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)