Friday, November 26, 2010

Government Ministers Can't Have It Both Ways

Is it really conceivable that the 20 LibDem Ministers will be allowed to abstain on the question of tuition fees? Surely all members of the government are obliged to support government legislation, and if they don't they should surely step down. We face the ridiculous prospect of Vince Cable being able to abstain on the legislation he and his department is proposing. To my mind, all Conservative and LibDem MPs must be on a three line whip on this. Sure, backbenchers have every right to vote with their consciences, but for government ministers that is not a luxury they can have.And if they wish to, they should step down.

Because if they don't, this way lies anarchy. What about the MPs whose constituencies will be sliced in two by the high speed rail link? David Lidington, Cherly Gillan and Jeremy Wright know they have the option of voting against it, but they also know the consequences of doing so. Or do we really think they should be allowed to vote against and still remain as part of the government? I think not.

21 comments:

Josher said...

So section 31 of the Coalition Agreement was written just for giggles, as a form of artistic expression?

Natacha said...

I agree with you on this but for different reasons. They should not be allowed to abstain, they should honour their pledges to vote against the rise in tuition fees. If that means no ministerial jobs for them, so be it. If it means a snap general election, even better. A snap election precipitated by them keeping their promises (eventually) would probably mean they didn't loose all their supporters, just most of them.

It would also mean we could get rid of Cameron, Gove and Osborne, and as such they would be doing the whole country a huge favour.

Simon Lewis said...

Totally agree Iain. You defo can't have it both ways. You know what they used to say. Lib Dems were always more right wing in Tory areas and more left in Labour areas. They are a joke..sorry..but they are..

Henry said...

I personally think Josher is right. The coalition agreement says abstain. It is a coalition rather than a single party, and the agreement allows for disagreement.

I hardly think it would lead to anarchy if it is carefully written down in a document.

More Labour MPs rebelled in the previous Government against their own manifesto.

no longer anonymous said...

If it keeps the Lib Dems onside then so be it. The long term plan is to turn them into the English FDP.

Richard Manns said...

Well, in the past, ministers could vote against the government and not face immediate "resignation".

But if we are to continue on the "gov't pay-roll ergo vote for gov't" line, then they can stick to the same rules as Tory ministers.

I don't entirely agree with Natacha, but I would say that they are entirely within their rights to vote against the bill, just as the PM could dismiss them for doing so. But whether the PM could wipe out half the ministerial LDs without causing an upset is questionable: we know that ministers vote with the government or resign, but the public is unlikely to see it that way and the media are always looking for "divisions".

NoetiCat said...

As was pointed out above, it is explicitly in the coalition agreement that Lib Dems are allowed to abstain on this subject.

Samuel Dale said...

In the coalition agreement Lib Dems are allowed to abstain. It is perfectly consistent with stable government to adhere to this agreement. It is not undermining of the government because the government was formed on the very basis that Lib Dems could abstain on tuition fees.

matterhorn said...

This is nonsense. Coalition government requires new rules. Where you have a conflict you abstain. Of course Vince can't abstain, but we can't have ministers coming and going all the time just because they are conflicted on certain items in which they are not closely involved. Governments deal with too many different things these days. It's matter of judgment whether the conflict is a resigning matter. Coalition has just exacerbated the problem but in due course the great British public will decide whether they want to repeat the experience -and whether they want to adopt a voting system that will make coalitions more frequent. I think we know the answer already but I suppose we have to go through the traditional process to formalise this.

Alan said...

I think the legislature is very weak in this country, so anything that gives a modicum of power back has got to be welcomed.

Ministers should be sacked if they vote against, but there is a long tradition of ministers having tactical diary clashes allowing graceful abstentions, and this was something specifically negotiated as part of the coalition.

Anyway, we've stretched the LibDems almost to breaking point (seeing Huhne sign up to nuclear was very sweet indeed), so we shouldn't be nasty to them.

Lady Finchley said...

Oh yes Natcacha - that would be great for the country - not. Your Lib Dem buddies got caught with their pants down because they didn't know one of the first rules of politics - never say anything that will leave you a hostage to fortune. It was ill advised to make such a daft promise - I don't even want to rehearse the reasons why. Are you a student? Would explain whay you can't spell 'lose'.

Charlie said...

You have got to be joking with this blog Iain! Their duty is to their constituents - not their party or even the government.

It really is about time that people in the conservative party stopped bleating about ending 'top down big government' when you are plainly shamming.

We can't have people standing for election on a promise to represent the specifically expressed views of the people, if, after election they then turn round and say "sorry didn't really mean that - I only said it so you'd vote for me!"

This is why the electorate is thoroughly pissed off with the main parties and NO party actually 'got in' in May! We do not have a Presidential system, we vote for a Consituency MP. We do not vote for a party or a government, we vote for an individual who we judge for integrity and ability against the others.

It isn't anarchy for people to expect that person to be voting according to the wishes of the people who elected him or her - it is democracy!

Proper old fashioned grassroots-up, not top-down-diktat, democracy!

Scary Biscuits said...

I thought the whole point of being a LibDem was to have it both ways.

starcourse said...

There is a massive financial crisis over soverign debt at the moment. Thanks to the determined actions of the Coalition, we are no longer mentioned in the same breath as Ireland, Portugal and Spain. However if the government were to weaken or fall and there were the slightest chance that "blank page" Milliband and "know nothing" Johnson were to be in charge, interest rates would rise to levels commensurate with our deficit (higher than Spain and Portugal) and the UK would be sunk.

P. Stable said...

Lady Finchley: The first rule of politics may be "don't make promises you can't keep", but surely the first rule of blog commenting is "don't take a cheap shot at someone else's spelling mistake if you're going to spell 'why' incorrectly".

Mark Senior said...

i agree with you Iain , if it works equally both ways .
Hague must therefore campaign for the AV and not against as otherwise he would be opposing government legislation .

strapworld said...

Sorry iain, this smacks of weak leadership by Cameron.

The Lib Dems want all the glory but cannot take the flack. It was a most ridiculous pledge anyway and they acknowledged that themselves, secretly it appears, before the election.

They must not be allowed to abstain.

Sir Norfolk Passmore said...

I don't understand Iain's post. The Coalition Agreement is completely clear on this point.

Tarquin said...

Do a little historical research - until quite recently it was perfectly fine for a minister to vote against the government

You say anarchy, I say elective dictatorship

HampsteadOwl said...

@P.Stable

Maybe that is how "Lady Finchley" pronounces "why".

Lady Finchley said...

Haha Hampstead Owl - unfortunately it was just a typo!