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The next Leader of the Opposition?


Patmobile
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Suppose one of the major parties in the UK general election gets a majority, or, failing that, wins the most seats and concludes a deal with one of the small parties enabling it to form a government.  What will happen then if one of the two other major parties wins more seats than the other, but the party with fewer seats wins more votes.  Will there be a terrific constitutional row about who is the official Leader of the Opposition?

Normally it would automatically be the leader of the opposition party with the largest number of parliamentiary seats, but it would be a national scandal if the runner-up in the popular vote were not officially recognised as the alternative to the government party.

According to the polls, with 5 days to go, this bizarre scenario looks quite possible.  The Tories could win outright or might be able to form a government with the aid of Irish Unionists or other minor groups.  Labour would probably still be the second largest party in the commons even if they win significantly fewer votes than the LibDems. 

How could a Labour leader then claim to be the Leader of the Opposition?

Patrick 

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According to the Ministers of the Crown Act 1937, 'Leader of the Opposition' is defined as "that member of the House of Commons

who is for the time being the leader in that House of the party in

opposition to His Majesty's Government having the greatest numerical

strength in that House".

The Act also says: "If any doubt arises as to which is or was at any material time the party

in opposition to His Majesty's Government having the greatest numerical

strength in the House of Commons, or as to who is or was at any

material time the leader in that House of such a party the question

shall be decided for the purposes of this Act by the Speaker of the

House of Commons, and his decision, certified in writing under his hand,

shall be final and conclusive".

The last time there was a coalition government at Westminster, in 1940-45, the leaders of the main parties were all members of the government. In that case, Hansard reported: "The Prime Minister... said that in view of the formation of an Administration embracing

the three main political parties, H.M. Government was of the opinion

that the provision of the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, relating to

the payment of a salary to the Leader of the Opposition was in abeyance

for the time being, as there was no alternative party capable of forming

a Government. He added that he did not consider amending legislation

necessary."

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This is another anomaly created by the 'first past the post' system.

The minor and fringe parties would with proportional representation all gain a seat or more - even the most obscure and weird.  Provided of course,  that they manage to find the deposits for many seats.

PR is not perfect of course, and one should remember that the German 'Weimar'  government that preceded the N*** era was such,  and was so weak that it could not govern as it consisted of numerous political parties, with Hitler's party, not a majority, able to control the assembly within a few years of having its first MP.  One should always remember that Hitler's party was voted into power by the German people.

Tegwini

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I agree, Swiss, except that I'm not sure it's a REAL opposition as the official name is Her Majesty's Opposition.  Therefore, both sides are the Crown's henchmen and women....some democracy and some government![:P]
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The function of an opposition, Swissie, is to scrutinise the policies and actions of the government and to hold it to account for those actions. The Conservatives voted for the Iraq war and were in favour of even less regulation of the financial sector. What frustrates me about our MPs is not their petty expenses fiddling - I would buy them hob-nobs and duck-houses out of my own money if they would do what they were elected to do - use their intelligence and judgement in an independent-minded way in the best interests of their constituents. Some hope.
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[quote user="Edward Trunk"]. What frustrates me about our MPs is not their petty expenses fiddling - I would buy them hob-nobs and duck-houses out of my own money if they would do what they were elected to do - use their intelligence and judgement in an independent-minded way in the best interests of their constituents. Some hope.[/quote]

Some changes I would introduce to improve the effectiveness of Parliament:

  • The House of Commons would be elected for fixed terms - say four years - Prime Ministers would not be able to seek dissolution at a time that is convenient/propitious to them. If a parliament is "hung" it would remain so for four years.
  • The power of party whips would be reduced to providing advice or information - any enforcing activity would be illegal.
  • MPs would be obliged to hold two non-partisan public meetings in their constuencies during each parliamentary session to report on their parliamentary activities. (NB MPs are elected as representatives not delegates - the meetings would not mandate MPs in any way.)
  • There should be a parliament or assembly for England which is independent of the United Kingdom parliament to deal exclusively for English matters.
  • The Constitution of the United Kingdom, which at present exists in a number of discrete documents and conventions should be codified into a single document. The Monarch should be subject to the constitution and have the same status within the constitution as other citizens. The concept of "subject" should be abolished. (This may pave the way for a republic.)
  • The House of Lords would be an elected Chamber (by proportional representation).
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Any bets if Labour lose who will then be the leader of the Labour Party. If anyone has viewed the last few weeks circus try to think of a Labour Minister who has let us say taken a back seat and has not been viewed on TV too often?

'Post' your choice to........... and there is a clue here.
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