Votes of no confidence

The principle that an administration can only function if it has the backing of a majority in the House of Commons is acknowledged to be a fundamental part – perhaps the fundamental part – of not only the British, but of any parliamentary constitution. It expresses the idea that Parliament itself cannot exercise executive power,… Continue reading Votes of no confidence

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Whips and the origins of Parliamentary Whipping

Earlier this year an Early Day Motion sponsored by a number of former chief whips and signed by a long cast of others who have served as whips marked what is being treated as the centenary of the Government Whips’ office. But while the office may be relatively young, the function of whipping is almost intrinsic to parliamentary life.

The Veto

"An astonishing rumour has been current of late. A certain section of the Unionist party is said to be encouraging the idea that it is possible, as a matter of practical politics, for the King to refuse the Royal Assent to the Home Rule Bill next May, when for the third time it has passed the House of Commons and has complied with all the requirements of the Parliament Act. … The danger may seem fanciful to many. It is impossible, it will be said, that so mad an idea could be entertained for a moment by responsible politicians. But it comes from Ulster

Urgency Motions

U is for the Urgency Motion, a procedure that was introduced in 1882 as part of a series of responses to the campaign of obstruction by the Irish party against the Irish Coercion bill, which had its climax in the famous forty-one hour sitting of the House of Commons from Monday 31 January to Wednesday… Continue reading Urgency Motions

Tea on the Terrace

Tea on the Terrace of the House of Commons was, by the beginning of the twentieth century, regarded as an integral part of the London ‘season’, the three month or so round of parties, races, dinners and balls (as well as rather more staid entertainments such as the Chelsea Flower Show, the Royal Tournament and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition) that was enjoyed, or sometimes endured, by high society.

Surgeries

A regular, usually weekly, constituency surgery is these days an inescapable element of the routine of any Member of Parliament, and one which most regard as of central importance to the way they do their job. Commentators often find it remarkable to find politicians, far from being out-of-touch and distant figures, not only engaging with individual constituents, but lavishing time and energy on listening to and trying to help people with complex and intractable problems.

Resignation

‘The acceptance of the Chiltern Hundreds is a dodge which was discovered in the middle of the 18th century, by which the immemorial rule of Parliament, that a man could not resign, was evaded, and which gave the necessary elasticity and alleviation of the rules; and ever since that date, although the rule that a member may not resign has remained in undiminished force, it has always been got out of by this curious practice of taking an office of emolument under the Crown, an office which carries with it no emolument, and which is not, except in any but the most technical sense, under the Crown at all’.