Fixed Term Parliaments

Written By: - Date published: 4:50 pm, May 26th, 2015 - 25 comments
Categories: electoral systems, Parliament, political parties, Politics, social democracy - Tags: , , ,

Here’s the link to the UK legislation. It was brought in by the Tories and Lib/Dems to safeguard against one of the coalition partners (Lib/Dems) being done over by the other (Tories). It has had some unintended and rather positive consequences.

With a fixed term parliament, no sitting government can game an an upcoming election by choosing a date that coincides with propitious events. Election dates are set.

With a fixed term parliaments act there is no need for backroom deals to cobble coalitions or confidence and supply arrangements…and no wee shits scrambling for any beads of office.

Here’s how it works.

A party gains 50% + of a parliamentary vote to form the next government. Unless a given percentage (75% in the UK) of parliament subsequently votes to dissolve parliament after a discrete and precisely worded vote of ‘no confidence’, the term of parliament plays out.

If a government fails to get 50%+ approval for a budget, or any other piece of legislation, it simply goes away, looks at the parliamentary arithmetic and tweaks its proposals in such a way as to ensure 50%+ of the parliamentary vote.

There are a few things worth noting.

With no need for coalitions, the infantile fixation by media on ‘five headed hydra’s’ or instability and such like, disappears. And with no ‘baubles of office’ up for grabs the influence of the Winston Peter’s and Peter Dunne’s of this world diminishes.

If we look at the Clark government of 2002 under fixed term legislation, obviously, a snap election couldn’t have been called in the first place. But much more importantly, The Progressives (2 seats) and United Future (8 seats) couldn’t have elevated their influence to the detriment of the Greens (9 seats) and NZ First (13 seats).

Presumably, Labour would have formed the government having gained a 50%+ parliamentary vote of confidence. Labour would then have filled all cabinet posts and brought its programme to the floor of parliament. If necessary, there would have been honest and transparent changes, on an issue by issue basis, made to any Labour proposal that couldn’t gather 50% + of votes.

Sometimes, that would have meant Labour negotiating with either of the Greens, NZFirst, UF, The Progressives or any combination thereof.

All parties, at least initially, get to maintain their core policy positions – including the government party. There is far less scope for horse-trading, stand-over tactics or pork barrelling. For example, it’s possible (I’m not saying this actually happened) that the Greens had their influence diminished in relation to other parties in 2002 as a consequence of refusing to compromise their position on GE. Under a Fixed Term Parliament, the Greens could have held that position and it would have had no detrimental impact on their influence within parliament.

Unlike at present, any negotiations arising from ‘issue by issue’ politics would more likely be in the open; they wouldn’t be carried out behind closed doors or in draughty corridors by parties otherwise ‘gagged’ or ‘bought off’ by formal arrangements.

Now, wouldn’t that be good for the public’s perception of parliamentary governance, particularly when casting an eye on matters such as openness and honesty? I don’t know what NZ media would do if they were robbed of their ‘Kingmaker’ headlines though….

25 comments on “Fixed Term Parliaments”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Interesting as this shows the possibility of getting rid of Cabinet which I think would be a great step towards better, more transparent, democracy.

    • Colonial Rawshark 1.1

      yeah and gets rid of a large part of the careerism and party arselicking which goes on as MPs try and jockey for position.

    • weka 1.2

      “the possibility of getting rid of Cabinet”

      How so?

    • Bill 1.3

      Hmm. I don’t think it points to a possibility of Cabinets disappearing. Parliament and all parliamentary parties operate hierarchically. Cabinet is an integral part of that.

      At pains of throwing an oxymoron into the mix, what it does do is protect the integrity of parliamentary parties and ensure their influence is more in keeping with their vote share.

      What I forgot to mention in the post is that minor parties have potentially much more power in a Fixed Parliament sitting outside of government than they do at present sitting inside government.

  2. weka 2

    Are cabinet posts filled by MPs from the governing party only, or can they use other MPs as well?

    • Bill 2.1

      If it wants to try and form a coalition, it can. If it wants to reach a confidence and supply arrangement, it can.

      That means that if the governing party wanted to offer a cabinet position to another party, it could.

      But a minor party would be kind of mad to take up such offers. They retain much more power and influence by not getting into bed with the governing party.

      • Colonial Rawshark 2.1.1

        People did try and tell Nick Clegg

        • Bill 2.1.1.1

          Well, no CV. The Tory – Lib/Dem coalition pre-dated the Fixed Term Parliaments Act – when governments fell on simple majority votes.

          What the Lib/ems should have done back then, was to go into coalition with Labour, as people expected of them, instead of wanking on about the largest party having some moral mandate and going with the Tories on that basis.

      • weka 2.1.2

        “But a minor party would be kind of mad to take up such offers. They retain much more power and influence by not getting into bed with the governing party.”

        I’m not quite seeing that. The GP and Mana would have no more power than now if Labour could get support from NZF and UF. In that scenario the mainn difference is we’re locked into a fixed term of neoliberal centrist beige-esque hell with no chance of anyone crossing the floor or removing C and S. Or am I missing something?

        • Bill 2.1.2.1

          Anyone going into a coalition has to compromise and ‘hold their council’ on various matters. There’s a commitment made to presenting a ‘face of government’ and the government falls if the commitment breaks down. (Cue the wheeling and dealing and the bluffing/double bluffing and the rise of the lowest common denominator)

          Even the Green party got gagged by National when they signed that MoU last time around.

          If, on your example, Labour could go a full term with NZF and UF in coalition and are willing to accept all the compromises they would have to make with those two parties, and those two parties are willing to make similar compromises, then sure.

          But why would Labour do that when they could, if smart, pick and choose what to alter on an issue by issue basis by acquiescing to whichever party’s demands it loses least face with, or that sees its business go through with least change? Incidentally, that could see them actually being pushed further and enacting bolder legislation than they otherwise would.

          Of course, taking the example to its logical end, minor parties have less parliamentary power when faced by a majority government.

          Meanwhile, Mana were never going to be seen as a viable coalition partner by Labour and so (arguably) Labour felt justified in undermining them. That motivation doesn’t exist under a Fixed Term Parliament.

          • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.2.1.1

            When were the Green party gagged by the MoU with National?

            • Bill 2.1.2.1.1.1

              From the MoU from 2009 (and bear in mind that the Nats were the more powerful partner)

              Both Parties agree:

              To keep the details of working discussions confidential until negotiations are concluded, whether the result ends in agreement or
              not.

              And right there was the incentive for the Nats to not conclude, or delay the conclusion of any negotiations and bind the Greens in silence for the time being.

              And…

              Joint statements will be made on steps delivered in the Strategies where we have worked co-operatively.

              Joint statements will be made on
              progress in implementing the new regulatory system

              Again, the Greens cannot say anything without ‘permission’ of the Nats – they, the Nats, essentially got into a position where they called the shots.

              • Colonial Rawshark

                I think the Greens would be allowed to make statements which weren’t joint.

          • Kiwiri 2.1.2.1.2

            typo? you mean ‘hold their counsel’?

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.3

        But a minor party would be kind of mad to take up such offers. They retain much more power and influence by not getting into bed with the governing party.

        Which is what opens up the possibility of getting rid of Cabinet.

        At the moment Cabinet is made up of ministers drawn from the MPs of the governing coalition. Each party, though, has their own spokesperson for the role.

        Taking that into account we give each party spokesperson the same power and accountability as a minister, essentially, associate ministers. Most notably they have the same access to the government department as the Minister. They each get the same briefings at the same time and the actions of one are reported to the others. Ministerial decisions made are made between all of them (weighted by their party’s vote).

        A more open process than the present behind closed doors system that we have now.

        • Bill 2.1.3.1

          Draco – that’s a mess of unnecessary complexity. Let the governing party submit its business and successfully argue for it or have it rejected. Simple is as simple does.

  3. DS 3

    The Fixed Term Parliament Act is a godawful idea.

    Essentially what it means is that you need the consent of the two biggest parties to have an early election. Sounds fine… until you realise that it creates a hypothetical situation where no-one can get a budget through. Under the current system, an election would be forced, but under the FTPA, there is no necessary dissolution of Parliament. *The country would go into a US-style Government shutdown as the Government runs out of money*.

    This is a greater danger in a system like ours, where minority government is the norm.

    • Bill 3.1

      until you realise that it creates a hypothetical situation where no-one can get a budget through

      If a budget fails to get 50%+, then governing party goes away and with an eye to the arithmetic of parliament, changes aspects of its budget. There is no deadlock, hypothetical or otherwise.

      If it was the case that parliament had lost confidence in the government, then it can dissolve parliament with a majority vote. In the UK it sits at 75% of seats, but there’s no reason why NZ couldn’t set that at 66% or whatever.

      • Colonial Rawshark 3.1.1

        The whole idea of MPs and Parties sitting down and talking with each other in order to run the country (instead of yelling at each other from opposite sides of the chamber) appears to be an alien concept to many.

  4. hoom 4

    I don’t like it.
    Coalitions are important & a good idea in my opinion.

    Has potential to leave a hung Parliament incapable of doing anything for years.
    I’d rather have a new Election.

    • Colonial Rawshark 4.1

      This legislation forces minority governments to talk to all the smaller parties. It prevents a minority government from locking in smaller parties via ‘coalition agreements’ which give the smaller parties a few small concessions here and there in exchange for supporting absolutely the rest of the minority government’s agenda. And it prevents a single minority party (think NZ First or Peter Dunne or ACT) from holding a gun to the head of the minority government.

      BTW it’s not going to lead to a “hung Parliament” any more than the current system is, and as Bill pointed out, there is a fail safe to force re-elections if a super majority of MPs agree in a vote of no confidence.

    • Bill 4.2

      Why do you think coalitions are good?

      There is no chance of a hung government being unable to do business under a Fixed Term parliaments Act btw.

      What it gives us is a fluid and responsive legislative environment that tends to better reflect the voters will as expressed through parties elected.

  5. Rich 5

    The UK system does allow for a motion of no confidence. If a new government is not formed and wins a confidence motion within 14 days, then there is an election.

    (This could be achieved by a governing party voting no confidence in itself).

    Also, a 2/3 majority can call an early election.

    • Bill 5.1

      Yup. That’s summarised in the post. As I wrote in one of the comments, if 75% is too high (I suspect it is) then 66% or 2/3rds could be the bar.

      Something no-one seems to be focusing on is that the whole parliamentary environment is changed and becomes more transparent and ‘honest’.

      Minor parties generally have a parliamentary influence that better reflects their success at the ballot box and no-one has to issue ‘bottom lines’ or ‘red lines’ or ‘lines in the sand’ with regards their support for a major party’s business.

      In the example I chose in the post (2002) it’s feasible to entertain the idea that the Greens were kicked into the long grass because of GE. Under a Fixed Term, that wouldn’t have happened. The Greens, UF, NZFirst and the Progressives would have had influence on any given piece of business in relation to the seats they had won.

      Labour for its part, wouldn’t have had to make a call on which coalition make-up was better. They’d just have got on with putting their business through parliament and pulled back aspects of their business or been pushed further on aspects of their business depending on the parliamentary arithmetic.

      No horse trading, dirty dealing or what have you, prior to government being formed. No elevation of the lowest common denominator in order to form a coalition. No side-lining of minor parties that stood by their principles.

      And no infantile msm fixating on ‘kingmakers’ or whipping up fear shit about possible cabinet seats going to the Greens or whatever and so on.

      I can’t see a down side, and have found that anyone who takes the time to think it through can’t see a down side either.

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    Private prisons are a stain on humanity. Prison operators explicitly profit from human misery, then lobby for longer prisons terms so they can keep on profiting. And in the US, prison companies run not only local and state prisons, but also Donald Trump's immigration concentration camps. Faced with this moral ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Why PPPs are a bad idea
    When National was in power, they were very keen on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) - basicly, using private companies to finance public infrastructure as a way of hiding debt from the public. They were keen on using them for everything - roads, schools, hospitals. But as the UK shows, that "service" ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • A Movement That No Longer Moves.
    Moving And Shaking: There was a time when people spoke matter-of-factly about the “labour movement” – a political phenomenon understood to embrace much more than the Labour Party. Included within the term’s definition was the whole trade union movement – many of whose members looked upon the Labour Party as ...
    2 weeks ago
  • NZ ‘left’ politically embracing extreme postmodernism
    by Philip Ferguson Much of the left, even people who formally identify as marxists, have collapsed politically in the face of postmodern gender theory of the sort pioneered by American philosopher Judith Butler. For Butler even biological sex is socially constructed. “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • The obvious question
    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    2 weeks ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago

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