Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tempest in Commons

A report in The Guardian (UK) details a surprising development in the House of Commons.

It offers a good example of how Commons works and illustrations of a few of the everyday labels for bits of British lawmaking (like "three line whip").

This also appears to be a victory for transparency in government, online organizing, and an example of how a perennially small third party can influence major party actions.

Gordon Brown withdraws plan to keep details of MPs' expenses secret

"Gordon Brown today made a dramatic retreat from plans to exempt MPs' expenses from the Freedom of Information Act.

"The surprise announcement during prime minister's questions follows the overnight collapse of a bipartisan agreement between Brown and David Cameron, the Tory leader, to back a parliamentary order exempting MPs' expenses from the act...

"The decision is a major victory for freedom of information campaigners and follows growing opposition led by the Liberal Democrats to the proposal, and website campaigns urging the public to email their MP objecting to the move...

"[Tory leader] Cameron made a late decision to order his MPs to oppose the move after learning from Alan Duncan, the shadow leader of the Commons, that Labour MPs were being whipped to back it. But Cameron's action in turn became the catalyst for Brown's U-turn. It left Labour, despite the chance of winning a three-line whip vote, in danger of being isolated and blamed for imposing secrecy on MPs' expenses, which is very unpopular with the electorate..."

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