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Maybe a stupid question. Why is the cabinet single party?

19 replies

PoliticalDunce · 05/06/2017 21:09

I've never been allowed to vote in the UK so never took much interest in the political system. Can someone explain in simple terms, why the Cabinet is made up from only one party and not representative of the House of Commons? (Rough calculations would give something like 11 Conservative, 7 Labour, 2 Scottish National plus Prime Minister)

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DeterminedToChange · 05/06/2017 21:12

The Cabinet is made up of the leading party. The Prime Minister will choose the members. This will happen in any democracy.

The opposition will have a shadow cabinet with the same make up, so that if the Cabinet has a Home Secretary, for instance, so will the shadow cabinet.

fluffandsnuff · 05/06/2017 21:12

When we had a hung parliament we had a coalition with cabinet members from conservatives and lib dems so it can happen, but is rare. The first past the post system is designed for single party majorities- if we had a proportionate cabinet how would it be decided who got what job and what the policies would be?

MaudGonneMad · 05/06/2017 21:14

NI used to have a proportionate cabinet (until two parties went into opposition), and ministries were allocated in proportion to the parties' sizes. The largest party had first pick, and so on.

SerfTerf · 05/06/2017 21:21

Cross party cabinets are possible in the UK, and have happened historically. But we don't have much of a tradition of cooperative governance because of the legislative majorities made possible by our 'first past the post' electoral system.

Are you comparing to your home country? Is that somewhere that operates proportional representation voting or similar and hence coalitions are routine there?

PoliticalDunce · 05/06/2017 21:27

Not in any democracy Determined, at least one is as mentioned above.
House of Commons (or MP's) would vote which (of their party) MP's get the seats.
Ministers appointed by largest party first pick.
At least one representative from each part of UK.
Cooperation and compromise rather than lurching between Conservative/Labour and discontent because people feel they aren't represented.

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PoliticalDunce · 05/06/2017 21:29

fluff presumably the Cabinet vote on policies (I don't actually know what they really do)?

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fluffandsnuff · 05/06/2017 21:36

Policies should be based on manifestos but TBH I'm not entirely sure where/how some cabinet policies are decided (just thinking of some of the policies of Gove in education for example). Someone with more knowledge able to advise?

HopelesslydevotedtoGu · 05/06/2017 21:36

Is a representative cabinet used in your citizenship country OP, and which country is this, if you don't mind me asking?

I absolutely agree that we have been "lurching between Conservative/Labour and discontent because people feel they aren't represented". Although I think prior to Tony Blair the UK was Conservative led for a long time.

Yes in the UK single party rule is seen as a good thing and Coalitions are seen as an unstable thing. Hence the " Coalition of Chaos" references and several leaders being keen to insist they would never form a coalition. Of course they would if it was required to form a government.

fluffandsnuff · 05/06/2017 21:40

You can form a minority government with all cabinet members from one party, but getting anything done would be bloody hard work because you'd have to canvas support from other parties for every single vote without having positions in cabinet to ensure that support.

coconuttella · 05/06/2017 21:47

Can you imagine a Cabinet with TM, JC and NS in it... which is what you're proposing. It may be fairer, but it wouldn't be a Government that could do any governing!

PoliticalDunce · 05/06/2017 21:52

Yes (Switzerland).
Does the Shadow Cabinet do anything except argue with the Cabinet?
Yes, but fluff wouldn't that also mean nothing drastic would go through? There would have to be compromise on contentious issues, so more stability? (I'm not quite sure I understand your last post Blush )

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PoliticalDunce · 05/06/2017 21:56

Hmmm. Party leaders banned from being on Cabinet with the exception of the majority party who is PM?
The point is, it would have to do some governing so each side would have to tone down a bit. There would still be a majority for the majority party in the Cabinet when they vote/decide stuff.

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Moussemoose · 05/06/2017 22:06

We have little concept of consensus or balance in this country. Negotiation demonstrates weakness and compromise is a sin. Changing your mind is the worst mistake a politician can make.

Once a government is elected with a majority in the Commons it is in effect an elected dictatorship. This is seen as 'strong government'.

When we look to the Europe and see people of different parties working together we think it is weak. One of the issues people have with the EU is that it is not 'strong'. The EU is about, discussion, negotiation and compromise.

During this election campaign parties have to deny they will form a coalition to be seen as credible.

It is a national disgrace we should be ashamed. Qualities that make decent human beings are despised in politicians.

coconuttella · 05/06/2017 23:25

I agree... it's very sad that intrasigence and bloody-mindedness is seen to be a strength!

HopelesslydevotedtoGu · 06/06/2017 15:38

Can you imagine a Cabinet with TM, JC and NS in it... which is what you're proposing. It may be fairer, but it wouldn't be a Government that could do any governing!

I think they would learn to compromise and negotiate and we would have a fairly centrist outcome, which I think many would like. TM and NS must have had to compromise in the past to get to their positions now (JC has had an unusual path so not sure about him).

Spending lots to build up services which then get cut and disbanded and then get built up from scratch again is really wasteful and unstable.

Also it feels like the parties are obliged to rubbish everything the other parties say, even if they have common ground they can't admit it.
As a left of centre wing voter I liked the Tories suggestion of using property assets towards your own social care. Then Labour pop by defending the rights of people to inherit the family estate.
The suggested Land Value Tax was praised in an old article on the Conservative Home website as being a sensible policy, now the Tories are rubbishing it.

Would be much better if the parties could say "yes we have some common ground on this issue"

fluffandsnuff · 06/06/2017 16:24

Sorry not the clearest post. What I meant was, In an ideal world, every vote would be on its own merits- i.e. What people believe is best. But in this country it is highly unlikely that on contentious/ high priority issues the parties would act in this way and effectively nothing of importance would get done. if parties are in coalition there is more opportunities for deals to be done (I'll vote for you on this if you don't propose this vote kind of thing). Hope that makes a bit more sense

PoliticalDunce · 06/06/2017 20:34

It's interesting! It does seem like a lot of chopping and changing and like Hoplessly said seems quite expensive and unstable. I hadn't linked the "elected dictatorship" to the dislike of the EU, but that makes a lot of sense. Like an incompatible political heritage.

What shocked me a little is the number of people posting who say they can't vote for the MP they want to elect because they need to vote tactically to "keep one party out".

I'm not certain that would be true fluff. Surely it's on the important and high priority issues that a compromise should be reached?

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fluffandsnuff · 07/06/2017 08:33

It's certainly not a view I want to have- and really hope I'm wrong. labour did order a Three line whip on the EU vote (which effectively orders their MPs to vote on party lines) to pass the legislation so it can happen, or free votes where people can vote according to their conscience/beliefs.

TempsPerdu · 07/06/2017 08:44

What Moussemouse said - centuries of two-party adversarial politics, where one party ends up with all the power, mean that British people don't really understand coalitions or consensus politics. We see strong, effective government as being firm and uncompromising - no U-turns, no yielding to other people's opinions.

Many/most of the countries of mainland Europe have a much more collaborative approach, where many different parties are represented in government and have to work together and make compromises. This is why the Tories 'playing tough' over Brexit and going all guns blazing into negotiations will be a disaster - their European counterparts, more used to careful compromise and negotiation, just won't get it.

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