404 – UK government not found

This is an interesting page – detailing news of the ongoing reshuffle after the June 2017 general elections. As well as any intrinsic interest there may be in knowing that Boris Johnson is still somehow Foreign Secretary, it has a particular piquancy when compared to a similar page from after the last election in 2015.

Four little words at the top of the latter … “has formed a government”.

Because, in June 2017, we do not yet have a government in the UK. Neither will we until Monday 19th June at the very earliest.

This is also an interesting page – as well as announcing the delay in the long-anticipated announcement of the TEF, it also announces that we are still in the pre-election period (or “purdah” as it is known). These rules prohibit things being announced on behalf of the government when it is not yet clear who the government is. Or if there is one.

When Theresa May went to speak to the Queen on the 9th June she asked – after the Queen had stopped laughing – for permission to attempt to form a minority government based on a “confidence and supply” agreement with another party.

The fatuous announcements currently making the news – Theresa May’s reshuffle (of course the Queen can’t confirm any appointments…”), the alleged agreement with the DUP (who don’t negotiate on the Sabbath) – are designed to convince us that we have a government. That we have “certainty”. Reshuffling looks Prime Ministerial – so does making agreements with other parties, and taking calls from leaders of countries with actual governments.

Here’s the Cabinet Office manual on the issue:

(para 2.30) “Immediately following an election, if there is no overall majority, for as long as there is significant doubt over the Government’s
ability to command the confidence of the House of Commons, many of the
restrictions set out at paragraphs 2.27–2.29 (on “purdah”) would continue to apply. The point at which the restrictions on financial and other commitments should come to an end depends on circumstances, but may
often be either when a new Prime Minister is appointed by the Sovereign or where a government’s ability to command the confidence of the Commons has been tested in the House of Commons.”

So there will be a government when a Queen’s speech is passed by the House of Commons. We don’t yet know what will be in the speech, though the best guess is that it will be very short indeed – we do know that there are likely to be amendments tabled by Labour and others, and we can even suspect that there may be an attempt to vote it down.

Such a vote would constitute a vote of no confidence in a putative Conservative Minority Government – this would be quickly followed by a motion under the terms of section two of the Fixed Term Parliament Act leading (unless confidence can be regained) to another general election 14 days later.

If a Queen’s speech is passed, a government could still very easily fall whenever the DUP decide to renege on a political promise and withdraw from a power-sharing agreement – which is something they have rather a habit of doing. Or it could fall if a small group of backbenchers decide they don’t like what is happening. Or it could fall for any number of other reasons.

So, to summarise: there is no UK government, Theresa May holds very little power, and we won’t know anything until the 19th June.

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