The Real Balance of Power

BY PROFESSOR COLIN TALBOT

Well, I didn’t see that coming.

I will leave (for the moment) others to begin the unpacking of how the result happened. I want to just do a quick (and accurate) check on where this leaves the House of Commons and therefore power.

Firstly the Conservatives have won 317* seats at the time of writing (with all 650 seats declared).

(*not 318 as the BBC are reporting. For some odd reason they are including the Speaker – who is no longer a member of any Party – as a Tory as I explain here.)

One Deputy Speaker will also be a Tory who won’t normally vote so their real total is 316.

Theresa May is doing some sort of informal deal with the DUP for their 10 votes in the HoC.

This brings her working vote to 326.

There are 323 non-Tory/DUP MPs.

Of these:

1 is the Speaker who doesn’t vote.

2 Labour MPs will be Deputy Speakers who won’t vote.

7  are Sinn Fein MPs, who don’t take their seats, reducing the ‘opposition’ to 312.

So, with all 650 MPs decided:

‘Government’   ‘Opposition’  
Tory MPs 317 Non-Tory/DUP 323
DUP MPs 10 Speaker -1
1 Con Deputy Speaker -1 2 Lab Deputy Speakers -2
Sinn Fein -7
TOTAL VOTES 326 TOTAL VOTES 313

This alone means that a continuing May (or some other Tory leader) Government has a working majority of 13 – unlucky for some!

But remember also that under the Fixed Term Parliament Act only a very specific no confidence motion starts the process that could lead to an early general Election. Defeat on the Queen’s Speech, or on a Budget, would not legally trigger the process (although they might politically).

As I have often also pointed out the Executive (government) has wide-ranging powers to do things without consulting Parliament and on tax and spend it has the whip-hand because only it can put forward proposals to do either (HoC Standing Order 48). (I explained some of this here in 2015).

So a technically ‘minority’ Tory government (with DUP backing) can potentially soldier on for some time.

Assuming – and this is a massive assumption – the Tories can hang together. That is by no means certain.

Professor Colin Talbot was born in Dover in 1952. Professor Talbot is currently Professor of Government in Politics in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester. He has also been an adviser to UK Parliamentary Committees on HM Treasury and Public Administration. Colin is the author of The Paradoxical Primate (2004) and several other books. Colin blogs here. 

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