Labour and Tories veto Lib Dem fixed-term elections bill

by Stephen Tall on May 20, 2008

As we previously reported, Lib Dem MP David Howarth tabled a private members bill in the Commons last Friday which would have ended the Prime Minister’s right to call a general election at a time of their choosing (ie, when they find themselves ahead in the polls, and/or when they can catch opposition parties on the hop).

You can read David’s speech as recorded by Hansard by clicking here; here’s an extract to whet your appetite:

It is difficult to believe that last year the whole political and media establishment of this country spent more than two months doing little else but speculating about whether there would be a general election and when it would occur. By the end of it, people had become experts in the most extraordinarily arcane subjects, such as the likelihood of rain on particular Thursdays in November, the hours of daylight in that month, or the details of precisely when the electoral registers were compiled. In the end, the only way one could have guessed that the Prime Minister was going to bottle out, as the inelegant phrase of the time had it, was if one understood that if he were to go to the palace at the time that he was rumoured to be doing so, there would not be enough time to turn off all the Members’ computers in the Palace of Westminster. We therefore knew at that point that there was not going to be a general election. The political system was reduced to a sort of guessing game. That seems to be a bizarre way to run a country.

However, we forgot to update you on the – sadly, all too predictable – status quo response of Labour and the Tories. Here’s The Guardian report:

The justice minister Bridget Prentice said the government did not support David Howarth’s private member’s bill which ran out of time before it was given a second reading. … She was still speaking when time for the debate ran out at 2.30pm, with the result that MPs did not get the chance to vote. … Eleanor Laing, for Tories, said she was “not enormously enthusiastic” about the bill but the issue needed debate.

Don’t hold your breaths.