LDV members’ survey (5): Lib Dem members back 55%+1 fixed-term Parliament threshold

by Stephen Tall on June 1, 2010

Lib Dem Voice has been conducting a survey of party members registered on our members’ forum asking them for their views of the coalition, Labour leadership and the party’s general election result. Over 400 have responded, and here’s part five of what you’ve told us …

LDV asked: The coalition government is proposing that in order to legislate for fixed-term parliaments it should take a vote of 55%+1 of MPs to dissolve Parliament. (NB: this does not affect a vote of no confidence in the government which can still be carried by a simple majority of 50%+1). What is your view:

Here’s what you said:

34% – I agree with fixed-term parliaments, but think the 55%+1 threshold is too low
61% – I agree with fixed-term parliaments, and think the 55%+1 threshold is about right
5% – I disagree with fixed-term parliaments
(Excluding Don’t Know / No opinion = 6%)

So 95% of Lib Dem members back the principle of a fixed-term Parliament with a threshold higher than 50%+1 needed to dissolve Parliament – with 55%+1 backed by almost twice as many as support a higher threshold. Just 5% of party members oppose fixed-term parliaments.

There was some dissent, though, to the notion that the fixed-terms would of five years’ duration rather than four – this story in The Guardian indicates one of the unintended consequences of holding a general election in May 2015: it will be the same day as elections to the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly.

A couple of members said they favoured fixed-term parliaments, but wanted a 50%+1 threshold to be sufficient – an argument I don’t quite understand, as that would mean any government with a simple majority could dissolve Parliament at any point of their choosing. Which isn’t my understanding of what a fixed-term parliament should be.

Here is a selection of your comments:

  • Should be two thirds. What’s the point of fixed term parliaments with 55%? Then a relatively small, “normal” majority could just get around the fixed term like we have now.
  • I’d prefer a four year term to the proposed five
  • It’s very hard to say, I can see the point of this, it doesn’t look good though and maybe the issue is how Parliament is dissolved. A properly elected President should have that power.
  • I think this is a good idea, and don’t understand all the fuss from Labour about the 55%. Their opposition to it is entirely hypocritical given that they introduced 66% in Scotland!
  • There also needs to be a time-out clause that dissolves parliament if an alternative government cannot be formed, as per the Scottish Parliament.
  • The 55% is damaging because it looks tailor-made for the coalition to dissolve Parliament itself. Also, in principle the threshold should be higher to prevent partisan dissolutions. The two thirds threshold in Scotland and Wales is right. This bill should be amended immediately.