Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On finalized terms

As for the terms of the deal between the UK Cons and Lib Dems, while it's certainly to the credit of all concerned that they've been able to reach agreement, there are a couple of points that strike me as somewhat dubious.

First, it's worth noting how the trade-off made by the Lib Dems differs from what's been on offer from the NDP in Canada. Particularly during the 2008 coalition discussions, the NDP has consistently made clear that its top priority has been securing positive policy outcomes. And in order to reach those, it's been willing to trade off any expectation of top cabinet positions such as deputy Prime Minister, as well as to work in structures where its goal of electoral reform isn't on the table.

In contrast, the two largest benefits for the Lib Dems in their agreement seem to have little to do with substantive policy. Instead, Nick Clegg's appointment as deputy PM and the promised referendum on an alternative vote model look to be the main carrots for the Lib Dems in an agreement loaded with conservative policy priorities with only a modicum of mitigation for the worst off.

As a second point of concern, there's this tidbit forming part of the parties' agreement on a five-year fixed term for Parliament:
A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed-term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.
Now, I'm not sure which of the parties would have been pushing the supermajority standard for dissolution. But the requirement would seem to be a significant departure from the usual principle of majority support in Parliament as the fundamental basis of governmental legitimacy. And the threshold would seem to pose some serious problems if a future Parliament sees two relatively evenly-matched party groupings who lack the ability to form majority coalitions but have sufficient votes to stall any dissolution.

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