Interesting times

We live in fascinating – and fast-moving – times.  There are a lot of analyses to be undertaken of the events of the past twenty-four hours.  There is also a lot to be worked out.  It will be interesting to see not only the allocation of portfolios, but also how Liberal Democrat ministers work with Conservative colleagues in the same Department.  There is also a lot to be worked out within Parliament itself.  Will the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats sit together on the Government benches?  Which party will be designated as the second largest opposition party for the purpose of allocating three Opposition days each session and whose leader will get a chance to have three questions in Prime Minister’s Question Time?   The authorities will doubtless have been looking at the experience of the wartime coalition, though that provides a limited guide.  That coalition drew together the three parties in Parliament and, although Labour was part of the coalition, a Labour MP was formally designated as Leader of the Opposition.  This time there is an actual Opposition.  What happens in Labour’s ranks in the next few months will also be fascinating. 

I shall be going to Westminster later today.  I had not planned to, but given events I think it will valuable to see what is happening. 

Please feel free to speculate as to what will happen over future months.


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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4 Responses to Interesting times

  1. Senex says:

    Lord Norton, let me congratulate both you and Lord Tyler on your parties desire to work together in a coalition at a time of considerable political difficulty. It could have been better in that a grand coalition had been formed but for a first attempt, not bad at all.

    Let me also congratulate you both on the debates in January and February on governance issues, I have just caught up with them and they were excellent. There were lots of issues raised least of all the poor quality of Commons scrutiny. The issues you raised as to the posting of draft bills, pre and post legislative scrutiny were well received by the house executive which attended the debates.

    However, our new progressive government finds the status quo intact and it remains to be seen how long it will take them, if at all, to remedy the shortcomings identified.

    The issue of fixed term Parliaments does not reassure me one iota because the dominance of a Commons executive elected to power with an overall majority is worryingly enhanced by such an arrangement. Again, I make the case for an elected upper chamber based upon relevant suffrage and one able to oppose government and force a General Election.

    The other point I would make is some concern for our left wing politics. In Hungary and other post Soviet countries the extreme left has been disenfranchised to the point that far right groups occupy the vacuum to openly march waving their obscene agendas and people cheer them on.

    The New Labour project is disenfranchised and we now need a replacement both vibrant and energetic to temper any drift to the right from centre. This coalition provides a temporary check but much remains to be done in balancing reduced powers of the executive and its ability to govern. For the moment we are in safe hands.

  2. The phrase ‘honeymoon period’ comes inevitably to mind. It will be interesting as the months unfold to see whether the parties in power compare and perhaps switch policies at more micro level.

    Am I right in thinking there is no third UK-wide party as such, unless you count Caroline Lucas as a party, which would seem odd for one member? The three questions could perhaps be rotated among the small parties.

    As I write, David Cameron has said “it will obviously be a very different beast, Prime Ministers’ questions” so the thought’s clearly occurred.

  3. Frank W. Summers III says:

    “Lord Norton,

    I have seen this coalition a something essential for varied reasons. I quote ourselves here:
    Conservatives: 258
    Labor: 260
    Liberal Democrats: 75

    Conservative LDP coallition for two and a half years.

    I expect I may be completely wrong as I have no polling data at all and am judging from anectdotes AND SPEECHES ONLY. However, I had to play…

    Lord Norton // May 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Reply

    Frank W. Summers III: You can at least claim that so far you are the closest!

    Frank W. Summers III // May 6, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Reply

    Lord Norton,

    Indeed I have that claim at the time of posting. I will be checking the internet for the exit polls at London 10:00 p.m. if I can.”

    In my seat allocation the Cons were a wee bit smaller than Labour, Lib. Dems had increased their seats, Labour and Lib. Dems formed a majority and I still predicted that if Cons made major gains and Labs mad a major decline this coalition would ensue. I thought then that the real result might favor the coalition even more.

    I think the coalition does the following:
    1. It allows Conservatives to honor the the Thatcher Legacy and yet fully move beyond Thatcherite orthodoxy.
    2. It allows Lib Dems to show that they are teally about governance and policy and are competent.
    3. It spreads the pain for austerities that are seemingly needed.
    4. It allows Conservatives to have working (if complex and troubled) organizational ties to areas of the United Kingdom where they do not have a strong base.
    5. It sets up a broad coalition led by the party with the most royalist bent to negotiate a possible succession (may God grant your Queen a long life).
    6.It allows both parties to feel the heat and strain of needed adaptations, work them out and present them to the public without being enslaved to their most hidebound doctrinaire members.
    7. It preserves for the UK a strong, organized and disciplined opposition with a lot of seats to actually knowingly report on falls below the current standard of operation.
    8. It creates public interest in parliamentary operations.

    I think it is a bit a nasty tasting medicine for all but possibly just what the doctor ordered.

  4. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Note: The opening quotation marks above should be after the colon following “here”.

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