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Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Hairyloon » Sat Mar 03, 2018 12:30 pm

Is it actually a rule that the Leader of the Opposition has to be the leader of the largest opposition party, or is that just the convention?
And yes, we have covered in the past that "Just" does not really apply to constitutional conventions, but I think it works here.
If Mr Benn had called a vote of no confidence in the Leader of the Opposition instead of in the Leader of the Labour party, what would have had to happen?
Could he have done as he did and just sit it out?
I don't see how he can have done, though I think he was in the right to do so.
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:06 pm

I refer my hirsute friend to Section 2 of the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975:

2 Opposition Leaders and Whips.
(1)In this Act “Leader of the Opposition” means, in relation to either House of Parliament, that Member of that House who is for the time being the Leader in that House of the party in opposition to Her Majesty’s Government having the greatest numerical strength in the House of Commons; and “Chief Opposition Whip” means, in relation to either House of Parliament, the person for the time being nominated as such by the Leader of the Opposition in that House; and “Assistant Opposition Whip”, in relation to the House of Commons, means a person for the time being nominated as such, and to be paid as such, by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons.
(2)If any doubt arises as to which is or was at any material time the party in opposition to Her Majesty’s Government having the greatest numerical strength in the House of Commons, or as to who is or was at any material time the leader in that House of such a party, the question shall be decided for the purposes of this Act by the Speaker of the House of Commons, and his decision, certified in writing under his hand, shall be final and conclusive.
(3)If any doubt arises as to who is or was at any material time the Leader in the House of Lords of the said party, the question shall be decided for the purposes of this Act by [F1the Speaker of the House of Lords], and his decision, certified in writing under his hand, shall be final and conclusive.


Mr Corbyn is Leader of the Opposition because he is Leader of the Labour Party and Labour is the largest Opposition party in the Commons. He remains Leader of the Opposition until either (a) he ceases to be Leader of the Labour Party, or (b) he becomes Prime Minister or (c) another Party becomes the largest Opposition party in the Commons. At one point there was speculation that Labour MPs opposed to Mr Corbyn might resign the Labour whip and elect their own Leader who would be Leader of the Opposition.

Quiz question: who was the last Leader of the Labour Party not to be Leader of the Opposition?
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby atticus » Sat Mar 03, 2018 1:15 pm

Gordon Brown.
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Hairyloon » Sat Mar 03, 2018 2:58 pm

atticus wrote:Gordon Brown.

Was he not leader of the opposition between losing the election and resigning as leader of the party?
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Hairyloon » Sat Mar 03, 2018 2:59 pm

Smouldering Stoat wrote:I refer my hirsute friend to Section 2 of the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975:


Thank you, that does appear to cover it... although it does specifically say "In this Act..." suggesting that the definition may not apply outside of that act. :/
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Sat Mar 03, 2018 4:36 pm

Hairyloon wrote:
atticus wrote:Gordon Brown.

Was he not leader of the opposition between losing the election and resigning as leader of the party?


No, because he resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party at the same time. Harriet Harman was Leader of the Opposition until Ed Miliband was elected Leader of the Labour Party.
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Sat Mar 03, 2018 4:40 pm

Hairyloon wrote:
Smouldering Stoat wrote:I refer my hirsute friend to Section 2 of the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975:


Thank you, that does appear to cover it... although it does specifically say "In this Act..." suggesting that the definition may not apply outside of that act. :/


It would be odd if the person entitled to be paid the Leader of the Opposition's salary was not the Leader of the Opposition. I'm told that Erskine May refers to the Act, but alas it is not available online.
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Hairyloon » Sat Mar 03, 2018 8:05 pm

Smouldering Stoat wrote:Thank you, that does appear to cover it... although it does specifically say "In this Act..." suggesting that the definition may not apply outside of that act. :/


It would be odd if the person entitled to be paid the Leader of the Opposition's salary was not the Leader of the Opposition.

True enough, but not the oddest thing that happens in Parliament by any stretch.
I expect they considered the prospect of a party leader not having the confidence of his own MP's to be so far fetched as to be not worth any consideration.
Were they all unsalaried before 1975?
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Sat Mar 03, 2018 8:26 pm

The 1975 Act replaces the Ministers of the Crown Act 1937.

Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party may have lost confidence in Mr Corbyn, though there has been both a Labour leadership election and a General Election since. However, all the time they remain Labour MPs, and he remains Leader of the Labour Party, he is Leader of the Opposition. The attempt to remove him from the leadership of the Party was unsuccessful. They could remove him from the position of Leader of the Opposition by defecting to another party or starting a new one.
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Re: Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition.

Postby Hairyloon » Sat Mar 03, 2018 9:46 pm

Smouldering Stoat wrote:The 1975 Act replaces the Ministers of the Crown Act 1937.

Curiously, that one does not appear to feature on Legislation.gov.uk

Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party may have lost confidence in Mr Corbyn, though there has been both a Labour leadership election and a General Election since. However, all the time they remain Labour MPs, and he remains Leader of the Labour Party, he is Leader of the Opposition. The attempt to remove him from the leadership of the Party was unsuccessful. They could remove him from the position of Leader of the Opposition by defecting to another party or starting a new one.


All of this is true, but it fails to definitively answer the question. The question may be moot: having lost an election to the second worst Prime Minister this millennium he appears to have regained a considerable amount of confidence. These are indeed interesting times.
Nonetheless, I still think it an interesting question and I am not yet persuaded of the answer.

Clearly it is convention and for sensible and practical reasons: it would be an unusual circumstance to even consider stepping away from convention. But these are unusual times and, while the moment might have passed, it would be interesting to know if it could happen, and if not, then why not.
Also interesting to muse on where we might be now, if we had changed the Leader of the Opposition at that time.
If nothing else, PMQ may have had a touch more variety: all the answers that simply blamed Labour would not have been so clever if the questioner was not a Labour member...
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