Confidence and Supply Deals, Put Simply

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By Head of Fundraising and Recruitment Henry Davies

In the aftermath of the General Election earlier this month, (which we’re sure you’re all following with great interest) you may have noticed the term “confidence and supply” being thrown around in the media. But what is a confidence and supply deal?

In the case of a hung parliament, where no party gains the magical number of 326 seats to form a majority, there comes a bit of a problem. If no one has a majority; who forms the government? Without a majority, it becomes incredibly difficult to pass any legislation, let alone stay in power.

In this case, the Conservatives have the most seats (317), and so they get first dibs on trying to form a government. There are four options open to a Party in this position; a coalition, a confidence and supply deal, going ahead without any deals a.k.a. pure minority government (see Wilson’s 1974 Labour government), or yet another general election.

The Conservatives have chosen to go down the confidence and supply route. This means that they will be seeking the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which has 10 MP’s, bringing the government to 327 (bingo, there’s the magic number). This support will be in the shape of an informal agreement, rather than an official coalition. This means that the DUP will not receive ministerial positions or a formal role in government, but will also not be tied by the government whip, meaning they could vote against the government at any time. What they get in return for voting with the government are policy concessions. The DUP will be seeking things like more investment for Northern Ireland, keeping the triple-lock on pensions, and a softer Brexit.

So, what exactly will the DUP be expected to give the government? Well, we can split that into two handy section.

Confidence
The DUP will vote with the government (or abstain) on motions of confidence that could lead to the government being forced to call another election. For example, should a motion of no confidence be called, as it was in 1979 against the Callaghan government, the DUP will vote against it. This part of the deal is to ensure that the Conservatives stay in power.

Supply
The DUP will also vote for (or abstain on) major ‘supply’ bills introduced by the government. This mainly refers to the annual budget, which is the bill that essentially funds everything (with some concessions to ensure the DUP’s support) that the government wishes to implement.

So, why not just form a coalition? Good question. The fact is, a formal coalition probably isn’t worth it. The 10 DUP MPs will only bring the Conservatives’ number to 327 (a majority of one). Even if you disregard Sinn Fein’s 7 members (as they abstain on every issue out of principle), then the Conservatives still only have a majority of eight. So, what about the small number of backbenchers that defy their own whip? Also known as the ‘Awkward Squad’, these Conservative MP’s could make it incredibly difficult for the government to pass legislation on some of the more controversial parts of their manifesto. So, forming a coalition with the DUP would be pretty pointless, especially if your own MP’s are going to be making life difficult. This was obviously an entirely different scenario in 2010 as the Conservatives had 306 seats and the Liberal Democrats had 57, bringing the total up to a very respectable 363, making a coalition a reasonable option.

So, there you have it. Whether you agree or not, the confidence and supply negotiations are well under way, with the first exchange being the expected support of the DUP for the vote on today’s Queen’s Speech which will take place next week, which if voted down is considered a vote of no confidence.

What do you think? Is this a necessary measure for strong and stable government in a time when we most need it? Or a desperate cling for power by a party that refuses to acknowledge that it’s time to go? Let us know in the comments.

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