37

The Conservatives in the UK are in a confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP in order to have a working majority in Parliament.

Yesterday, three Conservatives left the party to become independent, which means that they have 314 + 10 DUP, which is 324 out of 650.

Does this mean that they have lost the working majority and what does it mean if they have? Or is there any impact if/when they do?

The Government has a page showing current parliamentary breakdown.

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Not yet. Because Sinn Fein hold 7 seats, but they refuse to take their seats in the House of Commons. By tradition, the Speaker of the house doesn't vote.So in practice there are 642 votes in the Commons. That means that 322 votes are needed for a working majority in practice, which the government still has (with the DUP's support).

At the time of writing the seat of Newport West is vacant after the recent death of the MP Paul Flynn (Labour) on 17th Feb 2019; he has been MP for that seat since 1987, so it can be regarded as a reasonably safe Labour seat in the upcoming by-election. This lowers the majority threshold to 321 seats until the vacant seat is filled.

There is no immediate impact if they do fall below that threshold though. The only way it matters is if the government loses a vote of no confidence. It is not certain that the ex -Tory members who have joined The Independent Group would all necessarily vote against the government in a no confidence motion.

  • 5
    If we’re accounting for the Speaker, we need also to count the Deputy Speakers (one Conservative, two Labour) who also don’t vote. And no, it’s not a coincidence that the party makeup of the Deputy Speakers, combined with the Speaker (who used to be a Conservative) cancels out any Government/Opposition imbalance. – owjburnham Feb 21 at 13:46
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    For the time being the number of MPs able to vote is reduced by one more - Fiona Onasanya is unable to vote whilst she is in prison – stuart10 Feb 21 at 14:13
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    This Wikipedia page has a breakdown of the numbers. It currently also comes out with a number of 638 voting MPs. – Steve Melnikoff Feb 21 at 15:02
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    Also worth mentioned that the Tories who did leave have all said they would support the government in most things, just not on a no-deal brexit. – user Feb 21 at 15:12
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    By convention if a casting vote is required from the Speaker, they will not vote along party lines but according to Speaker Denison's rule. – Ty Hayes Feb 21 at 15:38
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At the time of writing, the state of the parties (alt source)as it affects this calculation is:

  • Conservative: 314
  • DUP: 10
  • Labour: 247
  • Sinn Fein: 7
  • The Speaker: 1
  • Vacant: 1
  • Everyone else: 70
  • TOTAL: 650

However, the 3 Deputy Speakers - of whom 1 is Conservative and 2 are Labour - don't vote. Sinn Fein don't take their seats, so are also unable to vote. With the speaker and one vacancy, this reduces the number of voting MPs to 638.

This makes the number of votes required for a majority to be half of this plus one, i.e. 320.

The Government are in a confidence & supply agreement with the DUP, so in the event of another confidence vote, the number of Government votes available is 314 (Con MPs) - 1 (Deputy Speaker) + 10 (DUP MPs) = 323.

The number of Opposition votes available is 247 (Lab MPs) - 2 (Deputy Speakers) + 70 (everyone else, apart from Sinn Fein) = 315.

Hence the Government, in theory, have a majority of 8.

However, for non-confidence & supply votes, these numbers change to 313 and 325, leaving the Government short by 12 votes. And indeed, they have lost a number of votes recently - not merely because of these numbers, but also because, on Brexit issues, a number of Conservative MPs have not voted with the Government.

  • However, a splinter group with (as yet) no organization, no manifesto except being "agin the guvment" or "agin Corbyn", and no significant funding, would be on a suicide mission if it forced a general election through a no confidence vote right now. Not all the "rebels" are popular in their own constituencies and there is no guarantee they would be re-elected if they stood as independent candidates. – alephzero Feb 21 at 18:18

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