55% dissolution threshold is essential to keep power of parliament over PM

OK. I admit it. I got my knickers in a twist last week over the 55% dissolution clause in the Con/LibDem agreement. I shot from the hip. I peaked too soon. I was wrong.

I totally misunderstood the clause. I read the agreement and when I saw the 55% clause I thought it referred to a “no confidence” vote. It doesn’t. It refers to the dissolution of parliament.

In my mind, and recently in British history, the two mean the same (wrongly). A government gets a “no confidence” vote passed against it and then it goes to the monarch and asks for a dissolution. The two things have become conflated in my mind and, perhaps, in the minds of others.

But I have now read some excellent pieces about this and I put the past behind me. I totally support this clause. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is absolutely essential to strengthen the power of parliament over the Prime Minister.

We must separate two things:

1. The government

2. The parliament

Sounds basic, but I think some have been confusing the two.

Under the proposals the government will still be subject to the normal 50% plus one no confidence vote. If such a vote passes then the previously existing government falls and it will be up to parliament to form a new government. That is how, incidentally, the first Labour government was formed (thanks Iain Roberts).That government or subsequent governments continue until the fixed term of parliament comes up or until the House of Commons realises that the chances of forming a stable government are hopeless and vote in sufficient numbers (55+%) to dissolve parliament. But note that the power of dissolution is with parliament itself, not with the PM leading a party with sufficient numbers (in fact I think the 55% should be higher).

The key thing about this clause is it moves the power of dissolution from the Prime Minister (through the monarch) to Parliament.

So it is strengthening the power of Parliament over that of the Prime Minister.

God only knows how this debate has ended up painting this as if it is a shift of power the other way. I can only think that a lot of people made the same mistake as me but have, for some reason, decided not to correct themselves.

The articles I read which changed my mind on this were from:

Jock Coats (for whose independence of mind I have total respect)

Iain Roberts 1

Iain Roberts 2

BBC primer on the subject

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LibDem conference overwhelmingly supports coalition deal

I’ve been following today’s special conference via the Liberal Democrat Voice team on Twitter. It’s a bit like watching it through a venetian blind.

It is very frustrating indeed that what seems to be a marvellous example of the Liberal Democrat party at its best and its most united, has been kept from the gaze of the media and live coverage.

There appears to have been a free exchange of views. Simon Hughes, Vince Cable and Nick Clegg got standing ovations, as did the motion in support of the deal, which was passed overwhelmingly. There were over one thousands representatives at the conference, estimates of the votes against the motion vary from “less than 50” (Helen Duffett) “20 people” (Alex Foster), “12” (Sara Bedford) and “2%” (Mark Pack).

Here’s what Nick Clegg said after the vote was passe (thanks to Liberal Democrat Voice):

It is five days since I accepted the position of Deputy Prime Minister. Just five days, and we now know there will be no ID cards, no third runway at Heathrow, no more fingerprinting in schools without parents’ consent, no more child detention.

Changes Liberal Democrats have spent months, years, campaigning for, are happening. Promises we were making to people on their doorsteps just a few weeks ago are becoming realities.

Fair taxes. The income tax threshold is now going to rise to £10,000. That is this Government’s priority, not tax cuts for millionaires.

The best start at school for every child. Extra money is now going to be targeted to pupils who need it most. That is a huge leap in creating a truly mobile society.

A new, sustainable economy. The banks are going to be taxed, the bonus culture is going to be cracked.

And instead of pinning all our hopes on financial wizardry in the City of London we’ll build a new economy where we rediscover our talents for building and making things again, with green industry given new prominence as we head towards a zero-carbon future.

New politics. Fixed term parliaments – happening. The power of recall to get rid of corrupt MPs – happening. A clean up of party funding, a clamp down on lobbying in Parliament, an elected House of Lords – all happening.

Our Freedom Bill is going to come off our leaflets and go onto the statute book, ending gross state intrusion into people’s every day lives.

Patients, parents, communities are all going to have a much greater say over the decisions that affect them.

And voting reform is going to be put to the British people, in a referendum in which Liberal Democrats will fight to deliver real change.

I know the stakes are high – for me personally, as well as the party. But I came into politics to change things, and that means taking risks. Real, big change never comes easy.

So it would simply be wrong for us to let this chance of real change pass us by.

The chance to transform politics, the chance to hardwire fairness into our society, the chance to change Britain for good.