If Jeremy Corbyn forms a minority government on Friday, he needs to scrap the Fixed Term Parliament Act

by Trevor Fisher

With the opinion polls all over the place nothing is clear, but the possibility of a hung parliament has to be considered. One poll with a week to go put the Tories having a 3% lead, another a 12% lead, and the latter is more likely. But the prospect of a hung parliament and Labour having to fess up to challenging May is now worth thinking about. Paul Mason (in the Financial Times of 3rd June) called for Labour to ‘pledge his willingness to govern from the centre… should signal he would form a government with cross party support in parliament, at the very least from the Greens and the progressive nationalist parties’. That raises more questions than answers, but is not what the Front Bench is stating is political stance is going to be anyway.

The Guardian on 1st June reported that Corbyn and Thornberry at a rally in the odd venue of Basildon, considered the options if Labour were the largest party but had no majority. Corbyn echoed Tim Farron in rejecting coalitions, the two leaders clearly aware the coalitions are not popular, stating “We’re not doing deals, we are not doing coalitions, we are not doing any of these things. We are fighting to win this election”. Which is all well and good, but McCluskey of Unite said two weeks earlier that Labour would do well if it did not lose many seats, and to win the election would need Labour holding all its marginals and taking seats off its opponents, especially in Scotland.

However the comment by Emily Thornberry was more important.

She said “We are fighting to win and we are fighting to win a majority. If we end up in a position where we are in a minority, then we will go ahead and put forward a Queen’s speech and a budget, and if people want to vote for it, then good, but if people don’t want to vote for it, then they going to have to go back and speak to their constituents and explain it to them, why we have a Tory government instead. Those are the conversations we have had. No Deals.”

This needs teasing out. If Labour is the largest party, and Corbyn is called to the Palace and becomes PM with no majority, this comment means the front bench are planning to put their plans to the Commons and risking being defeated. If that happened, the Tories would then be the next in line and Corbyn could be the PM with the shortest time in office on record. Blaming the other parties would not be much consolation if the Tories stitched up a deal, as they unlike the Lib Dems and Labour, have said nothing about ruling out coalitions so far.

While it is  very unlikely that the Tories could produce a coalition, and the SNP and others are likely to put pressure on Labour to stay in office with some kind of arrangement, the idea of any ad hoc arrangement lasting 5 years is nonsense. The elephant in the room becomes the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) which though invoked to get the early election, is still on the statute book as the Tories expected to win and survive without challenge for 5 years. But as the Act can be by passed by a two thirds majority (unlikely) or a vote of no confidence (possible) then it becomes central to what happens next.

If Labour lost its Queens Speech and Budget – the Queens Speech alone would trigger a crisis if rejected – then the Tories and minority parties might well then want to trigger a vote of no confidence, and if won, Labour would be out in the cold and suffer irreparable damage. The thinking of leadership amounts to Labour putting its future in the hands of its opponents.

Is there a way out? Yes – the first thing to do is to propose that the FTPA be repealed. If repealed, then Labour has the whip hand and can call an election if the Queen’s Speech and-or Budget is rejected. If not repealed then the consequences fall on the opposition parties and Labour is off the hook. It has always been clear that a crisis which cannot be resolved by a General Election, as happened in 1974 and 1910 (two elections in both years) has been implicit in the FTPA.

I am no fan of the Fixed Term Parliament Act for precisely this reason. Now Labour should call time on the Act and give itself the wriggle room to call an election, which Jezza in Number 10 could do once the Act was gone, if the other parties then proved obstructive. With the chance that Labour could win a majority in the second election, it gains credibility and puts the ball in the court of the other parties – on its own terms. It is time to make the repeal of the Act the first item on the agenda if Labour is called on to form a government.

Trevor Fisher was a member of the Labour Coordinating Committee executive 1987-90 and secretary of the Labour Reform Group 1995- 2007. He was a member of the Compass Executive 2007-2009

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16 Responses to “If Jeremy Corbyn forms a minority government on Friday, he needs to scrap the Fixed Term Parliament Act”

  1. martin says:

    just imagine if labour had anybody but corbyn standing for prime minister today,a certain overall majority for the labour party,how sad we have to wait another 4 years to give the torys a good thrashing….martin from london.

  2. Bob says:

    Come Friday when the Conservatives have slaughtered the Labour Party at the polls, the bloodletting will begin. Then I don’t see the labour party surviving the weekend in its present form. The Party will split, the Corbynites on one side and the Blairites on the other. Then there will only be fight for the name.

  3. Tafia says:

    But we have just seen that the FTPA actual;ly works. Look at the hoops May had to jump through to call this election.

  4. Tafia says:

    Martin – Corbyn galvanised Labour support with his vision, his personality. All thpough new members and all the extra votes Labour will get today are entirely down to Corbyn – and if the PLP tries to get rid of him (yet again) all of that will desert your party. Basically, myou are goosed – Corbyn dragging the party to the left has actually increased it’s and his popularity. Drag it back to the right agaoin and you will lose the lot.

    You truly are between a rock and a hard place.

  5. Tafia says:

    Oh, and you omit to mention Claiuse 1 of Section 2 of the Act, which is specifically there to deal with just the situation you are highlighting. You must have read it before you wrote the post – so you must be deliberately ignoring it for some bizarre reason (childish mischief making probably)

    If no vote of confidence is passed with 14 days, then on the 15th day Parliament is dissolved by the Queen and we have a fresh election.

  6. Anne says:

    It is generally considered that the person who has been most damaged by this election is Teresa Me herself. Andrew Neil said on This Week that it was generally known within the Westminster bubble that Teresa Me was a second rate politician and now it is known by the general public as well. Also she has a very poor team around her as well as a cabinet with little talent. If the Conservatives win it will indeed be a very difficult five years for us all. Most certainly the worst person to be negotiating a Brexit deal.
    If JC does not win I don’t believe he should immediately stand down but should perhaps change some within his cabinet. Keir Starmer is excellent on Brexit but the one who has come out head and shoulders above the others, for me, is Barry Gardiner.

  7. Landless Peasant says:

    I really can’t understand all the pessimism, Corbyn is the best Labour leader in many decades&the Party has never been more electable. It’s the type of labourpartymany of us have been waiting for for a very long time. Im expecting them to win outright!

  8. efcdons says:

    Here we go Jezza, here we go! When it turns out Labour’s performance came on the back of a huge youth turnout will there be some humble self reflection going on over here? Naahh. If Labour does well it’s despite Corbyn. With another leader they would have won 600 seats they would!

  9. paul barker says:

    Labour Centrists have put all their eggs in one basket, they bet everything on Labour being thrashed. WTF do they do now ?

  10. buttley says:

    What’s that your saying Bob? slaughter? split?

  11. HuskyDown says:

    A lot of you are going to be eating crow today.

  12. Peter Kenny says:

    I’m looking forward to the sackcloth and ashes that many of the writers and participants on this forum will be wearing in days to come.

    You were wrong, wrong, wrong!

    Atul, Kevin – bring us your wisdom! Your people wait for your insights, your guidance!

    Hey Taffia – you seem to actually know bugger all about Wales after all! I hope you enjoyed voting conservative!

    Good luck with that hard brexit, now!

    Anyway, after all that – what is is this site actually any good for? You have generally been part of the problem not part of the solution. How about just shutting up shop?

    So – some thoughts…

  13. and meanwhile, back to the Fixed Term Parliament Act. The remote chance Labour would be the largest party has not happened, and most likely the Tories will rely on the DUP votes to get a bare majority, But only a bare majority, and May is fatally damaged.

    The FTPA cannot stand as five years of a government on the brink is not acceptable. It has to go.,

    Trevor FIsher

  14. Tafia says:

    Peter Kenny – hard BREXIT is dead cert to happen now and ultimately that’s all that matters. EU will be intransigent. Talks will fail and we will be gone by March 2019 with no deal and there is now nothing that can stop that.

    Most of Theresa Mays manifesto will be carried out. The DUP will support it mainly because education (school meals) , health & care (dementia tax) are devolved issues and what Theresa May was offering basically only applied to England anyway.

    We will have a very very hard BREXIT now – definately no deal. The EU will assess the UK as weak, not be willing to make concessions so we will leave, March 2019, with no deal (probably sooner). Any stupid Remainer that thought they were helping EU citiozens living here have actually placed them in a far worse and far more insecure position.

    May will remain as PM until after BREXIT and step down. I suspect that she will step down as Tory leader though a lot earlier -possibly within weeks. When she steps down in 2 years, the new leader (probably Bo-Jo) will ask the House for an Election as per the terms of the FTPA. Whether he gets it? who knows. If he doesn’t it is irrelevant, we will be out of the EU and stuck with him for 3 years by which time Corbyn will be 73 and the Labour Party will be a radical far-Left party. I expect the Labour Party as we know it to start breaking apart some time after McDonell’s amendments in October.

    Nuttall has gone, I don’t think Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood are going to be that far behind him either despite Leanne Wood’s Plaid increasing by 1 (more by luck than anything else). Sturgeon has had an absolute disaster (ar worse than May’s party-wise), not to mention the head of NI parties Alliance, UUP, and SDLP. Farron remaining in post for the Lib Dems I would rate as no more than 50/50.

    As for Labour, unfortunately they have shown that even when they pull 40% of the vote on a far bigger turnout, they still cannot beat a shambolic Tory party. They are truly between a rock and a hard place. They only got where they did yesterday because of the far-Left and Momentum. If they try to move closer to the middle they will lose that new support.

    There are no winners in this at all other than supporters of hard REXI.If you voted against austerity there is going to have to be more because we will now be more fragile economy-wiseLikewise any other cuts. If you believed in IndyRef2 that’s gone. If you believed in the Good Friday Agreement, that is in jeopardy.

    Don’t forget, as a percentage of the vote and as a weight of the vote, May ranks alongside Thatcher in 83, Major in 92 and Blair in 97. Despite being rubbish.

  15. Tafia says:

    Trevor – The FTPA cannot stand as five years of a government on the brink is not acceptable. It has to go.,

    After what’s happened, how many politicians from any party fancy another General Election? Not that many I would hazard.

  16. john P reid says:

    yes scrapping the fixed term parliament act, would be odd, would The tories want another election

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