The end of ‘pairing’? Opposition parties respond to Tory plan to cut their funding

George Osborne did not mention the cuts to Short money in his autumn statement – details only emerged later when full documentation was released [Image: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images].


It seems ‘pairing’ may be scrapped as Opposition parties consider ways to end co-operation with the Conservative Government, after the Tories decided to scrap ‘Short money’, allocated to help run opposition parties in parliament and calculated by the number of seats won and the number of votes gained.

The issue of ‘pairing’ has long vexed readers of This Blog, some of whom have not understood the fairness of the practice. The Guardian article describes it quite well:

“If a minister or backbench Tory MP cannot attend a vote because of urgent business, a foreign trip or illness, Labour whips will designate one of their own MPs to abstain, so the two absent MPs cancel each other out.

“The removal of pairing could force ministers to attend every vote and could severely hamper plans to get legislation through parliament. David Cameron’s government has a slender majority of 16.”

While This Blog has defended the practice in the past, matters have changed.

Considering the Conservatives’ determination to end democracy in the UK, by means including this funding cut, constituency boundary changes and the changes to the electoral register, any move to hobble them is to be applauded.

Labour is considering withdrawing cooperation with the Conservatives in Westminster over a proposed 19 per cent reduction in state money to opposition parties in parliament.

Party officials confirmed they would consider halting cooperation with the Tories over parliamentary business unless the government considers rowing back on plans to cut “Short money” (named after Ted Short, a former leader of the Commons) announced in the autumn statement. Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, has described the cuts as an attack on democracy… not the cost of politics as the government claims.

Opposition parties claim the government proposal shows the Tories are attempting to halt the ability of opposition parties to scrutinise legislation at the same time as they are increasing the numbers of Tory special advisers.

Obstructing “the usual channels” has been discussed, a party source said, but would only be used as a last resort if the government failed to come forward with new proposals for opposition party funding in the new year.

“The usual channels” describes the working relationships between the government and the main opposition party that goes on behind the scenes, usually done through the whips’ office.

Source: Labour could stop cooperating with Tories in protest at party funding cuts | Politics | The Guardian

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3 thoughts on “The end of ‘pairing’? Opposition parties respond to Tory plan to cut their funding

  1. roybeiley

    Why the hesitation a normal person would ask? If Cameron & Co are hell bent on tearing up or selling off this Country’s assets, why is the “gentlemanly code” of pairing not being withdrawn immediately? Either you want to stop the Tories in their tracks by doing something positive or you continually whinge and complain about their behaviour. Hit em where it hurts by crippling their ability to pass bad legislation.

  2. casalealex

    If the Labour government (guilty as member) had done what the Plant commission from the early 1990s had suggested and handed it all to an independent electoral commission, we would not have the allegation in the first place.

    Government, opposition or parliament should not have any role in date, process, or inner working of the electoral system. If they do then it will always be open to question with the electorate – “they are in it for themselves”. The second chamber is there to stop a parliament or electoral commission extending a parliament – that should be the extent of Westminster involvement. And I am as uneasy about Osborne as he clearly is with people. But he is a distraction to the main issues.
    Jeff Rooker
    Labour, House of Lords

  3. David

    I see the dirty fingerprints of Osborne and Cameron all over this. In their book when it comes to democracy v power, power wins every time. Isn’t the fact that the press is exceedingly right wing as well as the rest of the media enough for them?

Comments are closed.