The new Government is no more than a couple of days old, and already there is controversy: more or less the first act of Young Dave’s jolly good lash-up has been to tinker with the Constitution, and it’s not proving popular.
So what’s the big idea? Well, it’s all to do with confidence votes, the means by which incumbent Governments can be turfed out of office. Right now, a simple majority of MPs wins a vote of no confidence and the Government thus defeated has to go, triggering a General Election. This was what finally finished Jim Callaghan in early 1979.
This first legislative act by the new and improved two-headed donkey is to raise that threshold – but only for dissolution votes, not, apparently, confidence ones – to 55%. This would mean that, with the Tories having 47% of MPs, some of them would have to rebel to reach the new marker.
Not surprisingly, a variety of opposition figures have denounced the move as equivalent to gerrymandering. Government supporters, such as William ‘Ague, have called it a “constitutional innovation”, and stressed that it is all part of the package of introducing fixed term Parliaments.
I don’t buy this one, and neither has one concerned visitor to Zelo Street, who picked up on the proposal and alerted me to it earlier. Saying that there are no plans to extend the 55% rule to confidence (or any other) votes does not sound all that different to “I have no further territorial ambitions”.
There is likely to be considerable resistance to this proposal when it reaches the House Of Lords, and that might cause it to be quietly shelved. But if this is a taster for things to come, we should all be on our guard.Not a good start.