55 – it’s the magic number

So the first controversy* of this coalition government mirrors the complexity of its formation. It has divided opinion not only along across the parties but also the constitutional chatterati with Peter Hennesey accusing the government of “doctoring” the pitch and Robert Hazlett correctly pointing out many are confusing a motion to dissolve Parliament with a no confidence monition, which remains at 50% +1 vote.

The 55% has been chosen for a very specific reason. Should the Tories soar in the polls, with only 47% of seats they could not call a snap general election on their own and leave the Lib Dems for dust. Similarly the Lib Dems could not walk out of the coalition and immediately force a dissolution vote with the opposition parties, as they could only muster 53% of the votes. I’m guessing the 1% buffer is to take account of any bye-election movements.

It may not be as profoundly unconstitutional as it first looks (Left Foot Forward even argue that there should be a bigger buffer to stop anyone dissolving Parliament for their own gain, as in the Scottish and other parliaments) but tinkering for such short-term, specific and not necessarily noble purposes can often have unintended consequences.

Should the coalition break up or some other next-level confidence shit occurs, the Prime Minister would have the opportunity to form a new coalition. If this did not work, he could remain in power as the head of a minority government until the 5 year term concludes (now there’s an elected illegitimate PM if I ever saw one). In such a situation the government would find it near impossible to pass any legislation and would come under severe pressure to dissolve parliament.

Yet it would still require (by the calculation of Mr Maths Rich) 16 Tory Turkeys to vote for Christmas and the dissolution of Parliament. If they were that unpopular they may just decide to chill out for their last X months/years in parliament alongside their electorally doomed Prime Minister. Legislation is far from the most important and enticing aspect of power.

New Politics Rule #1 – The New Politics decrees that a controversy is only such if it garners both a facebook page and a twitter hash tag and is ignored by Sky News.

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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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