The View From Abroad

Sorry about the light blogging; I am run off my feet lately. However, I read this comment, which I have reproduced below, on and I thought that I would re-post it here. I know that that is somewhat lazy, but James Levy makes some excellent points, and as a fellow historian (nominally) I feel some sympathy.

...UK political parties are designed and built to RULE. And the whole system is in many ways no longer functional. We see this in Cameron's naked grab for power. Constitutionally, it is Brown who has first crack at forming a government (Ted Heath had his shot after losing the majority in 1974). But Cameron and Clegg have simply ignored the Constitution and are, in effect, making a very public display of how little they care about how it's supposed to work. Hell, Brown, after a few days, would have to go to the Queen anyway and say he can't form a government--so why the naked grab for power by Cameron?
The moderating influences on the PM's have been (from say the 1740s through at least the first post-war Labour government) the Crown and the Cabinet. Neither functions any more. The Crown seems petrified to assert her royal prerogatives and Cabinets are full of hacks and no longer representatives of powerful interests or factions within the ruling party that have to be taken into consideration when legislation or policy are being formulated. So what you have, more and more, is a half-assed indirect election of a pseudo-president who enjoys too many powers and not enough oversight.


Conservative Cabbie said…
Hi Martin

Sorry but this analysis is just wrong. Leaving aside the fact that Brown couldn't ommand even 30% of the electorate's support and is effectively squatting in No 10, the analysis is wrong from a constitutional position.

Yes, Brown has the right to make the first attempt to form a government. If he had the numbers, he'd be quite within his rights to approach the nationalists and form a coalition government with them thus usurping the Cameron-Clegg process. But he doesn't have the numbers for that - he needs Clegg. But Clegg has stated that the first condition of his support is that he will deal with the party with the most support at the election in the first instance. He's perfectly within his rights to do that. He is in effect saying that for the moment, he is not prepared to enter into co-operation with Brown and the labour party. Therefore, at least for now, Brown is unable to form a government.
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Cabbie--very good to hear from you and good to hear that you are well.

I don't think that a definitive answer to the question of whether anyone can form a government is possible at the minute. Parliament has not met, and large parts of the conservative and Liberal parties may not agree to any deal. Clegg doesn't seem to be in anyone's pocket, though I guess he would rather do a deal with Cameron than Brown. Played rightly, a Cameron deal could destroy the Tory party and knife George Osborne--a sort of reverse 1916, and give Lib Dems government experience. Many of them (though not all, at all) are treacherous, in my experience, and will be thinking that.

Brown can't form a new government, but there is still her Majesty's government and he is still the head of it.

We also face, I think, the very real chance of re-runs in double figures.

The situation, as it were, has gone Belgian.

I think that the interesting thing is how comprehensively the political class, and the media, were rejected. As I wrote, it's my strong suspicion that immigration, Europe, and the expenses scandal--and the unfolding economic crisis--did for all three parties, and that the media are just not interested in those issues.

For different reasons, the international economy and the banks are going to hit real trouble this week. I just hope that people have the sense not to let the media blame it all on the politicians--things are too serious for people to fool themselves that the charade that we have been through had much to do with it!
Martin Meenagh said…
Think about effective majorities;

No Sinn Feiners--that means you need 323
The Alliance party will vote with the Libs--that gives them 1
The Nationalists may well vote with an anti-Tory group; that gives them 9

That means Labour would need 313

Labour plus the Liberals are in sight of that; given that the DUP isn't keen on the Tories, if the Clegg-Cameron thing were to break up before it started, and Brown presented an emergency budget because of the economic crisis and passed it, whereas Cameron couldn't Brown would be confirmed in office and the Queen would not have to be embarassed. So Brown may be calculating that he will stay where he is meant to stay until the Conservative-Liberal pact is made and sealed, because before then, they don't have the votes, and there is an alternative.... and then there will be riots.

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