracy riots in the late 1990s inspired by the Labour Party, angry at the provisions for ending a Holyrood Parliament possible only by a 2/3 majority of the Chamber. Surely they must have been mad about it then because only that would explain their hysterical outrage at the Goverment's plans to introduce fixed term Parliaments witih a provision that a dissolution could only be obtained by a 55% majority of the House of Commons.

I can't really do this better than Scott at Love and Garbage or Duncan Borrowman, both of whom have shown that there needs to be some mechanism to stop a Prime Minister abusing Parliament to force an election if he feels like it. I tend to share Scott's view that the 55% figure is too closely wedded to current circumstances and I think if anything it could have been higher.

So why are the Labour party, who in 13 years did so much to rig the balance in favour of the Government, against Parliament, whipping up such condemnation of this move across the entire interwebby? Even people who are generally quite sensible, like Eric Joyce are going on as if we're trying to create some sort of banana republic. Honestly. I mean, who else is going to change the constitution? It's about time we had a proper one anyway. The Labour Government gave more and more power to ministers to change rules at will without referral to Parliament - it almost treated the House of Commons as a minor irrelevance at times and tried to do things it really had no business doing. Look at their disgraceful treatment of Gwyneth Dunwoody after the last election, when they tried to replace her as Chair of the Transport Select Committee.

I wonder if it's less to do with democratic principle and more to do with trying to incite rebellion amongst Tory MPs who might be feeling, shall we say, a little unsettled at having shacked up with these Lib Dem upstarts. After all, Labour had fixed term Parliaments in its manifesto so it had accepted the priniciple. I'd be willing to lay bets that they would have brought in a proposal similar to the Holyrood arrangement if they had formed the Government. Labour were bad in Government but it looks like they will be more vicious than constructive in opposition, trying at every turn to destabilise the coalition government.

This is the party which cynically walked away from a progressive coalition, putting its own party self interest above what the country needs and is now spitting dummies here, there and everywhere. It's so not a good look and my view is that voters, who tend to like co-operation and dislike the yah boo shouty shout stuff, will see through them.


Ros said...

Absolutely. What people seem to be forgetting is that currently only the PM can dissolve parliament, so putting it in the hands of parliament should make the process more democratic.

As for this talk about "banana republics" - does that make Scotland and Wales "Banana Parliaments"?

Tom said...

I guess Labour is relishing the opportunity to actually be on the right side of one of their precious dividing lines, for a change.

Tom Harris said...

Caron - Surely even you must think that it's a bit suspect to change the rules so that if the LibDems walk, it leaves Cameron with just enough MPs to resist a dissolution vote, even though the current rules would force an election in those circumstances?

And your lot and Clegg are falling for it!

Martin Veart said...

For the Scottish parliament, which has a similar system, the percentage required is 66%. So the 55% required is actually quite modest.

Isn't it right that Parliament is the ultimate sovereign body and not the executive?

Scott @ loveandgarbage said...

Tom Harris again fails to draw the distinction between a confidence vote and a dissolution vote - a necessary consequence of fixed term parliaments (the issue discussed on my blog post that you link to). Cameron loses a confidence vote and then we could have a rainbow coalition as alternative government until the end of the fixed term (but of course we know Mr Harris is very much against that).

There are grounds to criticise 55%, there is an obvious necessity to seek clarification as to whether an equivalent to s 3 of the Scotland Act is intended. This conflation of two separate and unrelated concepts as Mr Harris does - despite the point having been made again and again that the two are separate (including in one blog post by sir George Young yesterday) - is not one of them.

Carl Gardner said...

How can you possibly accuse Tom of conflating the two, Scott, when his comment explicitly referred to "a dissolution vote"?

Have you so convinced yourself that opposition to 55% is based solely on conflating no confidence with dissolution that you are failing even to register the fact that at least some of its opponents do not conflate them?


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