Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More on Fixed Term Parliaments

Am I jinxed? It's been bright sunshine for six days now, and what happens as soon as I go out to College Green to do an interview with LibDem MP David Howarth? It starts raining. I was interviewing David about his Fixed Term Parliament Bill which will be read on Friday. I'll upload the video on here later.

David came second in the Private Members' Ballot. As some of you know, I fully support the Campaign for Fixed Term Parliaments as I regard it as fundamentally undemocratic that the Prime Minister of the day is able to call an election at a time of his or her choosing. This is not a party political point, but last Autumn's events are surely proof that something is wrong with out current system. A five year fixed term would be far better. Obviously, it would still be possible to hold an election during that time if a government lost a confidence vote, for example, so the word 'fixed' is perhaps a bit of a misnomer.

If you agree with e concept of fixed terms, do lobby your own MP to turn up on Friday and support the Bill, or at least sign EDM 1528.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ian,

As much as I sympathise with your thread, under ther system that you propose, a PM could still call an election at any time - he/she could simply organise and lose a confidence vote, [a few orchastrated abstentions would do the trick] thus bringing about a General Election.

Anonymous said...

This one is a non-starter, in the same way that 'fair votes' will never happen.

Superficially appealing when one's party is in opposition, the appetite disappears when one is in power.

Save the tilting at windmills for something else...

Splashitallover said...

I'd have thought that the events of last Autumn were an argument in favour of the present system. Brown had a big decision to make, and he bottled it. Without that mistake, he might be doing a lot better now, and we'd know that little bit less about him and his personality.

It's possible to have the right to call an election and get it wrong - Heath, Callaghan and Brown all did so - and it's no coincidence that their reputations as Prime Ministers are hardly sky-high.

machiavelli said...

Would this proposal not simply result in a confidence motion as a parliamentary mechanism for calling an election when the Prime Minister wanted it?
i.e. At the point the PM wanted to dissolve parliament, he'd just propose a motion of confidence in something totally pointless with his MPs whipped to vote against.

Anonymous said...

I'm no expert on this but I think Germany has fixed term parliaments with a provision that if the Chancellor (for it must be the Chancellor rather than the government, I think) loses a vote of confidence they can seek an election from the president. Schroder and Kohl both did this and on both occasions the vote of confidence was deliberately fixed so that the Chancellor lost it and had grounds to seek an election.

I think taking it out of the prime minister's hands would leave us with the crazy situation where any PM wanting an election would whip a vote of confidence against himself.

Also there is an academic argument against fixed term parliaments. There are 11 propositions of aparliamentary system and the 8th is that the Head of Government should be the sole advisor to the Head of State on the dissolution of parliament. If you think of parliamentry and presidential systems at opposing ends of the scale then failing to meet one of the 11 propositions moves us closer to a presidential system.

i spy strangers said...

It's a pants idea and I won't be lobbying anyone. If we had 'fixed-term' parliaments then there would have been no opportunity for Broon to dither over whether or not to call one last autumn, which gave the Tories a much-needed boost.

The present system is fine and the maximum duration is, in any case, fixed. I can't really see how you can describe it as undemocratic.

Richard said...

The house is supreme....the prime ministerial authority is taken from the sovereign.

Term limit's would be a check on the powers of the house....

Jonny Wright said...

I thought it was David Howarth (Cambridge), not David Heath (Somerton and Frome). Which one did you interview!?

Baldwin said...

I like the idea of fixed term Parliaments but would prefer four years, not five.

Anonymous said...

Crap Idea Ian. We don't want boring Politics in the UK. Much prefer the cut and thrust of the present sytem.


Am I jinxed?

Have you come across Gordon recently?

Little Black Sambo said...

Would not fixed terms mean the electioneering started earlier - since everybody would know when the election was. That would be extremely tedious.

John W said...

Really rubbish idea Iain, and throwing the insult that it's 'undemocratic' at something is just plain lazy.

Anonymous said...

Howarth and Heath are remarkably similar, so it would have been a very easy mistake for Iain to have made.

Oo - and I see Iain has very sportingly made the change already, with full acknowledgment of the edit.

Anonymous said...

Curious - the post refers to David Howarth and the tag to David Heath.

Lil Jimmy said...

Five years is a long time. How about four?

John Pickworth said...

But surely we already have fixed terms currently? Or more precisely term limits.

I'm afraid I don't see the advantage in fixing the date in a calendar.

One thing I do like with the present situation is that while the incumbent is allowed to stretch out their term, the reverse is also true. I always admired Mrs T for her willingness to call the election early, it seemed quite respectful of her to face the public before she was forced to. Contrast that with the current bunch who run scared of being tested by the public. If terms were fixed they'd be allowed to hide their cowardice behind the 'rules'.

Ian Thorpe said...

On the other hand Iain, it could lead to us being stuck with a lame duck government.

Say Labour split now into Real Labour and The Mediocratic Party. Where would we be with fixed term Parliaments? Would there be a getout if the Government had clearly lost its majority and could not govern?

jamie said...

sorry iain, don't agree with you on this one at all, for reasons i outlined in a (much) earlier blog you wrote about this.

haddock said...

4 years is plenty... 3 would be better as there would be less time for a complete balls-up by any party.
Personally I reckon we have quite enough legislation and could do with 5 years with no bloody parliament.

Anonymous said...

Dale, kudos for the "principle", but still a silly idea. It is right and proper that Her Majesty on the advice of her Ministers should have the power to call a GE whenever she wants; the only way to bind her against that is a written Constitution.

NO THANK YOU!

Written constitutions have been the playthings of dictators. Not very British at all.

Anonymous said...

Have you asked the Queen, what she thinks about your madcap scheme about HER parliament?

Anonymous said...

There's a very simple way of getting round the confidence vote issue - if a sitting PM loses a confidence vote they are not allowed to become PM again.

Legal Seagull said...

Not a silly or unachievable idea whatsoever. I completely endorse it, and to be honest, think that a system more akin to the U.S. is a far more appealing prospect. 2 terms of 4 years each max x

Jonathan Brooks said...

The greatest and totally convincing argument AGAINST fixed terms is to look across to America now. The length of a US presidency is just 18 months, before re-election kicks in (or you become pointless as others are beginning elections).

If you want anyting to get done without the crazy coloring of an election campaign, you have to leave the exact date somewhat vague, as now.

Anonymous said...

I also vehemently disagree with this policy. Our system means that the option is available to the PM for a variety of reasons. In the case we currently have it would be preferable for all of us if Brown were to call an election. Your rule changes would make it impossible. Moreover, what if Brown were to call an election to question support for an important policy or response to an event? An election based on a prospective war, or on a European constitution for example. This is a very bad idea. Leave well alone.