UK Ministers resign, confidence vote likely for Theresa May

Missy has summarised developments (overnight NZ time) in the UK political split over Brexit plans, with a number of Cabinet Ministers resigning (7 so far), and a confidence vote in Theresa May likely.

(Thanks for this Missy).


Her ‘deal’ has been compared to Chamberlain returning from Munich.

A quick review of this morning’s happenings (rather than re-posting everything I posted this morning).

Five Members of the cabinet have resigned, they are:

  1. Shailesh Vara – Junior Minister for Northern Ireland. He claims that the deal leaves Britain in a half way house.
  2. Dominic Raab – Secretary of State for Exiting the EU. He said the indefinite backstop threatens to break up the Union.
  3. Esther McVey – Secretary of State for Work & Pensions. She said the deal does not honour the result of the referendum.
  4. Suella Braverman – Junior Minister for the Department for Exiting the EU. She warned that the concessions do not respect the will of the people.
  5. Anne-Marie Trevelyan – Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Education Secretary. She said the deal is unacceptable to Brexit Voters.
  6. Ranil Jayawardena – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice. He said the deal does not deliver a fair Brexit.
  7. Rehman Chishti, the PM’s trade envoy to Pakistan and Vice chairman of the Conservative Party for communities has resigned, saying that the deal is contrary to their Manifesto commitment.

May gave a statement in Parliament after which she received no support. During the questions after Jacob Rees-Mogg asked May why he shouldn’t put in a letter to the 1922 Committee Chariman. This is quite a big thing, whatever you think of him JRM has always supported the PM, he hasn’t supported the deal, but he has always said he supports the PM of the day, and that he has indicated in Parliament that he is thinking of putting in a letter of no confidence is quite a big deal, and he has influence among other Brexiters.

When he spoke in Parliament JRM obviously already had his letter written, he has just submitted it to the 1922 Committee. The key part is this: ‘It is of considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place. Regrettably, this is not the situation, therefore, in accordance with the relevant rules and procedures of the Conservative Party and the 1922 Committee this is a formal letter of No Confidence in the Leader of the Party, the Rt. Hon. Theresa May.’

JRM has said that the Brexit deal has turned out to be worse than anticipated and fails to meet the promises given to the nation by the PM.

It is expected that the required number of letters will be received by the Chair of the 1922 Committee by tomorrow, and if so then a vote of confidence in Theresa May as leader on Tuesday is expected.

There has been some speculation on who may run for leader, though I think we may get a better idea when the Chair of the 1922 Committee are closer to receiving the 48 letters needed and we see which Cabinet members resign then.

Leading contenders at the moment are:

  • Dominic Raab (odds about 11-2)
  • Boris Johnson (odds about 5-1)
  • Sajid Javid (odds about 5-1) he is the most credible leading contender, despite having voted remain he is against a soft Brexit and for delivering Brexit. He has gone against Theresa May on several occasions, and he was reportedly behind a tougher stance on EU Migrants post Brexit than was originally positioned by TM. Has the advantage of being an ethnic minority (Pakistani parents) and a (non practicing) Muslim, despite having been brought up in a Muslim household he doesn’t practice now, and has stated on a number of occasions the only religion in his house is Christianity (his wife is apparently a practicing Christian). So looks good for the moderate Muslim vote, but isn’t a problem for the extreme anti-Muslim vote.
  • Jeremy Hunt (odds about 8-1) he won’t be a popular choice, he is universally disliked by the public.
  • David Davis (odds about 11-1) he is a popular choice among many party members to bring in as an interim PM until Brexit is done.
  • Amber Rudd (odds about 50-1)

Sources are reporting that Michael Gove was offered the Brexit Secretary job, but he has turned it down unless he can go back to Brussels and renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.

 

Labour lacking in gender balance – and female capability?

Labour is going backwards with their ideal, gender balance, especially in their senior ranks.

In October 2017 (just after she became Prime Minister) Ardern vows to improve Cabinet gender balance

Women would hold just six of Labour’s 16-strong Cabinet posts, and just one of its five ministerial roles outside of Cabinet.

Ms Ardern said that was not good enough and she was vowing to bring more women up to the top level.

“I’m going to make sure that we continue to work on bringing through more of our team”.

“We set ourselves a goal as a Labour Party that we would bring more women into our caucus. When we set that goal we set it at 50 percent, and we came very close to achieving that this election and I’m proud of that”.

“We’ll continue to make sure that we try to see that reflected in our membership as they come up through roles and responsibilities through both our caucus and through our Cabinet.”

That’s not happening yet – in fact it’s deteriorating.

With the resignation of now ex-Ministers Clare Curran and the sacking of Meka Whaitiri there are now:

  • 8 female of 26 ministers
  • 6 female ministers of 19 in Cabinet
  • 3 female ministers on the front bench (top 10)
  • 5 female Labour ministers

As a comparison, the last National-led line-up (April 2017):

  • 9 female of 27 ministers
  • 7 female of 22 in Cabinet
  • 2 female ministers on the front bench
  • 9 female National ministers

In the Labour-led government, NZ First and Greens balance each other out. NZ First has 1 female of 3 ministers, while Greens have 2 female of 3 ministers.

Labour now has just Jacinda Ardern (1), Megan Woods (6), Carmel Sepuloni (9), Nanaia Mahuta (12) and Jenny Salesa (15) – five out of fifteen.

And there’s not many stand outs there, yet at least.

Gender balance in Parliament and in Cabinet are great ideals, but to achieve that requires enough quality female candidates standing for Parliament, and enough of them capable of handling roles as ministers and in Cabinet.

Both failures as ministers have been Labour MPs.

While I think that most people would like to see approximate gender balances in Parliament, I think that most voters – male and female – would choose competence over tokenism and making up the numbers with MPs not up to the job.

Less than a third of Cabinet are female

Jacinda Ardern has been a staunch supporter of equality. Just yesterday she promoted equality in rugby – see Rugby doesn’t deserve to be New Zealand’s national sport, equality or not.

But the day before she diluted the female presence in her Cabinet, from 35% to less than a third, by demoting Clare Curran to reduced ministerial duties outside Cabinet. Now:

  • 3 of the top 10 Ministers are female (still)
  • 6 of the 19 Ministers in Cabinet are female
  • 2 of 6 Ministers outside Cabinet are female
  • 2 of 3 Supporting Party (Green) Ministers are female (still)
  • TOTAL 10 of 28 Ministers are female

In the place where Ardern could walk the walk on her equality ideals, Government, she is falling well short.

It could be that there are not enough female MPs in the three parties in Government who are experienced enough or capable enough to fill the top positions in equal numbers to men, but this must be a bit embarrassing for Ardern.

 

Clare Curran voluntarily dumped, partially

In the traditional time for releasing news you want buried in the weekend, Jacinda Ardern and Clare Curran gave slightly different versions of Curran’s demotion today for repeating a failure to properly record a meeting.

Ardern says Clare Curran removed from Cabinet

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has removed Clare Curran from Cabinet and accepted her offer to resign her Government Digital Services portfolio and Open Government responsibilities, following a second failure to properly declare a meeting.

Dr Megan Woods will take over as Minister of Government Digital Services and Ms Curran’s delegated responsibilities in relation to Open Government will revert to Chris Hipkins, as Minister for State Services. Minister Curran will retain her responsibilities as Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, and as Associate Minister for ACC, but will now sit outside Cabinet.

In February this year Minister Curran met with Mr Derek Handley at her Beehive office in her capacity as Minister of Government Digital Services to discuss Mr Handley’s interest in the vacant Chief Technology Officer (CTO) role. This meeting took place after the first unsuccessful recruitment round for the CTO. As with approaches from other interested parties, the Minister directed Mr Handley to register his interest with MBIE officials. Applications reopened for the CTO role in May.

The meeting was not recorded in the Minister’s diary and neither the Minister’s staff nor officials were made aware of it.

The meeting was subsequently mistakenly left out of an answer to a recent Parliamentary Question for Written Answer. The meeting should have been included in the answer and the error has been corrected. Ms Curran has advised there have been no other meetings between herself and Mr Handley outside the application process.

“The failure to record the meeting in her diary; inform her staff and officials; and accurately answer Parliamentary questions has left the Minister open to the accusation that she deliberately sought to hide the meeting.” said Jacinda Ardern.

“While this was not the Minister’s intention, this is the second misjudgement and is not in keeping with my expectations, or the Minister’s expectations of herself. As a result I have chosen to remove Minister Curran from Cabinet.

“Transparency is important, even more so for Hon Curran given her Open Government responsibilities.

“I have accepted the Minister’s offer to resign her responsibilities relevant to this issue, which clearly she can no longer continue in.

So Ardern accepted an offer to resign, but removed her, or something like that.

The demotion from Cabinet but loss of only some of her portfolios must have been at least discussed, it’s hard to see Curran offering to resign exactly as Ardern dictated.

Curran’s statement:

So she is still promoting her retained responsibilities. Some have said it is a bit of a Claytons dumping.

And it has been pointed out that it’s a bit cynical for Ardern to claim “Transparency is important” when she waited until late on a busy news Friday, with the Bridges leak fiasco and Australian leadership fiasco dominating news.

I don’t think the loss of Open Government will disappoint many people, Curran has failed to live up to her responsibilities in a number of ways. She is probably a popular demotee.

I’m not sure how will Chris Hipkins will fit with the open Government role alongside his job as Government Whip.

 

 

Ardern – “absolute given” no announcements before Cabinet discussion

Prime Minister Jacinda has said it is “an absolute given” no announcements should be made by Ministers before Cabinet discussion  – except when it is “normal decision making process”.

After Andrew Little had to scrap his plans to scrap the 3 strikes legislation when it became obvious NZ First wouldn’t support it, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made it clear Ministers shouldn’t make announcements before discussing them in Cabinet.

From NZH:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters it was a “given” that ministers did not make announcements before discussing them at Cabinet.

“There’s always a given that we wouldn’t do that. It’s something that doesn’t really need requirement to be repeating. It’s an absolute given,” she said.

“Three strikes makes up only a very small part of a much wider agenda and we are continuing to pursue that agenda as a Government. None of these decisions are finalised until we have that discussion as Cabinet. All our ministers know that,” Ardern said.

Ardern is a bit liberal with her use of ‘absolute’, given her announcement (along with a Labour minister, a Green minister and an NZ First minister on oil and gas exploration permits without discussing it with Cabinet.

Stuff: No Cabinet paper written, no Cabinet decision made, in “political decision” to ban new oil exploration

Cabinet has made no decision on ending oil exploration, documents being released today will show, with April’s announcement made on the basis of a political agreement between the coalition parties.

On April 12, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led a group of ministerial colleagues into the Beehive theatrette to confirm news that the Government had decided it would offer no new offshore permits for oil and gas exploration, with onshore permits offered in Taranaki for as little as three years.

Although the news was delivered by ministers affected by the decision and in a forum usually used to discuss decisions made by Cabinet, politicians made the decision in their roles as party leaders.

Today the Government will release a series of documents generated in the making of the oil and gas exploration decision, but it has already confirmed to Stuff that no Cabinet paper was created and that Cabinet has not voted on the matter.

“There was no Cabinet decision,” a spokesman for Energy Minister Megan Woods said.

In a statement, Ardern defended the handling of the decision, but said it was not how most decisions would be made.

“The decision on future oil and gas block offers was a political decision made by the government parties. It was consulted on and agreed between the parties and taken to Cabinet for confirmation,” a spokesman for Ardern said.

“This is a normal decision making process when it comes to coalition wide matters, but does tend to be the exception rather than the rule.”

An “absolute given”that ministers did not make announcements before discussing them at Cabinet except when it was part of the  “normal decision making process” that is “the exception rather than the rule”.

 

 

Party leaders made oil and gas decisions, not Cabinet

Theoretically in New Zealand’s democratic system the Cabinet of the day makes Government decisions. But when governing arrangements are made before the Cabinet has been formed decisions are effectively made by party leaders and whoever is a part of their decision making processes.

It is being reported this is what happened with the decision to end the issuing of oil and gas exploration permits, but that was not a specific coalition or confidence and supply agreement. Cabinet was not involved in the decision anyway.

Stuff: No Cabinet paper written, no Cabinet decision made, in “political decision” to ban new oil exploration

Cabinet has made no decision on ending oil exploration, documents being released today will show, with April’s announcement made on the basis of a political agreement between the coalition parties.

On April 12, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led a group of ministerial colleagues into the Beehive theatrette to confirm news that the Government had decided it would offer no new offshore permits for oil and gas exploration, with onshore permits offered in Taranaki for as little as three years.

Although the news was delivered by ministers affected by the decision and in a forum usually used to discuss decisions made by Cabinet, politicians made the decision in their roles as party leaders.

Today the Government will release a series of documents generated in the making of the oil and gas exploration decision, but it has already confirmed to Stuff that no Cabinet paper was created and that Cabinet has not voted on the matter.

“There was no Cabinet decision,” a spokesman for Energy Minister Megan Woods said.

“The decision not to offer future offshore oil and gas exploration permits was made between the three coalition parties, and the Minister [Woods] was simply notifying Cabinet of that decision as well as noting that future cabinet decisions would be required to implement that decision.”

The spokesman added that there was no requirement for Cabinet to make a decision, but a Cabinet paper would be developed on implementing the decision.

“Officials are currently drafting advice on implementing the offshore decision and alongside this work, we’ve also begun discussions with industry about protecting rights of existing permit holders.”

There has been justified criticism of making a decision that potentially could have a major impact before spending time considering and deciding how it might be implemented.

In a statement, Ardern defended the handling of the decision, but said it was not how most decisions would be made.

“The decision on future oil and gas block offers was a political decision made by the government parties. It was consulted on and agreed between the parties and taken to Cabinet for confirmation,” a spokesman for Ardern said.

“This is a normal decision making process when it comes to coalition wide matters, but does tend to be the exception rather than the rule.”

So some major decisions are made by three party leaders and their negotiating teams, with Cabinet expected to just ‘confirm’ it – that sounds like rubber stamping.

In this case it seems that the Minister of Energy, Megan Woods, was instructed on decisions made outside her Ministry.

A spokesman for Ardern said the exploration permit announcement was usually made around the time of the oil industry summit and “had nothing to do with the Prime Minister’s trip to Europe”.

Just a lucky coincidence for Ardern to be able to take the decision with her on her European trip.

Perhaps big decisions being made by Government party leaders is a practical reality of our form of MMP democracy, but it does have risks of diktat be a self selected few.

This is a particular risk when a new Government is formed, and the checks and balances seem alarmingly limited.

It is unlikely a newly appointed Minister would feel free to speak up against an imposed decision.

In the case of the oil and gas decision, going by the obvious discomfort shown by Shane Jones at the announcement, the cessation of issuing of exploration permits seems to have been a decision made by two party leaders and imposed on the other party in Government with just a whimper in protest.

Labour’s Ministers elected

The Labour caucus elected 16 Cabinet Ministers and 2 Ministers outside cabinet this afternoon.

Cabinet Ministers (alphabetical order)

  • Jacinda Ardern
  • David Clark
  • Clare Curran
  • Kelvin Davis
  • Chris Hipkins
  • Iain Lees-Galloway
  • Andrew Little
  • Nanaia Mahuta
  • Stuart Nash
  • Damien O’Connor
  • David Parker
  • Grant Robertson
  • Jenny Salesa
  • Carmel Sepuloni
  • Phil Twyford
  • Megan Woods

Nanaia Mahuta, David Parker and Damien O’Connor were ministers in the Helen Clark led government.

Ministers outside Cabinet (alphabetical order)

  • Kris Faafoi
  • Peeni Henare
  • Willie Jackson
  • Aupito William Sio
  • Meka Whaitiri

Jacinda Ardern:

“I will announce the portfolios of Ministers next week, including the New Zealand First and Green Party Ministers.

“New Zealand First will hold four positions inside Cabinet, and the Green Party will hold three positions outside of Cabinet. In total the Executive will contain 28 members, in line with past governments.

“Early next week, there will also be an official signing of agreements with New Zealand First and the Green Party that will form the foundation of a strong and durable government.”

They all start with a clean slate. We shall see how effective they are individually and how durable they are as a Cabinet and Government.

Government by the numbers

Numbers known so far about the incoming Labour-NZ First-Green government.

Party vote (election 2017):

  • Labour 36.89%
  • NZ First 7.20%
  • Greens 6.27%
  • TOTAL 50.36%
    (National 44.45%)

This is the lowest level of lead party support since the first MMP election (and the first time the highest polling party hasn’t led the government):

  • 1996 National 33.87%
  • 1999 Labour 38.74%
  • 2002 Labour 41.26%
  • 2005 Labour 41.10%
  • 2008 National 44.93%
  • 2011 National 47.31%
  • 2014 National 47.04%
  • 2017 Labour 36.69%

Number of seats in Parliament:

  • Labour 46
  • NZ First 9
  • Greens 8
  • TOTAL 63
  • National 56
  • ACT 1

That’s the largest opposition party ever.

Any legislation (that isn’t a conscience vote) will need to get the support of all of Labour, NZ First and the Greens, or if the Greens don’t support it National will need to to get it passed.

Number of ministers (as announced so far):

  • NZ First 4 inside cabinet (.444 per seat)
  • Greens 3 outside cabinet (.375 per seat
  • TOTAL 7 (.412 per seat)

Using that overall proportion against their 46 seats that would be 19 ministerial positions for Labour, and a total of 26 ministers.

This is in line with the current number of ministers:

  • Inside Cabinet 20
  • Outside Cabinet 5
  • Support party ministers 2

There was 1 Under-Secretary last term (David Seymour). There will be two this term, one each from NZ First and Greens.

Ardern said yesterday “”We have tried to ensure that we have been as proportional as possible”. She seems to be close to the mark, depending on how many Labour ministers there are.

Ardern now needs to appoint ministers. That may be happening this afternoon.

 

Greens and Cabinet gender equality

Two years ago James Shaw stated that Greens will ensure gender balance in Cabinet

The Green Party is today announcing that, in Government, it will ensure half of all Green Cabinet Ministers are women, and will call on other members of any coalition Government it is involved in to do the same.

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw announced to the CTU conference in Wellington today that the Green Party would put gender equality at the heart of any Government it is involved in, starting with equal representation in Cabinet.

“Our hope is that by leading by example, and ensuring gender equality at the Cabinet table, the Green Party can stimulate and support a wave of gender equity reforms for women who work,” Mr Shaw said.

“A Government with 70 percent of its Ministers men isn’t good for women and it isn’t good for New Zealand.

“By committing to a gender balance in Cabinet, the Green Party won’t immediately fix the inequalities women are forced to deal with at work every day, but it will show that we are committed to gender equality everywhere, starting with where we work ourselves,” Mr Shaw said.

I don’t know how much priority the Greens will put on this policy in coalition negotiations.

The Greens haven’t achieved gender equality in their own caucus. They campaigned on having a line up dominated by females, and have ended up with two male MPs and six female MPs.

In contrast NZ First is slanted the other way, with two female MPs to seven male MPs, so I guess there is balance between the two of them.

Labour have more female MPs this time ( I count 21 of their 46 MPs as female), but most of their experienced MPs likely to fill Cabinet positions are male. Three of their top ten MPs are female, and just seven of their top twenty.

So gender balance in a Labour-NZ First-Green government would be difficult to achieve.

Overall the new Parliament is slanted male, still.  From Kiwiblog The 52nd New Zealand Parliament Demographics:

Gender

  • 74 (-8) Males, 62% (-6%)
  • 46 (+7) Females, 38% (+6%)

Seven of National’s top twenty MPs are female so if they form a Cabinet with NZ First there will be gender imbalance.

Gender equality in Cabinet is worth aiming for, but it will continue to take time. Forcing it by promoting female MPs over more experienced male MPs is not a good idea.

And overbalancing by having a party caucus with female MPs is not going to help overall gender equality.

Should all Greens be ruled out of Labour Cabinet?

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern made it clear that Metiria Turei would not be considered for a position in a Labour cabinet due to Turei’s ongoing condoning of benefit fraud.

Co-leader James Shaw has said he fully supports Turei’s stance and won’t condemn benefit fraud. Should he also be ruled out of a cabinet position?

Kennedy Graham and David Clendon have chosen to step down rather than join the Green condoning of law breaking.

The other 10 Green MPs say they fully support Turei. Should they also be ruled out of any cabinet positions in a Labour led government?

Does this stance effectively rule the Green Party out of a coalition?