By Aaron Newell
David Cameron is in the strange position of using partly faulty arguments to justify the planned 55% dissolution of Parliament rule, which although fair now could lead to gross unfairness in future. David is having an interesting first couple of weeks, at least.
Cameron has argued that it is necessary to protect governments to allow for the widely-supported Fixed Term Parliaments, where the election date is set by law. His other argument is that it is necessary for one of the reasons Scotland has a 66% requirement, to protect coalition governments from junior partners’ un-proportional power. Both arguments are based on one fact: the Liberal Democrats could leave, garner (only just) 50% with the rest of the opposition, instigate a vote of no confidence and the Tories would be obliged by tradition to call new elections.
In one regard, the current state of play is quite unfair. For the Liberal Democrats, the coalition’s minority partner, to hold the Conservatives to ransom by threats of new elections is to use un-proportional power: the Liberals have fewer seats but can cause more damage to the Conservatives in the coalition. So the 55% is fair because it prevents this. Yet this is only true in this coalition-specific instance. The far more usual overall-majority governments don’t need to be protected from partners they don’t have.
So, although this 55% rule can be justified in a coalition, in future majority governments it will not be used in this way. Those governments will already be protected by their majority, and so the 55% rule will then protect them from the opposition to an even greater degree. What was once fair then morphs into the unfair. The Devil’s in the circumstances as well as the details.