Dear Lord, no!

The vicar’s daughter who talks all the time about Christian values but has apparently never read the 9th commandment goes against her five-times-repeated pledge “No general election until 2020“.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act of course exists precisely to prevent this kind of opportunistic capitalising on a weak opposition. But that was passed waaay back in 2011, and who cares about all that six-years-ago stuff?

The Leader of the Opposition can of course have his MPs vote against accepting May’s snap election, denying her the two-thirds majority she needs under the terms of the FTPA. So needless to say, The Spineless One is instead giving her exactly what she wants.

(Without Labour’s support the Conservatives would not get the 2/3 majority they need. They could still force a General Election, but to do so they would to pass a motion of no confidence in themselves — a humiliating move which would weaken the Conservatives’ position in the election, and which any self-respecting leader of the opposition would love to see. But not Corbyn, obviously.)

What next? Well, when the UK voted Leave, the USA upped the ante by voting in President Trump. I don’t see Trump taking such a catastrophically self-harming action lying down, and confidently expect to see him top it by declaring war on North Korea.


A quick reminder: one year ago today, David Cameron was Prime Minister, Britain was in the EU, Barack Obama was US President as Hillary Clinton looked certain to follow her. The USA was diplomatically on an even keel with Russia and with North Korea. Who can believe how quickly it’s all fallen apart?

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45 responses to “Dear Lord, no!

  1. I think I gave up on Ms May pretty early on: she made a lot of fine speeches at the time Cameron decided to do a runner about how fabulous and lovely things would be under her reign, including stopping the sale of Britain’s key industries. In less than a week in office, she approved the sale of probably our most valuable tech company to a foreign investor, which told me all I needed to know about her priorities. Obviously keeping her word is not one of them.

    I dunno, I just despair of the lot of them really. It seems that the neo-liberal career politician is now just a fact of life whoever you vote for. I know we may not be in agreement politically what with me being “Euro ambivalent”, but I feel like our current crop of politicians are pretty consistent in being a bad lot and there’s not much scope for making the best of it.

  2. How quickly indeed…
    But why?
    Is it because most people are self-righteous fools who think along the lines of “If I can’t understand it, it’s not important enough to bother with.”?
    But if that were true, if most people actually are as moronic as that, why hasn’t Switzerland imploded yet? That country has a more direct democracy than just about any other country in the world, with several popular referendums per year.
    If the average Swiss citizen is wise enough to not vote for abolishing all taxes, just because he wants more money for himself, why does the average US citizen apparently want a president who obviously can’t do anything else than ranting about others not loving him, playing golf, ranting some more and then grabbing said US citizen’s wife by the pussy just because he can get away with it?
    (And if I had the time right now, I would try to find a similarly colorful depiction of the average UK citizen and their Brexit choice.)
    Obviously this problem isn’t a simple human problem. It’s a problem with people’s common sense in certain (probably most, but obviously not all) countries.

    Of course another problem would be that the Americans can elect just about any random bastard (I think that’s not even an insult, it seems Trump is proud to call himself a bastard) as president. Many other countries don’t vote directly for their head of government.
    In Germany for example the parliament elects the head of government. And nobody is ever elected without having worked his/her way to the top of their party for many years. No random loudmouth would ever be elected that way.
    Never mind the fact that the German chancellor can’t simply write up some random decree at whim.
    Those things are what gives me at least some trust in our own (German) political system, because, no matter how stupid the average German might be, much of what’s happening in other countries right now is simply impossible here.

    But I still have no explanation for the average Swiss citizen being so inexplicable wise…

    By the way: WHY do the political parties in the USA tend to chose wildcards like Trump instead of someone who has worked their way to the top of their party, thereby proving they have at least some political talent? Having their own candidate Trump win the election hasn’t won the party anything, since he won’t listen to them. Instead they must fear that he will give their whole party a really bad image.
    In my eyes, what they did was just as stupid as giving a monkey a locked and loaded shotgun, just because it looks cuter than keeping the shotgun in your gun locker, hoping the monkey will be grateful enough to opt against shooting them.

  3. “But I still have no explanation for the average Swiss citizen being so inexplicable wise…”

    Perhaps because they have a voice? As you mentioned, the Swiss have a lot of very popular referenda. Elsewhere, people tend to be much more disconnected from the political system: they vote for representatives who vote for their leader, they vote for representatives who have a slew of manifesto policies that is at best a “one size fits all” approach, they have an unhelpfully broken first-past-the-post system where a vote against the culturally ingrained norm is totally wasted.

    People become disenfranchised, their votes don’t count so they don’t bother. Even if they do bother, they find their vote is either tossed aside or counts towards a bunch of stuff they don’t agree with. So fewer people vote and the normal person to complete nutter ratio increases, which is a fairly toxic mix in a system that already facilitates actual democracy very poorly. So the politicians either exploit that or try to make votes even more meaningless.

    Meanwhile, the Swiss system seems to give people a voice: they feel more engaged so they become more engaged and they make a meaningful difference.

    Counter to that, we have the now notorious Brexit vote. Was it really a case of the idealogues verses the ignorant racists, or was it more a case of the chronically disenfranchised using a rare opportunity to throw a spanner in the works of a system that hadn’t worked for them for decades? Food for thought.

  4. I wouldn’t say that Swiss are wise when one in three votes far right.
    (That famous black sheep sign? That party had 30% of votes in 2014.
    http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01752/Picture-2_1752355c.jpg)

  5. Nicolas, yes what I was thinking. Also, Switzerland has quite a high standard of living. Many Brexit voters essentially said “what have I got to lose, how can things possibly get any worse?” Much less people would think that in Switzerland.

    Also, Trump wasn’t ushered in by the Republicans. It was the primaries system which allowed him to steal the show, much to their despair in many cases. They may well have preferred someone no better (at least in my view), but that’s another story.

  6. The Leader of the Opposition can of course have his MPs vote against accepting May’s snap election, denying her the two-thirds majority she needs under the terms of the FTPA.

    Well, not really, in practice. The Opposition is supposed to be a government-in-waiting, ready and eager to take over running the country at a moment’s notice. And generally they are expected to think they could do a much better job of it than the current lot.

    For them to ever vote against having a general election, would be basically saying, ‘No wait, we’re not ready yet, you’re doing a good enough job for the moment, give us a bit longer and maybe we’ll be ready to take over then.’

    It’s hard to see how any party which did that could ever regain credibility with the electorate.

    (Not that Corbyn’s Labour has much credibility to lose, but… well, there are other issues there)

    this is why the Fixed Term Parliament Act is a terrible bit of constitutional vandalism which makes no sense. In practice it does nothing because no Opposition could ever really vote against an election, so there will always be the required two-thirds majority, and in theory it’s even worse because the whole point of a Westminster system is that elections aren’t on a fixed timetable, so you never end up with the situation all-too-common in a United States, where the executive and the legislature are at loggerheads and so there is deadlock until the next set of elections — which can be years away— and nothing gets done, and indeed sometimes the entire country shuts down. In a Westminster System either the government has the support of the legislature, or there is an immediate general election and you get a new legislature and a new government, which do agree. No waiting around for fixed terms to expire.

    The Fixed Terms Parliament Act had one purpose and one purpose only, to bind the coalition partners together from 2010 to 2015 by making it more difficult politically for Cameron to pull the rug out from under the Lib Dems, and so make it possible for them to trust him. It makes no sense outside those unique historical circumstances, and should have had a sunset clause to stop it hanging around, doing (as has just been shown) nothing.

    I’m actually a bit disappointed that May, if she had to have an election (I wish she hadn’t, but given she did), worked within the Fixed Term Parliament Act instead of just repealing the bloody stupid thing.

  7. It’s hard to see how any party which did that could ever regain credibility with the electorate.

    Harder than seeing how a party that passes a no-confidence motion in itself could regain credibility?

  8. Harder than seeing how a party that passes a no-confidence motion in itself could regain credibility?

    Oh, yes: that could easily be spun as, ‘they were running scared and wouldn’t face the electorate by normal means, so we used this arcane point of procedure instead. Clearly we don’t really have no confidence in ourselves, or we wouldn’t have tried to call a general election, would we?’

    Those few members of the electorate who care about constitutional niceties will understand, the vast majority of the population who don’t care about that sort of thing and couldn’t tell you who was Home Secretary if you offered them £100, won’t even understand the difference between ‘election vote’ and ‘no-confidence vote’.

    Whereas if you make a big thing about the dissolution vote beforehand, and the opposition block it, then you have a big public stick (‘they’re running scared! Even they don’t think they’re up to running the country!’) that you can beat them with all through the campaign.

  9. I mean really, is ‘call a no-confidence vote in order to have a general election’ really that weirder than ‘get appointed to be the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds in order to resign’?

    And the public have no problem with the latter, so why would they have a problem with the former?

  10. Every now and again, SK (aka H) does say something that (broadly speaking) makes sense. And I like to think I’m willing to accept it when he does.
     
    The ostensible reason for the Parliament Act was to stop governments performing a publicity stunt then calling a snap election. Instead they’d have to keep working at their best the whole time. But that falls apart pretty quickly, as unless they lost all their calendars they know when their term is coming to a close and when to pick up the populist stuff. Most of us have worked with the guy who did bugger all until his performance review was nearly due, got super-keen for two months and then lapsed straight back into checking his Facebook status all day. Even if it was meaningful (which, as we’ve just had amply demonstrated, it isn’t) the Parliament Act would just make governments like that guy. Short of someone suggesting election dates being chosen by random (perhaps alongside the national lottery results), we’re stuck with this stuff.
     
    But while it might make sense in itself, it’s just a smokescreen to the real issue. Which is that by first supporting the Act then circumventing it, May’s a hypocrite. And with this she doesn’t have the referendum get-out like Brexit. Yes it was a dumb idea in the first place. That doesn’t detract from the main point.

  11. Which is that by first supporting the Act then circumventing it, May’s a hypocrite

    She’s not a hypocrite for supporting the Act: that was in a particular circumstance, 2010, and it was a good idea then and for that time. It just should have had a sunset clause so it ended in 2015.

    She has, however, definitely done a U-turn by insisting since she became Prime Minister that there would be no early election, and then holding one. I wish she hadn’t done that. Her whole premiership was based on not playing political games, being serious and grown-up and competent. That, and by extension her whole credibility, has taken a huge knock now she’s shown herself just as willing as any other politician to play the game whenever it’s to her advantage.

    I can only assume that she looked a the timetable and noticed that the hard bits of the Bexit negotiations are going to be happening in 2019 (because the EU always leaves everything until the last minute) so she’d be having to make hard decisions about what she could sell to the country, with one eye on the election clock. So she’s gambling that by 2022 we’ll be past that, and through the initial period of uncertainty and transitional pain of leaving the EU, and things like the economy will be looking up again.

    That, or over Easter she saw the Toilet Photo and just thought, ‘Well, if he’s going to keep daring me to lay him out, I may as well put him out of his misery.’

  12. That’s…

    i) nothing to do with the ostensible reasons for the Act. Which may make no sense to either you or me, but were the ones they gave at the time. So she was either making it up then or now. Or, as is probably more likely, both.

    ii) Probably too genereous an explanation. Having not expected to win, I don’t think it was all to do with feeling reliant on the Liberals. I reckon the only way they felt likely to get the full five years was to essentially block-book it.

    The other credible-sounding reason for running to an election now is their narrow majority. Which leaves them vulnerable to backbench rebellions. In fact, lately it’s seemed the only political opposition to the Tories has come from the Tories, which is not a particularly cheery sight but seems to be where we are.

    If the economy turns out to be “looking up again” a few years after Brexit I will re-watch ‘Fear Her.’ And that’s not something I’d say lightly…

  13. So she was either making it up then or now.

    Well, that was noting to do with May: she wasn’t on the coalition negotiating team. She had no more say over what the Act was or why it was passed than any backbencher. The people making it up then were Nick Clegg and David Cameron, and their teams.

    Having not expected to win, I don’t think it was all to do with feeling reliant on the Liberals. I reckon the only way they felt likely to get the full five years was to essentially block-book it.

    But it wouldn’t have helped with that: if the Lib Dems had wanted to, they could still have brought the coalition down early by crossing the floor and bringing a no-confidence motion. Labour + Lib Dem was 315 votes to the Tories’ 306. Add the SNP, who certainly would have gone along with it, and that’s basically a majority (well, short one, but the Greena sor Plaid would have made it up).

    So if the Fixed Term Parliament Act was Cameron’s attempt to block-book five years… well, it wasn’t very well done, because it didn’t do that. He was reliant still on keeping the Lib Dems within the government happy, as they could have brought the whole thing crashing down at any time in those five years if they had been willing to go to the country.

    The other credible-sounding reason for running to an election now is their narrow majority

    Yes… I suppose that probably factored in. Maybe more negatively: if they had a massive majority now, then getting the extra time to 2022 wouldn’t be worth the risk of reducing it. But given the only way for their majority is up, that’s not a consideration; so why not grab the extra time when it’s on offer?

    As I say, it saddens me that May has stooped to playing these games; she as supposed to be above all that.

    But then I suppose it is in the nature of politicians to disappoint.

  14. She was in the Cabinet. Not the same as a backbencher at all.

  15. She was only in the cabinet after the government was formed (kind of by definition). She wasn’t in the coalition negotiating team, so she had no input into the process that produced the Fixed Term Parliament Act, or the justifications for it.

    All she did was vote for it. Which, as a cabinet minister, she had to, even if she personally thought the thing was an idiotic idea: that’s what being in the cabinet means. So actually she was less responsible than a backbencher; a backbencher could have rebelled, a cabinet minister can’t (without resigning).

    We honestly have no idea what she thought about the Fixed Term Parliament Act or how it was sold to the public. I don’t think you can feasibly blame that on her; that was all Cameron, Clegg and their cronies.

    What she is responsible for is going back on her statements since becoming PM that there would be no early election. That is all on her.

  16. Is this a little like Sputnik after all, then, in that you’re denying the existence of the shadow cabinet?

  17. I’m not sure what the shadow cabinet has to do with it? Do you mean that as she was in the shadow cabinet before the 2010 election, she must have had a say in the coalition negotiations? Because that’s simply not true: the coalition negotiations were done by the negotiating team, not by the previous shadow cabinet.

    Shadow cabinets (just like the actual cabinet) cease to exist when a general election is called; and after the election, if the government has changed, when the new PM appoints their cabinet, there is no rule that any of the previous shadow cabinet members have to be in it — and quite often members of the shadow cabinet are not appointed to the real cabinet.

    Being a member of the shadow cabinet gives you no influence over the formation of the new government: that is entirely a matter for the new PM and whoever the new PM chooses to advise them, and there’s no evidence that David Cameron took Theresa May’s advice on anything about the formation of the coalition, including the Fixed Term Parliament Act — indeed the evidence seems rather to be that they didn’t get on particularly well.

    So no, I don’t see that her being in the shadow cabinet is any reason to think that she had any influence over the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, either the decision to have it, the detail of what was in it, or the way it was sold to Parliament and the public, and the description that have been written of the coalition’s formation (at least the ones I’ve read) don’t mention her as having any input into it. That was all Cameron, Clegge, Osbourne, Laws, etc etc.

  18. “there is no rule that any of the previous shadow cabinet members have to be in it — and quite often members of the shadow cabinet are not appointed to the real cabinet.”

    Remind me again, which happened in Theresa May’s case? You know, the thing we are actually talking about.

    Brief summary of argument… unbroken roles in shadow cabinet and cabinet + collective responsibility = she’s responsible. Others may have taken a greater role in the thing, I don’t know and I would be rather surprised if you did. But that’s irrelevant.

  19. Remind me again, which happened in Theresa May’s case?

    She was, before the election, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions / Shadow Minister for Women and Equality.

    Then in the new administration, she was appointed Home Secretary.

    unbroken roles in shadow cabinet

    Not quite unbroken, as she had one brief removed and was given another.

    = she’s responsible

    What, exactly, is she responsible for? For every single piece of legislation passed while she was in the cabinet? That seems to be the logical conclusion of your argument. If not, could you explain why it is that this particular piece of legislation is special, such that she is responsible for it and not others?

    Thing is, that would mean that any time any Prime Minister repealled a piece of legislation that had been passed while they were in the cabinet, even if it was a piece of legislation they thought was a bad idea but not worth resigning over, they would be guilty of hypocrisy. Is that really the position you want to take? That new Prime Ministers must feel bound to stick with even bad decisions made by previous administrations that they were a part of, that they knew were bad decisions at the time, lest they be accused of hypocrisy?

    The fact is that until you are the leader of the party, you have limited power. You may well find yourself having to go along with stuff that you think is a bad idea, but that the party leader wants to do, in order to protect your own career so that one day you can be party leader and undo those bad decisions.

    Therefore it makes no sense to call a new party leader a hypocrite for going against something that the old party leadership did. Because unless they are on record publicly as saying it was a good idea (in which case they would be a hypocrite, ie, someone who says or does one thing while they really believe the opposite), they may well have privately thought it was a bad idea but had to keep quiet about it in order to protect their career — and therefore they are not a hypocrite.

  20. (This especially applies to Mrs May who, remember, as her very first act in power, purged all vestiges of the old administration — gone was Gove, gone was Osbourne — suggesting that in fact she had never agreed with a lot of the things they did or the ways they did politics, and the Fixed Term Parliaments Act would certainly fall under that.)

  21. Okay, SK, it’s time I think you told us what’s going on here. Because you are either genuinely too stupid to understand a Cabinet system implies collective responsibility, and what that entails, or you know you are only able to respond by throwing up this sort of flak.

    It’s not you’re trying to defend her from calling an early election because… well, you’re not trying to defend her for that. What is it that Cameron did that May hasn’t that you feel the need to firewall her like this? Was he too hug a hoodie for you? The Remain campaign? The product placement of mentioning Shredded Wheat in interviews?

  22. I don’t understand what you mean. I’m just trying to point out the reality:

    (a) that May was almost certainly not consulted on either the content of the coalition package, the specifics of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, or the way it would be sold to the public, because that was all hammered out by the coalition negotiating teams, which she wasn’t a part of;

    (b) that she was, like the rest of the Conservative party, presented with the terms as fait accompli: take it or leave it;

    (c) that as a prospective cabinet minister in the new government, her choice was basically, either go along with it, or resign;

    (d) that the stupidity of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act wasn’t a sufficiently big issue to resign over as a point of principle (ministerial resignations on principle are a Big Deal — it was such a a ministerial resignation that began the process that brought down Thatcher, for example — and therefore should not be used over trivial matters);

    (e) that therefore May’s voting for the bill cannot be considered evidence that she thought it, or the way it was presented to the public, was a good idea;

    And therefore that she cannot reasonably be charged with hypocrisy for going against something that we have no reason to think she ever truly supported in the first place.

    Which of these steps do you have trouble with?

  23. Gotta say, Gavin, H’s reasoning here makes sense to me.

  24. What, seriously? I need to explain the collective responsibility system of Cabinets? Because there are other things I could be doing with my time, you know. Okay. But listen very carefully, I shall say this only once…
     
    Cabinets… well, they’re different to message boards. Let us say we have roles in the same Cabinet, you as the Minister for Doctor Who and me for Star Trek. You are due to appear on ‘Newsnight’ and so you stay up half the night working on your cutting-edge theory that ‘Trial of a Time Lord’ doesn’t really make much sense. But on the day Jeremy Vine wheels round and asks “what about Gavin’s audacious claim that season three of ‘Star Trek’ was not as good as the first two?” You would be expected to have at least a working knowledge of my claim and to defend it. “Really, it’s got nothing to do with me” or “that Gavin, no more sense than a Tribble” or “can’t I just do my impression of the Tardis dematerialising” would not be considered acceptable answers. This is the way Cabinets work, and it’s called collective responsibility.
     
    If you are saying you don’t like this system, then my advice would be not to become a Cabinet minister. That is in fact what I do. But that is not advice that Theresa May followed. I don’t remember any news reports about her being pressganged into the role.
     
    But then you know all of that already. Otherwise you wouldn’t be continually throwing up absurd side arguments the whole time. Including the one about May changing Cabinet roles. (So she did. So what?) Or being “almost certainly not consulted” on the coalition agreement. What might that be based on exactly? Are they otherwise in the habit of ringing you up to tell you what they discussed?

  25. Surely H’s argument boils down to this:
    1. She was part of a cabinet what was collectively responsible for the coalition agreement.
    2. At that time, there were elements of the agreement that she didn’t like.
    3. She doesn’t feel obliged, now that coalition is over, to keep supporting those elements.

    Very careful readers might have spotted from earlier posts that I am not an enormous fan of Theresa May. But of all the good and various reasons to criticise her, “Doesn’t continue to support a policy that she was forced to accept under different circumstances” seems like it’s in the bottom centile.

    … But here I am arguing about politics. I’ll leave that discussion where it lies, now.

  26. 1. is my argument, isn’t it?

    The point isn’t that, once legislation is passed, it must stand forevermore. It can be repealed or override by further legislation. Not here, it wasn’t.

  27. It can be repealed or override by further legislation

    Yes, and I wish May had done that with the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.

    If she had, would you be complaining that she was a hypocrite for first having voted for the Act as part of the cabinet and then repealing it once she was Prime Minister?

    If you would, then do you really hold that no Prime Minister can ever repeal any legislation passed while they were a cabinet minister without being accused of hypocrisy?

    If not, then what is the difference between that and what May has done?

    Anyway, the point is, what is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is when someone says one thing and does another; or, when they act in such a way as to lead people think that they think one thing, when actually they think the opposite. So, for instance, someone who acts as if they are a pious member of a church, but they are in fact an atheist and only there in order to get their kid into the local faith school, is a hypocrite.

    In politics, if someone pretends to be, say, a staunch supporter of the ban on hunting, in order to win votes, but on the weekend sneaks off to participate in illegal hunts, is a hypocrite — as is someone who speaks about needing to uphold moral values, while having extra-marital affairs (or, if American, while sending pictures of his bits to girls over the internet).

    The key point is that hypocrisy involves an element of deception, conscious or not. It is about trying to make yourself appear different from how you really are.

    If Theresa May had done interviews saying how she thought that fixed-term parliaments were a great idea, then it would be fair to accuse her of hypocrisy. But as far as I know, she didn’t. She just kept quiet and voted for the Bill, which is what cabinet collective responsibility requires you to do: to not in public criticise cabinet decisions.

    And because everybody knows about this convention, and everyone knows that nobody in the cabinet actually agrees 100% with all decisions is takes (unless they are the Prime Minister and it is one of those cabinets where decisions are simply taken by the Prime Minister rather than cabinet as a whole), nobody really thinks that a cabinet minister who doesn’t speak about a bill necessarily agrees with it — everyone understands that they may disagree with it either partially or totally, but simply not be permitted to say so by the convention of collective responsibility.

    Therefore the element of deception necessary for a charge of hypocrisy against May for supporting the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act is not there, because she never behaved in such a way as to make anyone believe she really believed in it, as opposed to simply voting it through because of the collective responsibility convention.

    Where she is vulnerable to a charge of hypocrisy is that since becoming Prime Minister she definitely tried to project an image of herself as being above all political game-playing, and yet here she is, playing the political game. That is certainly a reasonable charge of hypocrisy.

    But specifically in relation to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act itself? No. There’s no case for her being a hypocrite in that regard.

  28. “would you be complaining that she was a hypocrite for first having voted for the Act as part of the cabinet and then repealing it once she was Prime Minister?”

    Um, no. But she didn’t, you see.

    “She just kept quiet and voted for the Bill”

    Oh come off it, SK, this is too much even for you! Only in your mind is a Cabinet minister voting for something a passive act! What you are arguing is some strange combination of the Nuremberg defence (“just obeying orders”) with the notion we need special rules for rich and powerful people. ‘Collective responsibility’ doesn’t mean collective responsibility as it would to you or I, it’s just a kind of lip-service they serve while trying their damnedest to advance their career. Everyone knows they don’t really follow their own rules, so it’s okay. And we do need special rules for the rich and powerful. We need to place them under special scrutiny.

  29. Only in your mind is a Cabinet minister voting for something a passive act!

    I don’t think I ever suggested it was a passive act. It is clearly an active act. I is an active act of support for the legislative programme, as a whole, of the government of which they are a part.

    What it is not, is an act that necessarily shows (or ever purports to show) that they fully believe in that specific Bill (or how it is being sold to the public).

    It’s called the ‘payroll vote’. If you hold a position in the government — such as being cabinet minister — then you vote for government legislation, whether you agree with it, or the way it’s sold to the public, or not, whether you think it’s a good idea or not, unless you think it is so bad that you are prepared to resign over it.

    So May voting for the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill doesn’t show she believed in it then but doesn’t now, or that she wanted people to think she believed in it then but secretly she didn’t.

    All is shows is that she did not consider it a big enough matter to resign over.

    A lot of politics involves doing things you don’t necessarily believe in, whether it’s voting for a bill you disagree with because you were outnumbered in Cabinet, or because it’s a quid pro quo for getting through an amendment you really do care about.

    And anyone who understands how politics works understands that.

  30. Yes, I do understand this is “how politics works”. That’s precisely my point.

    This is what intigues me about this sort of thinking…

    Theresa May breaks (at least in spirit) an Act she didn’t just vote for, but voted for as a cabinet minister. That doesn’t matter, because it’s “just politics”. Anyone who expects politicians to mean what they say and vote accordingly, clearly the poor simpleton just doesn’t understand how the process works. Philip Hammond tried to increase NI contributions for the self-employed, a clear-cut breach of a manifesto promise, and we’re told “anyone could make a mistake”. Maria Miller was caught fiddling her expenses and Cameron, then still PM, said “she apologised… so I think that we should leave it there”.

    Meanwhile, someone forced by the dole office to apply for fifty jobs a week (as is now common) only manages to apply for forty-nine one week, and has their benefits stopped for a month. That’s supposed to be a robust system at work. Then, left with no income at all, if they try to shoplift something to eat and are caught, can they do a Maria Miller? Hand the thing back and say sorry and everyone forgets all about it? Of course they can’t! But that’s because “examples need to be set”.

    I realise that SK isn’t the only one who does this, but that’s kind of my point. We don’t just have rules which favour the rich and powerful, we have a culture which is soft on them while being harsh on the poor and weak. We have a culture which has institutionalised bullying.

  31. That doesn’t matter, because it’s “just politics”. Anyone who expects politicians to mean what they say and vote accordingly, clearly the poor simpleton just doesn’t understand how the process works

    That’s clearly not true. As mentioned, May is vulnerable to a charge of hypocrisy, precisely because since she became Prime Minister she has been saying things (‘there will be no early election’) and presenting herself in a certain way (as above playing political games for advantage) only now to go back on all that.

    How does that, pointing out that in fact she has been a hypocrite, square with this idea that she is somehow being ‘let off the hook’?

    How is that not ‘expecting them to mean what they say and vote accordingly’?

    However, it also is recognising that governments could not function if no MPs ever compromised their beliefs, but held out for their total convictions on absolutely everything. It would be impossible ever to pass a legislative programme if every MP had to agree 100% with every clause of every bill. At some point, if it’s to work at all, someone has to say, ‘Okay, I don’t agree with you on X, but it’s not something I think is very important; how about I vote with you on X in return for you voting with me on Y, which I know you don’t agree with, but which is less important to you than X?’

    So understanding that, you then understand that when the person who voted for X (but didn’t go all-out publicly to defend it) might not be, or be trying to present themselves as, a dyed-in-the-wool, born-again, True Believer in X. So if they then gain more power in the party and roll X back, you understand that they are not being a hypocrite as they have always acted in accordance with their real feelings, which is that X is bad but worth giving in on for the sake of getting Y.

    But again, finally: how can you claim that I have the ‘sort of thinking’ that is ‘soft’ on May, when right at the very top of this I pointed out that she has been a hypocrite, because since she became PM she has been saying one thing, and behaving in one way, and now she is doing the opposite?!

    (I’m unsure how to address the stuff about benefits because it seems beside the point of this discussion)

  32. SK,if being beholden to their own voting record isn’t on the list I’m thinking it might be quicker if you were to list the things you think it isn’t okay for Cabinet ministers to do. It’s not okay to become PM, persistently promise one course of action then do another. I suppose that’s some sort of a start. Is there anything else?

    I am also having trouble believing you don’t actually know what a comparison is.

  33. I don’t see why a detailed list is necessary? Besides if I tried to make one I’m sure I’d forget something.

    Look, the point is, you claimed that May voting for a bill as a cabinet minister, and then not respecting the spirit of it when Prime Minister, was a case of hypocrisy.

    I pointed out that it wasn’t because hypocrisy is when you present yourself as being one thing, while secretly you are another. May never presented herself as being in favour of fixed-term parliaments; merely as not being so opposed to them that she was willing to resign as a minister over them.

    (Is this your problem? You think that anything you are bitterly, prepared-to-die-in-a-ditch-about opposed to, you must be in favour of? You can’t understand that there might be some things that a person disagrees with, but not so strongly as to do something drastic (like resign) over, and that that doesn’t necessarily mean they agreed with them?)

    I understand what a comparison is, but I didn’t see you making a relevant one, ie, for example, pointing out an occurrence when someone on benefits is accused of hypocrisy for doing that I have said is not hypocrisy when May does it. Instead you went off on some tangent about theft, when I don’t think anyone has even accused may of theft, or expenses fraud for that matter, so I don’t see how that can be relevant to the question of whether she is a hypocrite for voting for fixed term parliaments and then subverting the act in order to call an election.

    Your comparison would have been relevant if the discussion had been about expenses fraud and theft, but it isn’t, so I don’t see how it is.

    You never answered the question of whether you would be calling her a hypocrite if she had repealed the Act rather than using its ‘two-thirds vote’ provision. Would you?

    Or is it simply the case that you don’t like May and therefore want her to be guilty of everything?

  34. “You never answered the question of whether you would be calling her a hypocrite if she had repealed the Act rather than using its ‘two-thirds vote’ provision.”

    Methinks I did.

    “or is it simply the case that you don’t like May…”

    Yes.

    “… and therefore want her to be guilty of everything?”

    No.

    Incidentally, is anyone having trouble with the proposition ‘there is a general lesson which can be learnt here’?

  35. Methinks I did.

    Sorry, missed that.

    Okay, so she wouldn’t be a hypocrite if she repealed the Act.

    Why not, in your universe where she is assumed to have supported it by voting for it? Why would it not then be hypocrisy to repeal it?

    (I, personally, hope that she finds time in the next Parliament before 2022 to repeal it).

  36. If politicians can never repeal or amend their own legislation there is no possibility of their ever changing their minds about anything. One of the few things I can sympathise with mainstream politicians over is their complaint that if they ever change or amend a position they are accused of being ‘weak’. The ability to change your mind is a human strength, not a weakness. But repealing legislation involves their, in the parlance of the young people, ‘owning’ their prior actions. Not saying “I just went along with it for the sake of my career. But other politicians do that too, so it’s okay.”

    Frankly I’d have settled for May and the Act being like Trump and bringing jobs back. “Yes, I must get round to that someday.”

  37. But repealing legislation involves their, in the parlance of the young people, ‘owning’ their prior actions. Not saying “I just went along with it for the sake of my career. But other politicians do that too, so it’s okay.”

    So, hang on. You are saying that even if a cabinet minister did go along with something they disagreed with because they didn’t think it was a big enough deal to resign over, they should pretend they really believed it but have had some kind of Damascene conversion when they want to repeal it, rather than tell the truth?

    That seems far more hypocritical than anything May has done!

    Or are you suggesting that you think that cabinet ministers should resign rather than vote for anything they disagree with, even if it’s a pretty minor thing, all told, and they think the benefits of the government holding together outweigh the problems with it?

    In which case, how could any government business ever get done? Cabinet ministers would be resigning every other minute — I’m sure for every piece of government legislation in the last half-century there was someone in the Cabinet who disagree with it! Do you think they should all have resigned, with all the publicity and capacity for plunging the government into crisis that would have involved?

    (Add to that the fact that they would pretty soon have to be re-appointed or the Cabinet would be empty, so ministerial resignations would cease to mean anything and government would become a big game of musical chairs).

  38. So are you agreeing or disagreeing that a politician should be allowed to genuinely change their mind? Because if so, of course that leaves the door open for an unscrupulous politician (should such a thing exist) to pretend to change their mind for the sake of expediency. But first, that’s a different thing to the accusation of weakness. And second, so what? The second thing inevitably rides in on the coat-tails of the first, but so be it. The principle you can change your mind is more important.

    You have not I don’t think explained why the Fixed Term Parliament Act should be considered trivial. It’s about how long we have governments for, that doesn’t seem terribly trivial to me. Admittedly, it’s been proven absolutely ineffective. But it is not trivial in it’s scope.

    Also, your argument needs a lot of second-guessing about May’s state of mind. I would tend to disagree with that. In fact, I’d suspect that had Cameron somehow remained in power he’d have done the same thing. Once the Parliament Act became an obstacle not an asset he’d have ridden roughshod over it. But I don’t need to convince you of my suspicion, you need to convince me of yours. Because my position is that Cabinet Ministers (in fact all MPs) should be beholden to their own voting records. I don’t need to make up stuff going on in their heads to say that.

  39. So are you agreeing or disagreeing that a politician should be allowed to genuinely change their mind?

    Neither, because I don’t think that happened in this case. Or rather, I see no evidence to think that it did happen — I have never seen any report that Theresa May said, ‘Fixed term parliaments, they’re a jolly good idea’ like Cameron did.

    You have not I don’t think explained why the Fixed Term Parliament Act should be considered trivial

    Because it’s so easily got around, either by the two-thirds vote or, if that failed, by repeal. It had no effect on any proper majority government.

    I would not have thoguht it trivial if it had tried to bind successive Parliaments — then I would have expected Cabinet ministers of good conscience to resign rather than support it. But it didn’t, so it’s an irritation rather than anything important. A barnacle on the hull of the constitution, not a gaping hole below the waterline.

    Also, your argument needs a lot of second-guessing about May’s state of mind

    No, it doesn’t. In fact it quite specifically doesn’t. I am advancing the opinion that unless we have reason to believe that May trying to present herself as in favour of fixed term parliaments (and voting for them as a Cabinet minister doesn’t count, because as we have discussed ad nauseum, Cabinet ministers have to vote for lots of things they may not personally agree with, so the fact they voted for something is not reason to think they agreed with it), we should not assume she was.

    You are the one trying to make a window into May’s soul and show that she wanted people to think she supported fixed-term Parliaments.

    Unless you can find a single instance of May actually writing, or saying, something that can be read as, ‘fixed term parliaments are a good idea’, then I think we have to stick with ‘innocent until proven guilty’. You prove that she did try to present herself as in favour of fixed term parliaments, like Cameron did, like Clegg did, or you have to admit that your entire charge of hypocrisy is merely hypothetical supposition.

    In fact, I’d suspect that had Cameron somehow remained in power he’d have done the same thing. Once the Parliament Act became an obstacle not an asset he’d have ridden roughshod over it.

    Oh, I have no doubt he would. And in his case the charge of hypocrisy would have been well-founded, because he said the Act was a good idea and then he was subverting it.

    Whereas May never said the Act was a good idea, so her subverting it cannot be hypocrisy.

  40. “Unless you can find a single instance of May actually writing, or saying..”

    Don’t need to, please see above. I’m basing my argument on evidence, the evidence of the voting record. You are essentially using the “absence of evidence counts as evidence” line. Which, as you will know well, it doesn’t. In fact you are not even arguing that words count larger than actions, but that the absence of words count larger than actions.

  41. I’m basing my argument on evidence, the evidence of the voting record

    But as I keep pointing out, Cabinet ministers have to vote for lots of things they may not be in favour of, so the fact that May, as a Cabinet minister, voted for a government Bill, is no evidence of anything beyond that she was doing her job.

  42. You are a firm believer in repetition makes right, aren’t you, SK?

  43. Repetition is neither here nor there; it is simply a fact. The job of a Cabinet minister is to support the government. In order to not support the government they have to resign. That is how it works; that is why they call the it ‘payroll vote’.

  44. I think I need a bit more novelty in my life than this. Right, I’m off to watch Dave…

  45. Gavin and H,

    I am truly impressed by the stamina you are both showing.

    I can only assume you are both so devastated by the news that there will be no new politics posts on this blog that you are keeping this old one going as long as possible.

    I salute you both.

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