Adam Price’s Blog

The Blog of Adam Price AS/MP, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Adam Price MP / AS - Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

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Archive for June 10th, 2009

10th June 2009

Disillusion or Dissolution?

Today Parliament will discuss Plaid and the SNP’s motion in favour of the dissolution of Parliament which would trigger a General Election.  This is the first time ever that Parliament has discussed a motion on its own dissolution.  Traditionally, Opposition parties would put down votes of confidence and if the Government lost, they would then head over to Buckingham palace and seek a dissolution. 

This happened in 1979 – on a Tory No Confidence motion, not an SNP motion as Labour often wrongly asserts.  The Plaid MPs back then – Dafydd Elis Thomas, Dafydd Wigley and Gwynfor Evans – all backed the Government:  the Government in return agreed to push through the legislation on Welsh slate quarrymen’s compensation as part of the ‘wash-up’ – the last-minute legislation that precedes a dissolution. 

You have to go back to 1924 and Ramsay MacDonald’s (also a Welsh MP, like Jim Callaghan in 1979) Labour Government that lost a censure vote and opted for dissolution – deliberately in order to decimate the Liberals and help create the two-party system that lasted for the best part of fifty years. 

Today, it’s Labour’s future that hangs in the balance.  It seems likely that most Labour MPs will opt for the long drawn-out pain of a slow death rather than the sudden catharsis of an immediate election. Brown will announce the Iraq war inquiry that fittingly was the subject of our last parliamentary debate back in October 2006.  Then the Government’s position was there was no need: now Brown will hail it as evidence of yet another fresh start. 

Even if we lose tonight, the chances are that the governing party will eventually come around to our way of thinking a second time.  Despite the show of unity, the chances of an early dissolution of Parliament are still evens – with a new leader installed in the Autumn and an election in early Spring.  But the prospect of the Labour Party being submerged under a deluge of public opprobrium with Brown like Captain Ahab determined to go down with the ship (or was it the whale) is also equally possible.

We deliberately chose not to personalise the issue, though the precedent is there:  on July 4th 1977, (independence day) Plaid and the SNP put down a motion halving the Prime Minister’s salary – a traditional means of censuring a minister.  It lost by just 29 votes.  I wonder how close it’ll be tonight, and if the Prime Minister will scurry away after his statement to the House. 

Whatever the programme for constitutional or parliamentary reform the Government unveils today the truth is that they lack the moral authority to implement it.  It would be luck building a house on the sands:  whatever he does or says, the tide of public opinion will soon wash this Prime Minister and his much-vaunted legacy away.