Rules and carrots and the role of speaker

| 20/04/2021 | 46 Comments

(CNS): Roy McTaggart’s ‘Come to Jesus’ moment regarding the speaker of the House and parliamentary procedure is 20 years too late and as hollow as a kettle drum. In 2001, McKeeva Bush orchestrated a political coup, deposing Kurt Tibbetts as leader of government business and inserting himself in this position. To do that, he had to persuade enough MLAs to support his coup and used the ministries as carrots to discontented MLAs who hadn’t been given one by Tibbetts to join his new party, the UDP.

But Bush also found a new carrot: the role of speaker. At the time of the coup, the speaker position was held by Captain Mabry Kirkconnell, a past MLA and highly respected politician, but in order to bolster his new party, Bush gave it instead to a sitting MLA, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, in exchange for her joining the party.

This was in direct contravention of Erskine May, ‘the Bible of parliamentary procedure’ in the UK. The Cayman Islands Standing Orders did not cover this particular situation and so the procedure should have followed the UK’s parliamentary rules, which states that after a speaker is chosen, he or she must resign from his or her party, the exact opposite of what happened in the Cayman Islands at the time. Nobody cared.

The PPM used this same carrot in 2013 when they needed to firm up their win in those elections, having won nine of the 18 seats. The PPM leader, Alden McLaughlin, had put out feelers to the three C4C winning candidates and had offered a Cabinet seat to one of them, Tara Rivers, but they had not immediately decided to join this new coalition. 

However, in the meantime Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who had run on the short-lived People’s National Alliance party ticket, joined the PPM, the party she had until that point been in opposition to, and was rewarded — again — with the post of speaker. 

This gave McLaughlin the ten MLAs he needed to form a government, and offered further incentive to the C4C members to also jump into the PPM camp. Rivers took the ministry position and Winston Connolly and Roy McTaggart accepted their own dangling carrots of ministry councillor posts.

In 2017 the PPM, which by then included McTaggart, only managed to win seven seats — or eight with Rivers, an aligned independent. And so the speaker role again became a carrot, this time for McKeeva Bush, who brought his other two CDP MLAs along to join the PPM pack.

Although Erskine May, the bedrock of parliamentary procedure in the Westminster system, is routinely ignored in the Cayman Islands, not least by the Progressives, McTaggart has decided to cite an uncodified parliamentary convention (not a law) that is applied in the UK and other countries using the Westminster system, namely Speaker Denison’s Rule, which says that the speaker must vote for the status quo in a tie vote.

He is using this to try to scupper the looming PACT Government, which has used this same carrot to get Bush on board but will need the speaker’s tie-breaker vote to get anything accomplished, since it looks as though the Progressives will act as blocks to actual progress.

If McTaggart and the PPM wanted to reform the speaker’s role to align with the UK rules, they just had eight years to do that. Trying to pin the tail on that donkey now just smacks of shallow opportunism.

What the Cayman Islands Constitution says on the matter, which is the law that must be applied rather than conventions that party leaders who have lost the election apparently pick and choose from, is in section 75(2): “The Speaker or other member presiding shall not vote unless on any question the votes are equally divided, in which case he or she shall have and exercise a casting vote.”

It is highly distasteful that the expanding number of ministries and the speakership have become bartering tools in the formation of governments — none of this is how this is meant to go — but the PACT group, unlike the Progressives, have not yet been in a position to sort this out and must use what tools have been handed them by previous governments.

Serious discussions regarding reform should start next week.

An earlier version of this VP said that Juliana O’Connor-Connolly was newly elected when she became speaker in 2001. In fact, she was first elected in 1996.

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Category: 2021 General Elections, Elections, Politics, Viewpoint

Comments (46)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    A Temporary Speaker? Where is this provided for in the Constitution? Is this what Roy meant when he said that a Premier couldn’t be selected under the previous scenario and called it a ruse. Looks like he was right and so we are getting a temporary speaker just for the purpose of getting the Premier appointed. So what are they going to do today..appoint Irma Arch to appoint Mr Panton and have her resign immediately? Or will the temporary Speaker be staying on for the remainder of todays swearing in ceremony? It just does not seem right and smacks of politricks.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just to follow up on my post at 11.09am. It appears that a temporary speaker may not be needed as Mr Panton now has a more comfortable majority.

  2. Anonymous says:

    One thing Wayne needs to remember: it takes 10 to appoint Bush as Speaker but 13 to remove him. That means that if Wayne becomes dissatisfied with Bush he will just have to suck it up, get help from the opposition or failing that call for new electìons.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Riddle me this CNS constitutional expert.

    If Alric Lindsay was/is elected Speaker as previously contemplated, he would NOT be able to cast a vote on any legislation since he was not elected to Parliament. From this it might be inferred that the Speaker cannot cast a deciding vote on anything.

    If McKeeva is elected Speaker, then to an ignoramus such as myself, if he cast a deciding vote on anything then he must do it as an elected MP. But if he pulls off his wig to become an MP then there is no Speaker in the house. Capisce?

    CNS: He wouldn’t have to take his wig off. He would be casting the deciding vote as the speaker. Read this bit again from the Constitution: “The Speaker or other member presiding shall not vote unless on any question the votes are equally divided, in which case he or she shall have and exercise a casting vote.” It would not be the first time this has happened; it’s not a new thing, it’s just that during this administration, unless someone jumps from the Alliance group, it might happen a lot. BTW, Alric Lindsay would have had the same power but with a majority in the House he would not have had to use it much or at all.

    • Anonymous says:

      You better check with your constitutional expert again. I’m the same ignoramus from the original post, but Alric Lindsay, or any other speaker appointed from outside Parliament, cannot vote to pass legislation that would not have passed because one of the PACT 10 is absent.

      CNS: The Constitution is not ambiguous about this. Clear your mind of what you think it should say and then read that part again.

    • Anonymous says:

      Following on from my previous response which you haven’t published, you seem to imply the following to be true.

      1. If Alric Lindsay is speaker and PACT has ten MPs and there are nine MPs in opposition, the legislation passes ten votes to nine. Alric doesn’t have anything to do other than say the ayes have it. Do you agree?

      2. Same situation, but one the PACT backbencher MPs suffers a fit of conscience on a piece of legislation and abstains during the vote. The vote now stands at nine to nine. Do you seriously believe that Wayne can give a nod and a wink to Alric Lindsay and he can then cast a vote to pass the legislation?

      CNS: You do understand that I don’t work 24 hours a day, right? I answered your other comment and I’ll repeat it here: The Constitution is not ambiguous about this. Clear your mind of what you think it should say and then read that part again.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are stubborn, I’ll give you that, but ambiguity exists in every Constitution until it is clarified by a Court ruling, that’s how the separation of powers works.

        With no legal or political background, I stand firm in the belief that no elected government can keep an extra vote in reserve (to be used in cases of emergency/exigency) simply by appointing a speaker from outside Parliament.

        Wayne’s plan to elect Irma as ‘temporary’ Speaker shows that he also knows that the possibility of a court ruling against him is very high.

        CNS: There may be ambiguity in the Constitution but that part is crystal clear. You can argue that it needs to be amended if you don’t like it.

        • Anonymous says:

          It is not crystal clear, but perhaps it is in your mind. “he or she shall have and exercise a casting vote.” because you looked up the dictionary definition of casting vote.

          Crystal clear would be “he or she shall have and exercise the right to cast a determining vote”.

          You simply cannot take the definition of “casting vote” in a committee setting, where the committee chairman effectively votes twice, and apply that to our Constitution.

    • Anonymous says:

      Could you imagine the outcry if an unelected Speaker were to cast a deciding vote?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Cayman does not have to follow UK parliamentary rules or customs, written or unwritten.

  5. McCarron McLaughlin says:

    The 2001 coup was orchestrated by King maker Richard Dick Christiansen at the time, so don’t give Mckeeva Bush so much credit!

  6. Anonymous says:

    So the writer is alleging that one rule was not followed and therefore it is now acceptable to not follow other rules as well? Aside from rules, it is one thing to forgive Bush, but to reward him after castigating others for not punishing him sufficiently? Where is the honesty and integrity in that?

  7. Anonymous says:

    We shall soon find from PACT that the more things change, the more they remain the same. No real reforms will occur. Auditor Generals will still bemoan the conflicts of interest built in to the chairmanship and membership of the Central Planning Authority. Dart and other wealthy investors will still be relied on for keeping the economy moving to the detriment of the environment. Unemployed ( and maybe unemployable ) Caymanians still won’t get jobs. Parliament will still have too many lazy pigs in a too large trough, diminished by a Speaker with an atrocious record of “getting away with it”. And Premier Panton will have to manage an inexperienced but bright and ambitious bunch of newcomers, at least one of whom may want to pout over something and cross the floor of the House in the years ahead.

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Caymanians still won’t get jobs

      In the technology-driven era lack of technology skills remains one of the main concerns of
      employers in Cayman.

      Urgent reforms are needed in the educational and training systems to reduce the overwhelming reliance on expatriate labor. The aim should be to transform Cayman into a technology-driven nation.

      Cayman schools lack the elements that prepare
      students for the job market because technical training, science, and information technology curricula are not emphasized in their academic programs.

      Educational reform should also seek to develop students’ critical thinking skills in order to prepare a new generation of skilled professionals who could replace foreign workers in both public and private sectors.

    • Anonymous says:

      nothing will change with that attitude.

      • Anonymous says:

        Attitude doesn’t change things; only action does. Attitude is how we react when ‘life’ happens.

        Folks can have a positive reaction to the election, or a negative one, but votes were cast; your attitude about it will not change the results.

        Now if your attitude (negative or positive) motivates you to action, then that may make a difference.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Denison’s rule is a statement of principle applied over the past 100+ years in the UK to keep partisanship out of the Speaker’s chair. Perhaps it is time that that rule is applied to keep the devil out the Speaker’s chair

    CNS: Did you even bother to read the VP?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wasn’t it Linford Pierson who became Speaker, not Julianna?

    CNS: Initially it was Juliana. After about a year, LP became ill (he has now recovered) so they switched roles and he took the less demanding post of speaker and she took his ministry for the rest of the administration.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think so, CNS. I think you will find LP was ill BEFORE the coup and recovered. He was Minister of Health and E Commerce ( yes, really!). Julianna was NEVER minister of Health. When the coup occurred, LP became Speaker and Gilbert McLean became Minister of Health in Linford’s place. Julianna took over Kurt’s ministry and Frank McField took over Edna Moyle’s, completing Mac’s coup. Check it out.

      CNS: JOCC was definitely speaker from November 2001 to October 2003 (it was nearly two years, I should not rely on memory). LP became speaker in Oct 2003 and Julianna became Minister for Planning, Communications, District Administration and Information Technology, which was part of Kurt’s ministry and part of LPs. LP was Minister from 2000 to 2003 (so before and after the coup). I think you’re right that during that time he was minister of health and communications etc.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks CNS. I think we were both right and wrong about bits of the puzzle!

        CNS: It was a long time ago!

    • Anonymous says:

      I am certain the poster @ 1:34 is correct. Julianna did not take over Linford’s position ( he was Minister of Health). That was Gilbert McLean who took it over when LP became Speaker after the coup which he supported because, well, money and prestige disguised by him of course as love of country etc. But it raises an interesting point. Where do we go when we want to authoritatively check out historical data….even recent….like this?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Honourable my a.. as sure as hell they are not hounable

  11. Anonymous says:

    12:20 PM, your are right, about honorable crap, convicted drug pusher, convicted women beaters. Shady deals for money and they are called honorable, shame, shame. Only in Cayman that could happen .

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ahhh memory lane. Let’s add in there that McKeeva also orchestrated a judicial coup in 2003 against David Ballantyne, and appointed Sam Bulgin as Attorney General. XXXX And for what purpose is the LA House for anyway? When most of the business of the territory is conducted without open debate via private caucus, with the LA serving as a ceremonial ratification of Bills for Gazette, that had been signed and sealed in some cases days or weeks earlier. The opposition bench has not been allowed to do their jobs – to debate, shadow government ministers, or audit regime activity, despite that being their full-time paid occupation. This is why there is so much free time for Miami shopping, and Rooster call-in Radio. If the next government intends to have any credibility, they must open the books, publish truthful and accurate reports, put an opposition bench back to work for their supper.

  13. Anonymous says:

    There are no shortage of “Look over there” articles, but putting a silk scarf over a pile of poop is not going to make it smell any better.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “…since it looks as though the Progressives will act as blocks to actual progress…”

    One couldn’t have said it better.

    Thank you for your Viewpoint which help us all better understand the complex issues involved.

  15. anon says:

    It seems our government is determined by greed, pure and simple.What is good for the country does not come into it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The Cayman Islands does not have a Constitution.

  17. The Constitutional Critic says:

    This viewpoint is spot on
    I only wish I had the time to have sat down and articulated this in the same manner

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