Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Why is it that a 55% vote to force a general election in during a fixed-term parliament at Westminster is something bad, yet in Scotland the majority needed to achieve the same outcome is 66% - and is good?

In 1995 the Scottish Constitutional Convention reported that
The creation of a new parliament is a rare and exciting moment, one which affords unique opportunity for change and renewal. The Convention sees the establishment of a Scottish parliament as a chance to effect fundamental improvements to the way Scotland is governed. It therefore expects that the parliament will provide through its practices and procedures a form of government in whose accountability, accessibility, openness and responsiveness the people of Scotland will have confidence and pride.
The parliament will sit for a fixed term of four years. In exceptional circumstances the parliament may be dissolved before expiry of its full term with the agreement of two-thirds of MSPs.
The Scotland Act 1998, in setting out the legislation controlling the fixed-term Scottish Parliament states that:-
3. Extraordinary general elections

(1) The Presiding Officer shall propose a day for the holding of a poll if—

(a) the Parliament resolves that it should be dissolved and, if the resolution is passed on a division, the number of members voting in favour of it is not less than two-thirds of the total number of seats for members of the Parliament
Mr Brown, ex-Prime Minister, was involved in preparing the constitutional framework for Scotland's Parliament. He, and all the others, swore an oath to ensure Scotland's best interests were served.

It is they who decided that a 66% vote would be needed to call an 'extraordinary general election' - and that percentage was greeted with approval.

Yet, it means that the reins of control remain largely with those in power - because it would be quite difficult to persuade 2/3 (66%) of MSPs to vote together against the leading party/parties, which means it's unlikely to happen.

We have seen, in Westminster, a government clinging by its' well-bitten fingernails to the constitutional framework. They had sufficient parliamentary majority to easily defeat any attempted simple majority votes of no confidence that might have triggered an election. In short, the last government could do what they liked, and the rest of us had to sit back and take it - and be told it was good.

This is what's proposed for Westminster
Legislation introducing fixed-term parliaments would also provide for dissolution if 55 percent or more of the House votes in favour
Mrs Rigby believes that this proposal actually appears to limit the powers of any leading party to choose/try to call an 'extraordinary general election' - whilst slightly enhancing the chances of opposition to demand one, especially with current figures because, according to Mrs R's calculator (and discounting Sinn Fein), if all the opposition parties (the rainbow) got together plus just 2 MPs from the government benches, they would have that 55% majority.

Yet the media is complaining about it killing democracy, Jack Straw is moaning and Tom Harris, who is usually quite reasonable, actually wrote, in response to somebody who thinks the same as Mrs R
That being the case, why not simply make votes of confidence illegal or unconstitutional? After all, if the top priority is to make it to the end of a fixed parliament, what is the point of a vote of no confidence in the first place?
Surely that can't be right Tom?

Surely you wouldn't approve a law that says a vote of no confidence is illegal or unconstitutional?

Anyhow, it's turning into one of those 'long days' here in Rigby Town, so if Mrs R has got it all wrong, please use the comments to explain where, why, and how.


Thanks to JohnWardinMedway here's a link to LibDemVoice where there's more discussion of this issue, including the question
Is 55% high enough?
Go and read it, and all the comments.

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