So here’s an odd question: can we have a situation where Parliament can’t be dissolved, and yet no Government can be formed? I’ve just been discussing it on Twitter.

Scenario: Clegg gets tired of taking one for the team, and the LDs walk out of the coalition. Cameron, either in hope of an early election or because of a split in the Conservative party, resigns as PM.

You’d think early elections would be the next step. However, the fixed term Parliaments act says that the PM can’t dissolve Parliament without a 66% majority or a lost vote of confidence – in the words set out in the Act.

Maybe Labour will vote for early elections – but what if they don’t want them? The 66% is of all members not all voting members, so abstentions are effectively votes against dissolution.

The LDs will obviously have no desire to see an early election, because they’d be hit hard on the basis of the polls.

So we could have a situation where the Conservatives can’t win a vote on early elections (doesn’t have 66%), Labour can’t form a government (coalition is too broad/LDs say no), the Conservatives can’t contrive to lose a confidence vote (don’t have 50% if Lab and LD vote confidence [corrected from “abstain”]), and yet don’t want to continue in Government.

And since the Queen is now barred from dissolving Parliament on the PM’s request, it gets very tricky.


Written by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.

This article has 3 comments

  1. Pete McClymont

    You’re assuming that LibDems have a line in the sand. From what’s happened so far – even the veto (non-veto) – there’s no evidence that there is a line in the sand. Perhaps they like power too much.
    In the hypothetical situation, if the LibDems cave, then I’d bet Labour would still want an election even though by my reckoning we’d get a hung Parliament again.
    One key issue could be the boundary changes. By the previous maths, the changes help the Cons, so if the chance came before tha changes take effect that might be have a big influence on Labour’s decision.

  2. Matthew

    The confidence vote is only a simple majority, so it would take active opposition from almost all non-Tories to stop govt voting no confidence in itself. Then – assuming they can’t form govt – two weeks later Cameron gets his election.