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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Cameron challenges the Queen

This morning's Guardian reports that David Cameron is prepared to defy the Queen and insist that he be invited to form a government immediately if he ends up leading the party with the largest number of votes after the General Election:

Shadow ministers have criticised the guidelines drawn up under the supervision of the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell. The Tories accused O'Donnell of overstepping his constitutional authority by giving his blessing to a delay in the return of parliament to allow talks on a coalition in the event of a close poll result.

David Cameron was not consulted on the changes which will mean that the Queen's Speech will not be held until 25 May – 19 days after the election. In 2005 the Queen's speech was held 12 days after polling day. MPs will return on 18 May to elect the Speaker, 12 days after the election. In 2005 there was a six-day gap.

Senior shadow ministers are making it clear that Cameron, who intends to lead a minority government if the Tories fail to win a parliamentary majority, is prepared to ignore the rules. These are designed to allow for a week of discussions between the party leaders on forming a coalition.

Senior Tories believe Cameron will require political momentum if he wins the largest number of votes but falls short of an outright majority. Allowing Brown to remain in office for a week could check that momentum.

The Queen does not summon a prime minister to resign; convention dictates that is for the prime minister to tender his or her resignation. Cameron indicated yesterday that he is prepared to challenge this convention.

The Tories fear Brown will use the new rules to follow the example of Edward Heath, who tried to hang on after the February 1974 election to broker a deal with the Liberal party. Heath, who won the most votes but secured four fewer seats than Labour, resigned four days after the election, after the talks broke down.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of this course of action the fact that there are no agreed conventions on how to proceed in the event of a hung Parliament does give rise for concern.

It is not like a Tory to stand up to the monarchy in this way and I would be sceptical as to whether Cameron would go ahead and do this anyway, but surely he must see that this just adds to the case for reform of our political system. If he does not then the change he claims to represent is no change at all. It is business as usual and that goes against the mood of the public.
Does that mean he'll stand up to her on our behalf if we get the most votes? What a nice chap that Dave is.
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