The mother Parliament -

The mother Parliament


Via the Globe’s Doug Saunders and Broken Social Scene’s Julie Penner, news that the new Speaker in the British House of Commons is vowing to shorten that Parliament’s summer break. Seems British MPs sat for “just” (JUST!) 143 days last year. Seems Mr. Speaker believes a greater demonstration of accountability is necessary.

He confirmed plans for the Commons to cut short its three-month summer recess by sitting in September. He said it was “extraordinary” to suggest that the annual party conferences should take priority over Parliament. “The public want visible proof that we are doing our main job, which is to work in Parliament,” he said.


The mother Parliament

  1. UK MPs have to appear useful, like they are doing something, because more than 70% of new British laws are due to directives sent from Brussels and people might start to wonder why they have MPs at all. UK Parliament is an even bigger potemkin village than ours, it does not make a bit of difference how long it sits each year because Brit MPs don't really make laws anymore.

  2. Imagine the temerity of an unelected, unaccountable Speaker doing his job.

  3. That's just not true.

  4. " The constitutional upheaval caused by membership of what is now the EU was the greatest in the country's history since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. For almost 300 years, the “old constitution” was self-contained and largely immune to outside influences.

    All this changed when we joined the EEC. As Prof Anthony King observed in his book The British Constitution: “Not only did Parliament cease to be sovereign, Britain itself ceased to be an old-fashioned sovereign state. The fact of being a member of the EU permeates almost the whole of the British government – to a far greater extent than most Britons seem to realise.”

    Here's just one column that explains why it is true. The UK is not even a sovereign country anymore, they don't decide their own laws. MPs can sit for as long, or as little, as they like but it won't stop Brussels apparat.

  5. I don't have my competing evidence at hand (My reader from that European Politics seminar I took a few years back is in storage), but that argument reeks of Old Fashioned British Exceptionalism.

    If you want to say that the British Parliament has been limited in the realm of continental trade – sure I'll grant you that. But histrionics about losing sovereignty are kinda silly.

    • Also, there are UK MPS in Brussels…i'm not all that happy with some of it as a ex Brit myself…but i think it's more of a two way street than Joylon lets on.

    • "A key element of the Government's anti-terror laws was declared illegal today because it breaches human rights.

      The European Court of Human Rights ruled that sweeping powers allowing police to stop and search people without having grounds of suspecting their involvement in terrorism are illegal." The Times, Jan 12 '10

      Can a country be considered sovereign when foreign judges decides its domestic policy?

  6. Speaking of Speakers, has anyone asked our Speaker if he thinks he has been effective in protecting the rights of MPs lately?

  7. It seems to me that in the UK, they've had a prime minister (Gordon Brown) since June 2007 who was installed as PM when the sitting PM Blair stood down, has never run in an election as party leader, and has remained 10 points behind in those polls since August 2007, yet has never called an election.

    Here in Canada we have a PM who polls higher than Brown, yet can be removed for an election at any time.

    So I find it hard to believe we would use them as a model of parliamentary accountability.

    • Demonstrating once again the weakness of our education system and how little Canadians know or understand our own system of governance and continually mistake it for the American system.

      BTW, SCF, Harper was "installed" as PM in 2006 and 2008, not elected, after the MPs we did elect accepted him as the Prime Minister by giving him their confidence.

      "yet can be removed for an election at any time that the opposition decides to do so."

      Not sure what planet that applies to. Not Canada, and certainly not now. In Canada we have a PM who has shut down Parliament so no votes are happening and who has shut down Parliament whenever it seemed like he might lose confidence.

      • Frankly, I'm rather sick of guys like you who rail on about your superior intellect, expecting to read a friggin' legal document on a blog, when any semi-literate person knows what I'm talking about. You go on about the use of the word "install" like you're a genius when in reality you're exposing yourself as a pompous, smug a**. Sorry to offend your sensibilities, but I don't intend to hold court on the use of the word "install". I understand how our parliament works and I can assure you that people know the difference between Brown's ascension to PM and Harper's, you pompous toad.

        And you're equally obtuse about the latter point. So the leader cannot be removed in January when he could have been removed in December and he can be removed in March, as if that somehow compares to the 2.5 years that Brown has governed.

        • So being precise and factual is being a "pompous, smug a**"? Wow. The "TV – "me" generation" strikes again.

          The point is you are out of whack here SCF, to say Gordon Brown is in anyway illegitimate as PM. It is an entirely American point of view that says we "elect" our PM. The British may have lots of problems with Brown but the democratic legitimacy of his PMship is most assurdly not one of them. Just like Ernie Eves who ruled Ontario for 2.5 years or so and never won an election. He lost to McGuinty because people were fed up with him, not because people thought he had somehow been undemocratically "installed" as Premier.

          So sad that the obtuse assume that the rest of the country is as obtuse as they are.

          • I never said Brown was illegitimate, so keep your lies to yourself.

            There is no "me" generation. There are pompous, smug twits like you in every generation.

            Aaron was so kind to compare the UK parliament with Canada. So I'm pleased to put that comparison in context.

            For some reason you've gone off on a tangent about presidential vs parliamentary democracies, for incomprehensible reasons, when the UK and Canada both have parliaments. You've decided you want to talk about the Americans, because you feel that your interpretations of the words "elect" and "install" supersede other uses of those very generic words. I can assure you, the word "elect" can be used in any number of contexts, despite your pompous assertions otherwise.

          • No, scf. I've merely stated my own opinion. You are the arrogant one presuming to speak for other Canadians, you are the pompous one who think Canadians are too stupid to understand the fundamentals of how our government and democracy work and that it is somehow pompous to actually describe how it works.

            I'm really quite sick of people like you who think intelligent discussion of issues, use of facts, an education, etc is beneath Canadians, promoting a dumbing down of our politics and society. You are destroying what was good in this country. We use to aspire to better ourselves. Both my parents came from poor backgrounds and put themselves through university and insisted their kids knew about how the economy, our government, etc. worked. Now that is seen by conservatives like you to be "elitist" and arrogant and obtuse. Very sad, really.

          • Now you're making no sense at all, I've never said I speak for anybody, despite your hallucinations. I really don't care what your parents did or didn't do. I fail to see the relevance of anything you said in that comment, and I fail to see how you don't realize you are contradicting yourself when you say:

            Demonstrating once again the weakness of our education system and how little Canadians know or understand our own system of governance and continually mistake it for the American system

            and then you say:

            you are the pompous one who think Canadians are too stupid to understand the fundamentals of how our government and democracy work

            It is not stupid to realize that the words "elect" and "install" can be used in various contexts, it is a sign of intelligence. It is not stupid to realize there is nuance and context in language, that is also intelligent.

            It is you who exposes your own stupidity, when you fail to realize that I know exactly how parliamentary government works, while you are the one throwing around asinine accusations indicating otherwise. Maybe you could learn a little reading comprehension and stick to the topic instead of going off on your favourite imaginary hobby horse.

          • The point, you self-described obtuse uneducated rube, is that once upon a time Canadians valued education and understanding the world around them, most especially their government. Today, conservatives in Canada, perhaps influenced by conservatives in the US, look down on learning and education and understanding. Once upon a time Canadians, when they disagreed with what someone else had to say, would attack the argument; today, it seems, if scf is an example, conservatives educated arguments are not a difference of opinion but "pompous" and "arrogant" and beneath such oh so important people as scf.

            Sad. So sad.

          • I'm certain you don't have a point because each comment you post makes less sense than the previous one. Now you're trying out a new angle for the latest non-sequitur. You think you're so clever that you ignore anything that has been said before to post whatever dumb-ass attack pops into your head.

            I'm not the one that attacked your argument, you're the one that attacked mine by calling me uneducated, when in reality you added nothing that I didn't know already. You've never actually put forward an argument, you twit. Then you come up with this ridiculous post saying that your arguments have been bypassed somehow. Are you really this thick? Don't answer, that was rhetorical.

    • You have a interesting point, though you seem to be confusing accountability to the electorate with accountability to Parliament.

      In fact I don't really see much difference in their potential accountability to Parliament; both Harper and Brown's respective governments can be brought down by a vote from a majority of the House. In Harper's case this might only involve members of the Opposition, while to bring Brown's government down would require Labour members to vote against their party's leader.

      That can happen.

      But Parliament does have to be in session for such votes to occur.

      • confusing accountability to the electorate with accountability to Parliament

        I'm not confusing the two, I'm comparing the two. I think the former is more important than the latter. The idea that Labour MPs would vote out Brown is absurd. What would actually happen in reality is that they would force him out outside of parliament, and then they would install a new leader without the electorate ever getting involved, the same way they pushed out Blair.

        • Three points:

          i) Actually you didn't compare these two types of accountability, I think I did! Rather you compared the respective legitimacy of Brown and Harper's premierships. You were arguing that Harper and/or the Conservatives were the most popular choice in an election (something Brown has yet to face) and this makes the Harper/Conservative government more legit than the Brown/Labour one. It almost sounds convincing.

          ii) However the way the system actually works (and you know this) is that to remain in power, a government must retain the confidence of the House. This is true in both the UK and Ottawa. Between elections, governments are accountable to the House, i.e., the elected MPs. At an election, these MPs can be held accountable by their constituents. Elections are (are still) unavoidable and Brown (for example) will have to face one eventually.

          iii) I'm not sure at the end though, why any of this should make a longer-sitting, harder-working house of commons less desirable, or a Harper prorogued-parliament more acceptable.

        • Clearly, accountability to the electorate is of more importance. No one is arguing otherwise. The point that Conservatives are missing is that accountability of the government, especially in our Parliamentary system, is not something that just happens whenever the PM calls an election.

          Canadians elect MPs. If one party gets more MPs than the other parties, they get first dibs at forming the government so long as they maintain the confidence of the House.

          That is really at the crux of much of what Harper's Reform Party was in fact. Making MPs more relevant, moving away from election-only accountability to restore an ages old accountability to Parliament in addition to the occasional accountability to the people.

          Sad and ironic as that last point may be.