Heath and Howarth to lead call for fixed-term parliaments

by Stephen Tall on October 7, 2007

After the fiasco that was Gordon Brown’s ‘Yellow Saturday’, Ming Campbell has just appeared on BBC1’s The Politics Show and announced that two Lib Dem MPs, Davids Heath and Howarth, will this week be presenting a bill in Parliament which would legislate for fixed-term Parliaments.

What will be the Labour and Tory response? After this week, Gordon might be almost relieved to have the decision taken out of his hands. Meanwhile, Dave has said only that it’s something he’ll take a look at some time. It might almost be called a ‘cosy consensus’.

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Good – about time too. Will be useful to use the publicity it will attract to promote it too.

by Mark Wright on October 7, 2007 at 2:01 pm. Reply #

Well then, let’s start giving it some publicity – on the web.

by Sid on October 7, 2007 at 3:30 pm. Reply #

George Osbourne did make it perfectly clear on Question Time last Thursday that he believed the PM’s right to call a snap general election was important to avoid weak governments. In particular, he quoted the 1974 elections. So presumably the Tories want the PM to keep that right, but possibly only because they may want to exercise it if they get into power again.

by LIberAll on October 7, 2007 at 4:36 pm. Reply #

We should not hand the decision over when elections are called to a calendar. Politics is about managing events – sometimes, elections need to be postponed; other times, new ones need to be called.

I’d prefer a maximum term of five years (as we have now), allow Parliament to dissolve itself when it sees fit (through a vote of no confidence, as now), and finally give to the people the right of recall any time within those five years. That would take the power out of the hands and give it to those that deserve it – the people, not the clock.

by Ash Faulkner on October 7, 2007 at 4:41 pm. Reply #

*(out of the hands of the Prime Minister)

by Ash Faulkner on October 7, 2007 at 4:42 pm. Reply #

This isn’t a question of good politics, it’s a question of good government. Of course, in extreme circumstances it should be possible for new elections to be called or for an extension in the event of war or serious crisis but decided on by parliament and not the PM. As we have seen, allowing one of the major players in an election (the leader of the governing party) to decide when and under what circumstances the election is called is simply not a fair system.

Just as in the PR debate, it comes down at last to what is good for the government and the status quo vs what is good for the people and democracy.

by Benjamin Mathis on October 7, 2007 at 5:01 pm. Reply #

Menzies Campbell called in May for a general election on the change of Prime Minister. You can’t have it both ways: in May you called for an election because it’s politically convenient, and in October you’re saying that elections should never be called on dates that are politically convenient.

by David Boothroyd on October 7, 2007 at 6:55 pm. Reply #

I fear that Mr Boothroyd has a point. Still, repentent sinners are wonderful things.

by James Graham on October 7, 2007 at 7:08 pm. Reply #

Osborne’s quite right. The uncertainty also helps to focus minds on the vulnerability of their positions.

by Edward on October 7, 2007 at 7:26 pm. Reply #

This is a good subject for a debate, but I’m not sure it makes for good policy. It does bring favour to demonstrate we are open to debate, and the publicity will do no harm either.

Sure it is expedient to make this call with recent speculation on the next election to the fore, but we only need look across the atlantic to see how the electoral cycle dominates discussion and diminishes actual roles.

On reflection, I think it is preferable to have the detente of perpetual electioneering to the cuban missile crisis of a pre-determined conflagration.

Then again it all depends on the personalities in the hot seats.

by James S on October 7, 2007 at 7:31 pm. Reply #

Typical David Boothroyd argument. You work within the system you have. We call for STV elections, but still take part in our archaic first past the post elections for Westminster and English & Welsh local elections. We have peers in the House of Lords, while calling for Lords reform. We call for elections as measures of a government while we still have the similarly archaic non fixed term parliaments, but call for fixed terms. It is called political pragmatism. Fighting from the inside, while also fighting to change Britain’s archaic democracy.

by Duncan Borrowman on October 7, 2007 at 10:06 pm. Reply #

Thanks for admitting the Lib Dems don’t know what principles are, Duncan.

by David Boothroyd on October 8, 2007 at 12:11 am. Reply #

!2 – Aye right. All I’ll say is that you think the Lib Dems are sufficiently important to be peddling your particularly vitriolic ad hominem crap on this site.

Maybe in future you might concentrate on winning back Westmister for the Labour party. Because in your world it’s the voters that have got it wrong for the last 25 years in rejecting your politics for a particularly effective brand of Conservatism. That must hurt – a lot…

by Dan on October 8, 2007 at 1:24 am. Reply #

I don’t think the Labour party is in any position to lecture anybody about principles David.

by Duncan Borrowman on October 8, 2007 at 10:22 am. Reply #

@David. In May, the party leadership called for an election based on the promises made in the Labour manifesto. The Tories called for one based on the ‘principle’ that any change of PM should prompt an election. I believe the latter to have shown their constitutional illiteracy, and the former to have been ill-advised.

I do believe in the principle of fixed term Parliaments, with the option to dissolve on a no-confidence or a motion to dissolve as happened in Germany last year.

Calling for a reform that many of us signed up to publicly back in the ’80s (specifically Charter 88, now part of Unlock Democracy) isn’t, in my mind, unprincipled. You may believe differently—it is, after all, still a free country (despite the efforts of some of NuLab to make it otherwise).

by MatGB on October 8, 2007 at 2:56 pm. Reply #

Principles are already settled. Why so much fuss about?

by Bipin Adhikari on May 13, 2008 at 9:41 am. Reply #

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