Competition with a difference

Instead of the usual caption competition, I thought I would introduce a competition as to who can produce the most succinct and well argued mini-speech.  I have been reflecting on how a latter-day Harold Wilson, a rather wily politician, would construct a speech explaining why the Opposition would not support the motion ‘That there shall be an early parliamentary general election’.  There appears to be the assumption that there are few if any circumstances in which the Opposition would not support such a motion.  I can envisage a Wilson-style leader not only keeping his or her counsel, so keeping a PM guessing as to whether Opposition support would be forthcoming for a such a motion, but then finding reasons as to why the Opposition would not vote for the motion.  (Abstention would be fatal, subject to a division taking place).  ‘Yes, of course, the nation deserves a general election, but…’.

The winner will be whoever contributes the most cogent argument that a Leader of the Opposition may deploy in such a circumstance.   As usual, the prize will be one of my publications.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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26 Responses to Competition with a difference

  1. tizres says:

    Just for clarification, Lord Norton, are you expecting entries as if they were from Mr Corbyn? That’s a heck of an ask.

    • Croft says:

      You mean because you have to write his speech then that from his PR team explaining why what he just said is in fact the opposite of official labour party policy 🙂

  2. Croft says:

    Hospital pass of a task but after a few moments thought I think JCs best argument would be:

    “The PM has said she wants a mandate to negotiate with the EU and and I support that. Only by having a fresh and new parliament can the wishes of the people on our new relationship with Europe properly be represented in these negotiations by MPs with a real mandate from their constituents on this issue. But it is because I believe this to be true that I cannot support the present motion before the house. If fought today we would be using boundaries last changed in the 2005 parliament. These wholly fail to reflect Britain today and cannot truly give MPs the mandate she wishes. The PM supported the new boundary legislation and the proposals are due next year. Labour will support the Commissions proposals and help the government bring them in; we would listen open mindedly to new legislation to speed up the proposals if the delay is too great for the PM. Only by waiting till the new boundaries come into force, reflecting Britain today, can our country negotiate with strength.”

  3. Gary Weatherhead says:

    Of course, it goes without saying that the Labour party welcomes the opportunity to put its case to the British people and give them the chance to get rid of this wretched Tory government. Bring it on is our view. However, I’m afraid that we will not be able to support the motion today for the following reasons. The timing of an election should no longer be purely on the whim of a PM, with as little time as possible given to the opposition and the smaller parties to prepare our campaigns. If the government want to return to the ways that were in place before the FTPA was introduced, we are happy to work together with them to explore how we can repeal this anathema to our constitution. But as things stand, we will not give the Government a free and helping hand to gain party political advantage by supporting an instant and self serving dash to the polls. We have no issue with supporting a general election later in the year. There are several acceptable dates in September or October that would give all parties a fair and decent chance to start the election campaign on an equal footing. If this is not acceptable to the PM and her party, she is free to declare that she and her Ministers have no confidence in themselves and can thus force an election that way. If the PM is so keen to gain advantage, this is what she must do.

  4. tizres says:

    The Prime Minister doesn’t want an election now; she needs an election now to quell her Brexit-mongers who share a yearning with UKIP to turn the clock back to the good old days of World War II, who have pushed her into the role of a spivette, trying to flog the remnants of the UK from a battered old suitcase. The harder they push, the more you will see her weakness, her inability to decide.

    She needs an election now to quiet the Celts who, she says, cannot be trusted to make crucial decisions without information. Je suis un Celt.

    She needs an election now because Tory members of another place cannot be trusted.
    She needs an election now, for her own benefit, not the benefit of the country. How many u-turns has this Prime Minister performed since assuming Office? This motion before you is her latest – she voted for the removal of the royal prerogative, now she wants it back. Let us not allow this shameful charade any more oxygen: if she believes she can fix an election earlier than 2020 then she can put her resources into repealing the 2011 Act.

  5. seanjm72 says:

    Mister Speaker
    The Honorable Member yesterday told the worlds media she was calling an election. Today she has come to deal with the small matter of Parliament. It was a Government in which she served as Home Secretary not long ago , and yes I know some of her colleagues on the benches next to her , and especially behind her, wish she still was Home Secretary, but I digress. That Government in which she served introduced a fixed term parliament act, this was supposed to create stable Government. Of course we are used to the alice in wonderland world in which the honourable member and her colleagues live. Quite why the same Government ministers who wanted stable Government to last 5 years now think 2 is ok is beyond the comprehension of many of us.

    Since then of course that other piece of stability which this chaotic Government let free on the world , the brexit referendum , has given her a mandate. And since June 2016 she has told this House, the European Union, every TV microphone within a 2 kilometre radius, sorry she is now held hostage by the UKIP fruit cakes it must be a 2 mile radius that BRexit is BRexit, she has a mandate to deliver BRexit and there is no need for an election.

    So what has changed, why does the honourable member now wish to ask this house for a dissolution ? Well astonishingly the lady who has chosen to lead the Party opposite and wishes to rebuild the confidence of the country in the sovereignty of the British Parliament is concerned that the members contained on the benches opposite her might not agree with her.
    Pause to consider this ….Brexit a vote to repatriate powers to Westminster, which she wishes to implement, but not if the members elected to Westminster don’t agree with her. And her reasons to think this , well there are 9 Liberal Democrats is she frightened of them ? No one else is , expect perhaps the honourable member for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

    So tonight Mister Speaker, we will be supporting all those who wished to repatriate powers to Westminster and voting against this call for a dissolution. If the Prime Minister feels afraid that Parliament is against her then there should be a vote of confidence, and we would welcome that. Until then though she should revert back to her consistent position until yesterday when unlike one of her predecessors the lady was for turning !

  6. maude elwes says:

    I have chewed over this idea and had great fun with the writing of such an explosive speech. Nevertheless, I have to confess, that although this is a great challenge intellectually, it is unsupportable on any level. As much as I would give my right arm to win your publication, I cannot offer a suitable argument against having a GE at this time.

    A Prime Minister, without a demonstrable mandate, cannot presume to lead in a democracy. Especially when the electorate need to unite and fully back their leader on the issue of Brexit.

    • tizres says:

      Aw, go on, I’ve a feeling you stand a good chance of winning.

      • maude elwes says:

        @ Tizres

        With all who come to this blog being so eloquent, to win, in my case, would be extremely unlikely. But thank you for considering I had a chance. It is kind of you.

    • Croft says:

      Who is the Avatar Maude – looks like a 20s of early 30s film star but its so small?

      • maude elwes says:

        @ Croft,

        Yes, as you are, often, right! It is the star of ‘Gone With The Wind.’ She portrays and was herself, I believe, a wilful girl, one I like to identify with. LOL

      • Croft says:

        Being a huge film fan I should have spotted that (or put my glasses on) on a 3440 x 1440 display everything looks as small as pinheads

    • Lord Norton says:

      maude elwes and tizres: It is a speech for ‘A Leader of the Opposition’, not necessarily the present Leader of the Opposition. Imagine a future Harold Wilson-type Leader…

  7. Croft says:

    OffTopic: But I saw this; cheered up my morning no end 😉

  8. Lord Norton says:

    Some excellent entries, prior to veering slightly off topic….

    • Robin Stanley Taylor says:

      If I may veer further off topic – do you (as Britain’s greatest living expert on parliament) know why there has not been a royal proclamation today?

      Ordinarily the dissolution of parliament is accompanied by the reading out of a proclamation by the common crier on the steps of the Royal Exchange, and again in Edinburgh. This continued in 2015, albeit the proclamation was much shortened after the 2011 act removed various prerogatives.

      Today, however, the dissolution of parliament had no such fanfare. Theresa May went to meet the Queen to “mark” the occasion and there was some newsroom discussion but the shouty men in robes were nowhere to be seen.

      There was a rather different proclamation (setting the polling date) published in the Gazette (and the Privy Council minutes) a few days ago but it said nothing of the new parliament’s first meeting nor the writs of summons for the House of Lords, so cannot be a substitute.

    • Thank you mister speaker.
      The Prime Minister has called upon this house to vote to allow for a general election to take place as soon as possible. She claims to have come to this decision whilst walking upon the Welsh countryside. I myself would think that the whole point of such a trip would be to get away from thoughts of politics!

      The Prime Minister says that she is calling this election in order to strengthen her hand when it comes to the brexit negotiations. She may well be doing so. She is an honourable lady. When she ruled out holding an election several times since taking office, I believe she was being truthful to the British people then, for she is after all an honourable lady. However, did this house vote to trigger article 50 or not? Unless I have been having very elaborate hallucinations, this house passed the legislation that the PM wanted it to. Where then is this phantom ‘opposition’ to the PM? Where then is the denial of the will of the people? It did not come from this house, nor these benches. Why would an increased government majority strengthen Britains hand in negotiations when the Labour Party is also committed to implementing the will of the people? It is Labour Party policy to leave the European Union as commanded to do so by the people in the referendum of last year.

      Could it be that the PM is instead engaged in an act of naked self interest? Is she putting party before country? Is she seeking to gain electorally from the small dose of jingoism that may come from a perceived coming clash with Europe? The British public may not be whipped up by the Daily Mail into supporting war with Spain but they may be manipulated into voting for her party out of a sense of misplaced patriotism aided by the PM’s chest thumping nationalism. How manipulative of the very notion of parliamentary democracy to seek a mandate from the people on a single issue that has aroused such passions on both sides?

      By 2020, the full harshness of Tory austerity will be being felt up and down the country.
      By 2020, how many more people will be relying on the charity of others and forced to use food banks to survive? A million, 2 million?
      By 2020, how much longer will the average wait in A&E be? 6 hours, seven? Will people even remember Labours 4 hour target?
      By 2020, how many more of our old people will be denied the dignity they deserve in their old age because of a social care system that may well have all but collapsed?
      By 2020, how many more children will be growing up in poverty, and how many more times will the government change the definition of poverty to avoid facing this disgrace of its own making?
      More pertinently, Mr Speaker, By 2020, the PM will have ended the brexit negotiations. If she fears taking what deal she has got to the people then, why should they trust her now? Does she not trust her own negotiating skills? Does she not believe that she can get a good deal for Britain?

      This Government then was elected until 2020, it will have the support of this house in batting for Britain against the EU bowlers. By 2020, the fruits of this Government and its brexit deal will be known. I contend that this will be coupled with the bitter fruits of Tory austerity. This Government was given 5 years to implement its programme for the country and it should be allowed to do so. I hope it will be judged on it.

      Therefore, the Opposition cannot support such a blatant attempt at the shameful manipulation of the fixed terms parliament act. We expect the Government to be judged at the end of the mandate it was given in 2015 at the general election of 2020. The Government will be able to show its full brexit negotiations hand as well as the bitter fruits of its economic policy. By 2020, the country will have all the information it needs to say of this government, enough is enough! Until then, I call upon the PM to show statesmanship instead of this emotional spasm!

  9. The Duke of Waltham says:

    I cannot watch the programme, but I have read the Act: it stipulates how the date of the general election is chosen, and that Parliament is dissolved automatically 25 days before that date.* Under these arrangements the Queen normally issues a proclamation to fix the date when the new Parliament will assemble, and nothing else, but in this case she has issued an additional proclamation announcing the date of the election. In this sense the Queen has, on the advice of the Prime Minister, indirectly dissolved Parliament; although the House of Commons has passed a motion to that effect, it did not specify a date. (One wonders whether a petition to the monarch wouldn’t be more appropriate in this context.)

    *I think this is a novel approach, in that the date of dissolution used to dictate when the election would take place, and not the reverse as is the case now. In practice, of course, people just counted backwards from the desired election date, unless they stretched the length of a Parliament to the legal limit (as in 2010).

    I’ve noticed another detail. Parliament is always prorogued to a future date, even when it has to be a fictitious one because of an imminent dissolution. However, when Parliament was prorogued a week ago, on 27 April, the letters patent stated a date of 2 May – the day before dissolution. I can’t really say whether this has happened before, but I found it very curious because technically, either a new session ought to begin on that day (which is a theoretical possibility, if entirely impractical), or letters patent ought to be issued to further prorogue Parliament. The latter happened a lot up until the early 19th century, I believe: Parliament was set to assemble on a certain day following an election, and some parliamentarians would gather to hear a commission proroguing it to a later date, something that could happen several times consecutively and end up delaying the start of a session for months.

    • Robin Stanley Taylor says:

      I also noticed that oddity. Proroguing parliament until 2nd May “to be then holden” implied that there would be a third session of the 56th parliament lasting only for a single Tuesday before it dissolved, yet of course that did not take place.

  10. maude elwes says:

    I can’t believe mine disappeared again. Mmm. Why is that?

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