Friday, May 14, 2010

The 55% rule may not get 55% support

The government’s proposal that 55% of MPs would be required to vote to dissolve Parliament is fast becoming the controversy of the week, although there’s still uncertainty floating around. Following my quick thoughts yesterday, I’ve now made a transcript of Lib Dem Lord Rennard explaining the thinking behind the 55% proposal [about 8 mins in, available for another 6 days]:

It was a very brave decision for the Liberal Democrats to go into this arrangement, we think in the national interest, and of course we wanted to know the Conservatives couldn’t cut and run any time they thought they could win a general election. But the Conservatives also said they wanted the surety of knowing the Liberal Democrats couldn’t do the same thing either – cut and run, and try and force an early general election.

I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that he really has come out and openly said that they’re rewriting the constitution to suit their own interests based on the fact that they don’t trust one another. Power doesn’t usually create blind, shameless arrogance quite this quickly.

But here’s another thought: there may not be 55% support for this measure in the Commons, which would surely strip it of any moral credibility.

55% of MPs is 358 (actually 357.5, but I don’t think they allow half votes). Between them, the Tories and Lib Dems have 364. Take out two for the Speaker and a deputy, and they have 362. So only five rebels would be needed to take them below the 55% threshold. Already, there are three:

Three Conservative MPs - Richard Ottoway, Christopher Chope and Charles Walker have raised concerns about it, saying they believe it could be unconstitutional - as it would mean a government that did not have the support of a majority of MPs - 51% - would not fall.

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