No doubt, some of us will agree and some will disagree with the House of Commons’ decision on 29 August not to authorize force against Syria but surely we can all agree that it was a wonderful day for parliamentary democracy. The legislature controlled the executive instead of vice versa.
Not only that, but we also seem to have set an example to our transatlantic cousins. Although they have long prided themselves on the constitutional separation of powers, in practice the President has executive power to authorize the use of military force. This time however, the President decided, after the House of Commons’ decision, to seek Congress’s agreement.
The Commons would almost certainly not have defeated the Government if the General Election of 2010 had not resulted in a balanced House. Balanced Houses happen only by chance with our 19th century First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system.
One of the arguments often put against STV us that it would often create a balanced House of Commons, which our opponents see as undesirable, but there are two points:
With STV, people get a balanced Commons if they collectively vote for it rather than by chance as with FPTP.
Last Thursday’s vote shows how a balanced House of Commons can control the Government more effectively than one in which a single party has a working majority over all the other parties.