Sunday, June 5, 2011

Worried about elective dictatorship at Holyrood? Just think of it as a system "that works".

It's a bit rich to hear the opposition parties grumbling about the dangers of Scotland becoming an 'elective dictatorship' under majority SNP rule.  Perhaps the Liberal Democrats might have some credibility making that claim, but certainly not Labour or the Tories - any party that believes in royal prerogative powers and a majoritarian voting system for Westminster by definition believes in elective dictatorship.  That's what the Westminster system is all about, and it successfully delivers it 95% of the time.

One specific concern that is being raised relates to unicameralism - the committees are supposed to do all the work a revising chamber would do in a bicameral system, and it was never anticipated that a single-party government would have a majority in all the committees.  But the reality is that in bicameral systems it's scarcely unusual for governments to have majorities in both chambers.  Most obviously, every Tory government at Westminster until 1997 had the House of Lords in its back pocket thanks to the hundreds of hereditary peers.  No wonder it was only ever Tories who described the previous composition of the upper chamber as an "anachronism that works".


  1. "One specific concern that is being raised relates to unicameralism - the committees are supposed to do all the work a revising chamber would do in a bicameral system..."

    If the committees were meant to represent a second revising chamber whose makeup did not reflect the party numbers in the first chamber then the rules to set up the committees in the parliament do not reflect that.

    The d' Hondt method based on the numbers of each party in the house is used to work out how many convenors each party gets.

    The Parliamentary Bureau which recommends the remit and membership of each committee in a parliamentary motion has to, "...have regard to the balance of the parties within the Parliament...", when creating the committees and the Parliamentary Bureau members wield a block vote in the Bureau which reflects the numbers of their parties in the parliament.

    The final membership and remit is decided in the Parliament.

    The system was set up from the start to ensure that the party or coalition with the most members got the most seats on the committees and also got the most convenors.

    If you were to take a cynical view of the rules then they appear to be based on the idea that as Labour would always be the largest party it would therefore rightfully get the most members and convenors in the committees. All the current fuss about committees in the unionist commentariat is because in their view the wrong party won. If Labour had got a majority I don't think committees would even be on the radar.

  2. Doug

    Agree 100%.

    The big fix from 1999 came unstuck big time in 2011.

    To read some of the hysteria from the MSM where toys are being flung out of unionist prams, the losers are getting desperate.

    Prepare for another five years of this, but it great fun to watch.

    Which political commentator will have a nervous breakdown first?

  3. "Which political commentator will have a nervous breakdown first?"

    No-one ever made any money by betting against Cochrane.