Monday, June 15, 2009

Supine MPs (the ones across the pond)

Charles Moore (no relation I know of) in the British paper The Telegraph emphasizes the essential point : MPs have the powers they need to control the government. But he looks at a recent British House innovation (a secret ballot election for the House Speaker) and he's not made hopeful:
When you look at the state of the race for Speaker, MPs seem rather like freed slaves who, so used to their manacles, feel lost without them.
Canadian MPs have been using a secret ballot to elect the speaker for some time now. It has made for more legitimate speakers, but no one can say it has inspired MPs to show any appetite for the other powers they have at their disposal any time they choose to assert themselves.

Gordon Brown, meanwhile, survives as leader of the Labour party. I'm okay with that; it indicates that, despite all the noise, his opponents in caucus could not muster sufficient votes (only about 75 needed) to bring on a review. True, a successful caucus review would not have removed Brown, but only triggered a mass party convention and that must be inhibiting in itself.

But recall the Canadian comparison: in 1988 a majority of the Canadian Liberal caucus asked John Turner to step down, and he just ignored them. (I'm going on my recall of the story as reported in a book I don't have at hand, Playing for Keeps, an account of the 1988 election by Graham Fraser, now the commissioner for official languages).

(h/t Stephen)
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