Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Normal parliamentary procedure

David Cameron has managed to siphon off only a small number of his Tory Eurosceptic rebels by promising to publish a Conservative draft bill on an in/out referendum, but the vote on Wednesday regretting the absence of a bill in the Queen's speech will go ahead.   .... [T]he leader of the revolt, John Baron, said he was not going to withdraw his planned amendment regretting the contents of the Queen's speech.
Okay, the details here are sorta byzantine. Cameron, who mostly wants Britain to stay in the European Union, is proposing a referendum on leaving the EU. His Liberal-Democratic coalition partners oppose leaving the EU and oppose having the referendum. Some of the Labor opposition might actually support both. At least 80 of Cameron's own backbenchers, who do want the referendum and do want out of the EU, have tabled a motion regretting Cameron's failure to put the referendum project in the Throne Speech.

In Canada Conservative government bobbleheads backbenchers are honoured as rebels for being mildly upset about not having permission to occasionally make a statement on some minor matter without asking the PM's staff to script it for them.  In the UK Conservative government backbenchers, when they dislike a fundamental foreign policy project of their own leadership, organize in blocs of 80 or more to put a motion before the House saying so. Can we see the difference here?

What's important is that this is normal politics for any functioning parliamentary democracy. If members of parliament do not hold their leaders to account from time to time, they have no reason to be there.

The Brits will work out this parliamentary difference.  The point is that there are differences: every party is a coalition of interests on this and other questions.  When parliaments work, those differences are aired and resolved within the framework of representative democracy. Differences within our Canadian parties are just as significant as those in other parliamentary countries. It's just that we have convinced the caucuses of all our parties that they are not supposed to air them.

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