Monday 12 June 2017

Constitutional law on hung parliaments

"If she cannot get her Queen’s Speech through Parliament at the first attempt – constitutional law makes Jeremy Corbyn the Prime Minister by default, without the need for him to do the same."

In a 2015 article on the law site Head of Legal, Carl Gardiner looked in detail at constitutional law, how it applied in those four examples and how it would apply to a hung Parliament in 2015. For the detailed legal analysis, read the full article – but his examples and key conclusions are:

1924: then-leader Ramsay MacDonald was immediately invited by the king to form a minority Labour government when the Tories – the largest single party – could not pass its King’s Speech. MacDonald did not have to seek a coalition or demonstrate a functional majority

1929: MacDonald was again invited to be PM, even though Labour had won only 287 of the then-615 parliamentary seats, after Tory PM Baldwin resigned upon being unable to command a Commons majority. Again, MacDonald did not have to demonstrate a functioning majority

1974: Harold Wilson was invited by the queen to form a government after Edward Heath’s attempts to agree a coalition with the Liberals failed. He immediately formed a minority government in spite of stating firmly that he would not seek nor enter any coalition

2010: Then-PM Gordon Brown resigned immediately it became clear that he could not command a Commons majority, even though David Cameron had not yet agreed a coalition with the LibDems’ Nick Clegg. The coalition gave Cameron a functioning majority – but before the deal with the LibDems was finalised, he was summoned to the Palace ‘as a matter of course’.


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