May 11

Hung Parliament: The Calm in the Storm.

There are are at least four solutions to the hung parliament in Britain: a Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition, a Labour Liberal Democrat Minor Parties Coalition, a Conservative minority government, or a Labour minority government.

A National government or German style Grand Coalition between the Conservatives and Labour  is most unlikely. Apart from the Second World War, the UK had a National Government from 1931- 1940, but as a result the Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, was expelled from the Labour Party. 

With Mr. Brown now indicating he will resign from the Labour leadership to take effect in September, one obstacle to the Liberal Democrats working with Labour has gone.

    

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would be uneasy bedfellows, observes constitutional authority, Professor Vernon Bogdanor ( Daily Telegraph 9/5), recalling that Disraeli famously said that England does not love coalitions.  Fortunately in all this confusion the country is in safe hands.

 


 

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…change to the electoral system….


 Conservative leader David Cameron has said that certain matters are not negotiable – Europe, immigration and defence, including Trident.  Professor Bogdanor points out these are all issues on which Liberal Democrats, too, hold strong opinions.

He wonders whether there could be an "agreement to differ", as there was in the national government of the 1930s on the issue of free trade and tariff reform.

“But this led to the incongruous situation of the Tory chancellor lauding an imperial tariff, while his colleague, the Liberal home secretary, told the Commons it would be a recipe for disaster,” he adds. The stumbling block is the Liberal Democrat demand for fundamental change to the first-past-the –post electoral system. For this, David  Cameron has offered no more than an inquiry.

” But the Liberals have been here before. In March 1974, during the last hung parliament, Edward Heath offered Liberals a Speaker's Conference on the issue. The offer was rejected by Jeremy Thorpe and Harold Wilson returned to power.”

( The video below is a nostalgic and amusing look at British political leaders from the 70's,  Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jeremy Thorpe, James Callaghan, and Margaret Thatcher, all set to the Lambeth Walk with Edward Heath conducting the orchestra.) 

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Some suggest David Cameron could offer a referendum – we would say a plebiscite because the details would be kept form the people – while asking the country to vote against it.

( This is similar to the proposal the monarchists vote for the McGarvie model at the 1998 Convention then campaign against it at the 1999 referendum. Not one monarchist went along with that.)

The problem even with this is that the Conservative Party would be opposed. If the people voted for proportional representation, the Conservatives fear they could be in permanent opposition.

…the  deficit…

 

Professor Bogdanor thinks a minority Conservative government is more likely with the  Liberal Democrats  agreeing  to support the Conservatives in confidence votes and on the Budget.  In 1977-1978 a Labour government was supported this way by the Liberal Democrats.

But  the Conservatives believe that the massive deficit should be dealt with an emergency budget within 50 days. Labour and the Liberal democrats would prefer to wait until the recovery is assured.  So could an emergency budget pass the House of Commons?

…electoral fraud …. 

 

No political leader is talking about –or talking much about – the scandal surrounding the allegations of electoral fraud (see this column, 6 May). The Daily Mail (9/5) reported that official election monitors from Kenya and war-torn Sierra Leone were so shocked by what they saw on polling day that they described the British system as a 'recipe for corruption'.

They said that a lack of proper identity checks at polling stations and voters being turned away meant that our electoral system was highly vulnerable to corruption.

Marie Marilyn Jalloh, and MP from Sierra Leone, told the Sunday Times: “There has to be some doubt over the legitimacy of the result. Where people have been disenfranchised of cases of fraud are found there should be another vote."

" In my country this would be very controversial. 'Your system is a recipe for corruption; it was a massive shock when I saw ou didn't need any identification to vote. In Sierra Leone you need an identity card and also neeed to give your fingerprint. Here you need nothing. In this respect, our own system is more secure than yours.”

….the calm in the storm….

In the meantime, at the very centre of the constiutional system we have an institution which offers stabilty – the Crown. As Harry Mount declared in the Daily Telegraph (“Gawd bless yer, Ma'am – a hung parliament shows how crucial the Queen is,” 7/5) the next time someone says, “What’s the point of the monarchy?”, think about the mood in the country during this time.

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He says the only certainty is that we will have a hung parliament. It’s still not clear who will be Prime Minister. The bond markets and sterling are in a nervous panic.

“We are literally in a state of anarchy – meaning, from the Greek, “without a leader”.

But, still, no one’s taking to the streets, and an underlying confidence remains that a Prime Minister will eventually be found.

The reason for the calm in the storm, he says, is The Queen, “…the ideal longstop in situations like this. Her insistence that she wouldn’t see any party leaders until this afternoon was exactly the right thing to do; bedding in the notion that it doesn’t matter too much if we don’t choose a Prime Minister immediately.”

“We may not have our next Prime Minister; we still have a leader.” 

The Queen will play an important role in these days providing leadership above politics. Mr. Brown remains Prime Minister, and will either resign or test his position in the House, as we saw in Tasmania ( see this column, 9 April).

In the meantime The Queen will not need the formal intermediaries used in some continental monarchies, an informateur and a formateur. She will play her role, being available but exercising authority, providing continuity and stabilty.  

She will demonstrate how foolish it would be to give in to the occasional calls to remove her role, vesting it in the hands of a politician.
Of course some politicians would like this. 

After the behavior of so many politicians on all sides during the last parliament, the people are not about to trust them.

The big issue for the Liberal Democrats is change to the electoral system, on which the Conservatives are opposed.

  

…change to the electoral system….

 Conservative leader David Cameron has said that certain matters are not negotiable – Europe, immigration and defence, including Trident.  Professor Bogdanor points out these are all issues on which Liberal Democrats, too, hold strong opinions.

He wonders whether there could be an "agreement to differ", as there was in the national government of the 1930s on the issue of free trade and tariff reform.

“But this led to the incongruous situation of the Tory chancellor lauding an imperial tariff, while his colleague, the Liberal home secretary, told the Commons it would be a recipe for disaster,” he adds. The stumbling block is the Liberal Democrat demand for fundamental change to the first-past-the –post electoral system. For this, David  Cameron has offered no more than an inquiry.

” But the Liberals have been here before. In March 1974, during the last hung parliament, Edward Heath offered Liberals a Speaker's Conference on the issue. The offer was rejected by Jeremy Thorpe and Harold Wilson returned to power.”

( The video below is a nostalgic and amusing look at British political leaders from the 70's,  Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jeremy Thorpe, James Callaghan, and Margaret Thatcher, all set to the Lambeth Walk with Edward Heath conducting the orchestra.)

 

{youtube}izRl-acE74E{/youtube}

  

Some suggest David Cameron could offer a referendum – we would say a plebiscite because the details would be kept form the people – while asking the country to vote against it.

( This is similar to the proposal the monarchists vote for the McGarvie model at the 1998 Convention then campaign against it at the 1999 referendum. Not one monarchist went along with that.)

The problem even with this is that the Conservative Party would be opposed. If the people voted for proportional representation, the Conservatives fear they could be in permanent opposition.

…the  deficit…

 

Professor Bogdanor thinks a minority Conservative government is more likely with the  Liberal Democrats  agreeing  to support the Conservatives in confidence votes and on the Budget.  In 1977-1978 a Labour government was supported this way by the Liberal Democrats.

But  the Conservatives believe that the massive deficit should be dealt with an emergency budget within 50 days. Labour and the Liberal democrats would prefer to wait until the recovery is assured.  So could an emergency budget pass the House of Commons?

…electoral fraud …. 

 

No political leader is talking about –or talking much about – the scandal surrounding the allegations of electoral fraud (see this column, 6 May). The Daily Mail (9/5) reported that official election monitors from Kenya and war-torn Sierra Leone were so shocked by what they saw on polling day that they described the British system as a 'recipe for corruption'.

They said that a lack of proper identity checks at polling stations and voters being turned away meant that our electoral system was highly vulnerable to corruption.

Marie Marilyn Jalloh, and MP from Sierra Leone, told the Sunday Times: “There has to be some doubt over the legitimacy of the result. Where people have been disenfranchised of cases of fraud are found there should be another vote."

" In my country this would be very controversial. 'Your system is a recipe for corruption; it was a massive shock when I saw ou didn't need any identification to vote. In Sierra Leone you need an identity card and also neeed to give your fingerprint. Here you need nothing. In this respect, our own system is more secure than yours.”

….the calm in the storm….

In the meantime, at the very centre of the constiutional system we have an institution which offers stabilty – the Crown. As Harry Mount declared in the Daily Telegraph (“Gawd bless yer, Ma'am – a hung parliament shows how crucial the Queen is,” 7/5) the next time someone says, “What’s the point of the monarchy?”, think about the mood in the country during this time.

He says the only certainty is that we will have a hung parliament. It’s still not clear who will be Prime Minister. The bond markets and sterling are in a nervous panic.

“We are literally in a state of anarchy – meaning, from the Greek, “without a leader”.

But, still, no one’s taking to the streets, and an underlying confidence remains that a Prime Minister will eventually be found.

The reason for the calm in the storm, he says, is The Queen, “…the ideal longstop in situations like this. Her insistence that she wouldn’t see any party leaders until this afternoon was exactly the right thing to do; bedding in the notion that it doesn’t matter too much if we don’t choose a Prime Minister immediately.”

“We may not have our next Prime Minister; we still have a leader.” 

The Queen will play an important role in these days providing leadership above politics. Mr. Brown remains Prime Minister, and will either resign or test his position in the House, as we saw in Tasmania ( see this column, 9 April).

In the meantime The Queen will not need the formal intermediaries used in some continental monarchies, an informateur and a formateur. She will play her role, being available but exercising authority, providing continuity and stabilty.  

She will demonstrate how foolish it would be to give in to the occasional calls to remove her role, vesting it in the hands of a politician.
Of course some politicians would like this. 

After the behavior of so many politicians on all sides during the last parliament, the people are not about to trust them.


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