Wednesday, February 24, 2016

History of Parliament -- that other one

For fans of parliamentary weirdness: consider Britain.
  • The government of Prime Minister David Cameron is in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union.  
  • The Cameron government is also in favour of putting British membership to an In/Out referendum on June 23.
  • The prime minister expects to stay on as prime minister whether the referendum result is In, which he favours, or Out, which he does not. 
  • About a third of the governing party's caucus will support the Out option, which they are evidently free to do and for which they will face no particular consequences from the party or the leadership. 
  • A dozen or so of the ministers in Prime Minister Cameron's cabinet also favour the Out option and will campaign for it against the government of which they are a part. Again, no sanctions, no consequences.  
  • Except: these Out-favouring cabinet ministers will be denied access to government documents concerning Europe and British policy toward Europe.
Is cabinet's collective responsibility solidarity a thing in British parliamentary practice any more?  Is parliamentary sovereignty taken very seriously?  Who is the government, if much of the cabinet doesn't even see essential policy papers and dissents on fundamental policy matters?  Is government policy whatever the PM and his staff say it is?  

I rather like the fourth bullet point. The idea that MPs are answerable to constituents rather than party bosses and are free to form their own verdict on what is best for Britain and their constituents, seems right to me.  The other ones all seem a bit crazy.  

Is any of this relevant to Canadian parliamentary system, when no Canadian journalist or scholar seems interested in these matters at all.

Background:  the British media, notably The Guardian online, have the info, as in this story.  But few of them seem to ponder the parliamentary weirdnesses in it either.

Update, March 1, 2016:  Now cabinet ministers who support the Out are complaining:  I'm a minister, I'm entitled to see the papers I need to run my department.  Civil servants:  Nope, sorry.

No one seems to think it is a constitutional crisis or anything.  Over there they don't seem to have much clue as to how parliaments work, either.
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