The United Kingdom, the mother of all democracies, is about to change its political system in fundamental ways -- changes that will spell disaster for the nation and for its politics. For those who love Britain, the news of these impending alterations can only cause angst and distress.
As a result of the inability of either the Conservatives or Labor to win a majority in Parliament in the recent elections, both parties had to bid for support from the Liberal/Social Democratic Party. The price the Conservatives ultimately paid was to agree to some of these changes and to refer others to the electorate for a referendum.
The changes that the parties have agreed to will transform the British government from a decisive decision-making machine into a morass of compromise, half-measures and deadlock. Gridlock will be exported across the ocean to the United Kingdom.
Right now, the prime minister can dissolve Parliament anytime he wants, forcing new elections. He is also obliged to order new elections if he loses a vote of confidence. This power holds the members of his parliamentary majority in check and restrains them from turning on their leaders since, should they succeed in a vote of no confidence, it would plunge them into the uncertainty of a new election, which would imperil their own seats.
The new rules would bar the prime minister from dissolving Parliament during its five-year term and vest that right in a two-thirds majority of parliament. In other words, Parliament would have to vote itself out of office -- something likely never to happen.
So, under the new rules, if a government loses a vote over a major legislative item -- or fails to survive a no-confidence motion -- it must resign, but there need not be new elections. Instead, Parliament can refuse to order new elections and just re-form a new government out of the old Parliament.
The effect of this rule change is likely to be that governments will rise and fall all the time since they may do so without forcing members to face new elections. Like in Italy, the new governments will just be formed by reshuffling the current parliamentary deck into new combinations and coalitions.
Whereas now, if a government falls, there is an election to decide the issue, under the new procedure, the deadlock could just go on and on without resolution.
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