David Cameron in an Indy interview is full of confidence but surprisingly misunderstands the conventions for a hung Parliament. Let’s hope he’s better advised on Treasury matters if the time comes.
Mr Cameron challenged the Whitehall convention that says that, if Britain votes for a hung parliament, the existing Prime Minister gets the first chance to form a government, even if his party has fewer seats or votes than its main rival. The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, recently reaffirmed that this remains the position.
Apparently relying on his student memory of 20 years ago, he gets it wrong, despite his 1st class degree . He should have consulted his old tutor Vernon Bogdanor, or Robert Hazell who advised the cabinet office.
Your front-page story (26 April) misunderstands the constitutional conventions in saying that “the prime minister should be allowed to try to form a government first”. The incumbent prime minister stays in office after the election and is entitled to meet the new parliament and test whether his government still commands confidence. But other parties are perfectly entitled to negotiate with each other to see whether they can form an alternative government.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London