In 1976, Lord Hailsham, a one-time Conservative leadership contender, described the UK’s system of government as an ‘elective dictatorship’ (BBC, 1976). The weakness of Parliament, he claimed, meant that a government with a majority is able to behave like a dictator.In academic terms, there is ‘executive dominance’ of the legislature. Traditionally, the electoral system ensures a government with a majority in the House of Commons (although interestingly, not in 2010 or in 2017). And, although sometimes rebellious, MPs tend to support their party, particularly on the most important votes. Defeats in the House of Commons for a sitting government are rare. The last time a government lost a vote of confidence, triggering a general election, was in 1979. The executive in Westminster seems to have far fewer constraints than the US president, for example, whose party does not necessarily have a majority in Congress. In this chapter we examine the Westminster Parliament and its relationship with the executive.
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- Parliament And The Legislative Process
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- Chapter 6