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» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Purgatory   » What is good about snap elections called by the governing party?

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Source: (consider it) Thread: What is good about snap elections called by the governing party?
stonespring
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I have said this before, but I think that snap elections, when they are called by the governing party rather than caused by an opposition-initiated vote of no confidence, are incredibly unfair. They allow the governing party to choose exactly what battlefield to fight on and when to fight. I know that governing parties sometimes are surprised when they lose such elections or get fewer seats than they expect, but this current snap election in the UK seems like the perfect example of a snap election designed to take advantage of a particular moment of political strength for the governing party.

What are the advantages of allowing such kinds of snap elections? I am not entirely sure of how to avoid them because a governing party with a majority in parliament could always engineer a vote of no confidence against itself - although I guess you could have a law saying that after a vote of no confidence no member of the outgoing government can participate in the caretaker government that takes over until after elections.

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Stetson
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In Canada, there have been attempts by the federal and a few provincial governments to graft fixed election dates onto a Westminister system. But as you can see in the case of Alberta, some jurisdictions have found ways around the legislation.

And I don't think any of the laws can stop an election after a government has collapsed due to non-confidence, even if it is before the set date.

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Augustine the Aleut
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
In Canada, there have been attempts by the federal and a few provincial governments to graft fixed election dates onto a Westminister system. But as you can see in the case of Alberta, some jurisdictions have found ways around the legislation.

And I don't think any of the laws can stop an election after a government has collapsed due to non-confidence, even if it is before the set date.

Section 54(1) of the federal act makes it a joke-- having set up a mechanism to determine the dates of fixed elections, this section proceeds to state that there is nothing in the Act which limits the Crown's power (viz., the Prime Minister du jour) to dissolve parliament.

The difficulty with fixed election dates is that the year beforehand turns into a campaign year and generally without limitations on campaign financing during that period.

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Stetson
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quote:
Section 54(1) of the federal act makes it a joke-- having set up a mechanism to determine the dates of fixed elections, this section proceeds to state that there is nothing in the Act which limits the Crown's power (viz., the Prime Minister du jour) to dissolve parliament.
Yeah, it's kinda like the opposite of a Hobson's Choice: You can only have black, unless you ask for another colour.

To be REALLY charitable, I can speculate that the built-in Crown perogative was intended to function something like Section 33 of the Charter, ie. legislatures can legally invoke it, but everyone now views it as being akin to a nuclear option, and thus highly taboo.

Or, maybe the reasoning just went "The average yokel is too dumb to realize that the law we've passed negates itself."

[ 15. May 2017, 17:21: Message edited by: Stetson ]

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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We keep getting told that politics isn't a game, yet a snap election of convenience (for the party of government, almost by definition inconvenience for everyone else) is a classic move in that game. I can't see any benefit at all in such an election.

The current election campaign has resulted in rushed productions of manifestoes (without the usual conferences to finalise those documents - probably not much of an issue for the Tories where the leadership is used to dictatorial style, but for democratic parties where normal practice would be for the membership to discuss and vote on policies the lack of time to do that is a problem), and in particular the week or so between the end of one election and the need to select candidates for the general election is simply too short for local parties to manage that decision properly. Plus, the difficulties of raising funds for a general election campaign, and energising the support of party members a few weeks after an election campaign.

All in all a really stupid idea. Snap elections should only be a last recourse when a government is simply incapable of carrying the support of Parliament.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Augustine the Aleut
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
quote:
Section 54(1) of the federal act makes it a joke-- having set up a mechanism to determine the dates of fixed elections, this section proceeds to state that there is nothing in the Act which limits the Crown's power (viz., the Prime Minister du jour) to dissolve parliament.
Yeah, it's kinda like the opposite of a Hobson's Choice: You can only have black, unless you ask for another colour.

To be REALLY charitable, I can speculate that the built-in Crown perogative was intended to function something like Section 33 of the Charter, ie. legislatures can legally invoke it, but everyone now views it as being akin to a nuclear option, and thus highly taboo.

Or, maybe the reasoning just went "The average yokel is too dumb to realize that the law we've passed negates itself."

Not just the average yokel. At the time, I was IRL in a meeting where communications munchkins were parading the act and their brilliant talking point; I had the Act in front of me and pointed out the inconsistency. One would have thought that I had broken wind at the bishop's breakfast table. I well recall trying to keep a straight face as a certain director-general lectured me and (accurately) predicted my future as a public servant.

Most of the learned press and professoriat at the time seemed to miss the effect of this provision as well, although there were a few heroic exceptions.

The Act was not intended seriously, IMHO. Mr Harper used the escape clause himself in 2008, courts afterward indicating that there was no remedy against the PM's recommendation.

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Pangolin Guerre
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I don't think that a snap election is "taboo" at all. It would be unseemly were it an obvious ploy, but given, for instance, the recent election result in BC, I'm sure that Christy Clark awaits an early alignment of stars allowing her to say, "We can't continue like this." Rather as Augustine points out, in what universe would/could someone take the PM or a Premier to court to prevent their calling an election (it then already having been called), to compel the sitting of the House? By what doctrine could a court reverse a GG's or LG's assent?

[ 16. May 2017, 01:38: Message edited by: Pangolin Guerre ]

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Sober Preacher's Kid

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As President of my Riding Association, fixed dates have the semi-redeeming benefit of allowing donors to plan their monthly givings such that we have full coffers to fund the local campaign when the time comes.

I much prefer Pre-authorized Contributions (as the NDP calls them) rather than large single givings. So much simpler and predictable.

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NDP Federal Convention, Edmonton 2016: More Trots than the Calgary Stampede!

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Stetson
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quote:
I don't think that a snap election is "taboo" at all.
Well, for the record, I wasn't saying that it actually was taboo, just that a very charitable reading of the government's intentions would be that it was intended to become so.
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simontoad
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I'm not too fussed about this. I think it's much more concerning if the election is held on a weekday, and there are no charity sausage sizzles at polling places.

Really, surprise elections just sell newspapers, which we all know is a good thing. Look at all the time that can be spent analysing decisions to call or not call, and doorstopping Govt MP's to ask them when they think the election will be called. This is great stuff.

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

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Gee D
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The lower house of the NSW Parliament has fixed 4 year terms, with the election set for the last (or perhaps 2nd last, I've forgotten) Saturday of March every 4 years. There are extremely limited grounds for an earlier election - either an inability to get a money bill passed, or a successful vote of no confidence not followed within 7 days by a positive vote of confidence.* I suppose that a government desperate to get an election could arrange for either event, but unlikely to occur. The upper house has the same term, but there is a rolling retirement of half the members every 4 years.

The original intention of the fixed term was to encourage better forward planning for each government. Whether that has been achieved in practice is open to some doubt.

* There are provisions for slight variation if the fixed date clashes with a federal election, but that's pretty unlikely to occur.

[ 16. May 2017, 12:17: Message edited by: Gee D ]

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Callan
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From the point of view of the governing party it makes sense. At present Mrs May has an ambitious policy agenda and a small parliamentary majority. By capitalising on the unpopularity of the opposition she can increase her majority and so pass her agenda more easily. The alternative is spending the next three years not doing very much except Brexiting and holding anxious meetings with the Whips about this week's parliamentary revolt. If one holds, as I imagine Mrs May does, that one's agenda will be good for the country it is rational to take that step.

Not being Mrs May, I think the next few years will be ghastly. And if anyone can find the portal to an alternative dimension where Mr Brown called a snap election, Mr Balls is currently PM and everyone loves Mr Cameron for his gallant performance on Strictly, please point me to it.

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
Not being Mrs May, I think the next few years will be ghastly. And if anyone can find the portal to an alternative dimension where Mr Brown called a snap election, Mr Balls is currently PM and everyone loves Mr Cameron for his gallant performance on Strictly, please point me to it.

Well that's the thing, isn't it? The answer to the question in this thread title is "they're good if you agree with the governing party, and bad if you don't".

If we were in a situation where a Labour government with a tiny and unstable majority had called a snap election in order to take advantage of weak Conservative leadership and increase their majority to the point where they could get anything they wanted through Parliament, then virtually everyone currently complaining about democratic illegitimacy or whatever would be celebrating the decision and calling it a good move.

It's politics. Other than the extremes of the policy spectrum, there are very few things in politics that people will agree are good or bad regardless of which Party does them.

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Hail Gallaxhar

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Alan Cresswell

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If the tables were reversed I would be concerned about a Labour government calling a snap election when the main opposition party is in disarray. My main concerns would be:

1. Parliamentary democracy requires a functioning Opposition. Oyr democratic system is at it's strongest when there is a strong Government and a strong Opposition to hold them to account. That needs an Opposition party with a coherent policy position of their own (or several parties able to work together on areas where they largely agree). When the Opposition is in disarray, what is needed is an opportunity for them to regroup, to talk through policies at all levels (local parties, Parliamentary members, conference) and re-unite around a strong and stable leader and policies. Throwing them into a snap election bypasses all that, puts up a manifesto that the party would struggle to unite around and ends up with a main opposition party unable to function as an Opposition.

OK, I'll accept that at present that's what we've got. But, grinding Labour into the dirt is not going to help.

2. The system is already stacked against smaller parties anyway, with our archaic and barely function FPTP electoral system, but a snap election puts them at an even greater disadvantage. Party members can usually afford to put aside a little each month to fund campaigning and the party can build up a reserve fund for fighting an election in the 5 years between elections. But, a snap election throws all those financial plans out of the window. Without the ability to call on a few multi-millionaires, international financial firms, trade-unions or other cash-rich donors we're pretty much stuffed. Especially if the election gets called immediately after party members have just put their hands in their pockets to fund a local election campaign. The party I'm a member of has been criticised for only standing 3 candidates for June - but our crowd-sourced target for national campaigning is £15000, and that may not be achieved given the generousity of our supporters in funding the local election campaigns over the last few months. We simply can't afford the money, and our active members are exhausted after putting in the effort to the local elections, to do more than a token effort targetting 3 seats where we'll put in a decent showing. If the election was as scheduled in 2020 then we would have been able to put away more reserves, have people who haven't just spent a month or more campaigning able to commit time and effort, and we'd probably stand at least ten candidates - probably more than in 2015.

You may not agree, but I believe that the voices of smaller parties need to be heard in election campaigns. The further we move from a defacto two-party system the better, and that means giving smaller parties a fair chance at being heard.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
At present Mrs May has an ambitious policy agenda and a small parliamentary majority.

Bring back grammar schools doesn't strike me as an ambitious policy agenda.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
At present Mrs May has an ambitious policy agenda and a small parliamentary majority.

Bring back grammar schools doesn't strike me as an ambitious policy agenda.
That's very mean. We're going to have a booming, beautiful, buffed up Brexit, that will make your eyes pop out, but sorry, you will have to wait 4 days at A and E to get them popped back in.

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no path

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anteater

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Not surprisingly I think it was a good call, but then I am a May supporter. But I was, in his day, a Wilson supporter and never thought it wrong of him to call an election.

Plus I think Brown should have had one. There is always a question over the authority over a leader who has never been elected. Also May is saddled for quite a long time with Cameron's manifesto which, I tend to agree, he never expected to have to implement. But then Cameron was a muppet.

So whilst conventional wisdom is that this is just about Brexit, to free May from her hard liners, I think the cock-up over the NI change in the budget, which many thought made sense but was binned because of a Cameron pledge also played a part. I would be surprised if May (and even more Hammond) do not believe they will need to raise more tax revenue, and so don't want to be tied by Cameron's legacy.

Plus Corbyn thinks it an excellent idea, so whose to disagree?

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Schnuffle schnuffle.

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