What The Conservative-DUP Agreement Says about Votes of Confidence Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Union Party, and Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party

The Conservative and Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party have finally hammered out a supply agreement that would give May’s minority government a parliamentary majority.

You can read it here: Confidence and Supply Agreement between the Conservative Party and the DUP.

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Posted in Confidence Convention, Fixed-Date Elections, Formation of Governments | 1 Comment

The Politics of Prorogation in Canada

Sample for Upcoming Issue of The Dorchester Review

The Trudeau II government has confirmed that it will proceed with pushing through changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons pertaining to prorogation, as Aaron Wherry has reported.

I first prepared this piece in March, when the government first announced its discussion paper on reforming the Standing Orders but before the opposition filibustered the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. In any event, I had always focussed on the proposed reforms surrounding prorogation and not on the reforms to Question Period.

Most of the following piece will appear in volume 7, issue 1 of The Dorchester Review in a few weeks, but I have updated the manuscript now that we can examine the text of the motion for how precisely it will ask the House to amend the Standing Orders. 

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Posted in Crown (Powers and Office), Dorchester Review, Prorogation | 2 Comments

The Cabinet Manual and Votes of Confidence under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

The Cabinet Manual As Explanatory Guide

The Cabinet Manual: A Guide to Laws, Conventions, and Rules on the Operation of Government has proven its worth, both within Whitehall and amongst the wider British public. On 9 June, once the results of the general election had become clear, the Cabinet Manual prevented any confusion over the fact that the incumbent prime minister remains in office and has the right to test the confidence of a hung parliament, especially where the party still holds the plurality of seats.

The Cabinet Manual says:

Parliaments with no overall majority in the House of Commons

2.12 Where an election does not result in an overall majority for a single party, the incumbent government remains in office unless and until the Prime Minister tenders his or her resignation and the Government’s resignation to the Sovereign. An incumbent government is entitled to wait until the new Parliament has met to see if it can command the confidence of the House of Commons, but is expected to resign if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to be able to command that confidence and there is a clear alternative.

Gus O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary who spearheaded the Cabinet Manual in 2009-2011, appeared on Channel Four’s coverage of Prime Minister May’s trip to the Palace, where she informed the Queen that she could continue in government and would like to test the confidence of the new parliament, and her subsequent speech outside Downing Street on 9 June.

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Posted in Confidence Convention, Constructive Non-Confidence, Fixed-Date Elections | 5 Comments

The “1867 As Year Zero” School of Canadian History

John Boyko’s Book on John A. Macdonald

Historian John Boyko appeared on The Agenda with Steve Paikin on 30 May in order to promote his new book, Sir John’s Echo: The Voice for a Stronger Canada. Boyko presents this warmed over case for Macdonald’s centralized view of federalism and his initial support for a “legislative union” (i.e., a unitary state) of amalgamating the various British North American colonies into one new colony with one order of government. Boyko therefore focuses on the division of powers contained in sections 91 and 92 of the British North America Act, 1867, and emphasizes his own support of the principle in the POGG Clause in section 91 that non-enumerated, residual authorities fall within the competence of the Parliament of Canada and not the provincial legislatures.

He subscribes to what I call The 1867 as Year Zero School of Canadian history: for him and his peers, everything started ex nihilo upon Confederation and the entering into force of the British North America Act, 1867. Nothing else matters — certainly not the political history of British North America prior to 1867. Boyko and other adherents to this school of thought therefore see Confederation as the be all and end all and either ignore outright or egregiously misinterpret what came before.

This view thereby causes Boyko to make statements like that at 4:37, in response to Paikin’s question on the Compact Theory of Confederation:

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Posted in Dorchester Review, History of British North America | 2 Comments

Prime Minister May’s Bane: The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act and the Perils of Early Dissolution

“You shall NOT PASS” the threshold of a single-party majority government.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has learned a hard lesson: early dissolution is like a corrosive, volatile substance whose bearer must handle it carefully or risk being burned. She also learned its corollary: election campaigns matter. A poorly run campaign is an incumbent government’s self-inflicted wound.

May thought that she could wield the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act as a weapon against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, but she proved herself unworthy of it. Early dissolution instead served its own ends.

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Posted in Fixed-Date Elections | 3 Comments