Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Of hung parliaments and the government's bona fides

Graeme Cowie does not post often to his blog, but when he does it is after due consideration. He has recently delivered two magisterial judgments in the field of his special expertise, constitutional law.

In his analysis of the prime minister's position with particular reference to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and parliamentary arithmetic, he puts right certain journalistic assumptions. In particular, he dismisses the easy assumption that, in view of Mrs May's successful call for an early election, the FTPA changed nothing. He concludes:

The truth is that the old system that preceded the Fixed Term Parliaments Act would have handled this type of situation no better than the current one. It allowed Prime Ministers to escape resignation by appealing immediately and directly to the country, even when an alternative viable government could be formed from the democratically elected Parliament. These decisions are no longer a privilege the Prime Minister enjoys, exploiting in the process the political sensitivity of the Crown. It is instead for Parliament itself to decide.

For a Parliament man like me, that is, when all is said and done, a no bad thing.

He followed this up with a dismissal of the chances of success of a judicial review of Mrs May's "confidence and supply" agreement with the DUP.

I cannot claim to have followed all the thought-processes of a trained legal mind, but I am convinced that the supply and confidence arrangement will not be susceptible to overriding by the court on the grounds specified. Mrs May's position will be safe (for the time being). However, the fact that the Queen's minister and, therefore, her government are dependent for the continuing confidence of parliament on one of the players in the Northern Ireland arena must shade their status as joint impartial guarantors in the formation of a new power-sharing government in Stormont.

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