Fixed-term parliaments: 56% of voters support them, finds YouGov

by Stephen Tall on December 17, 2014

I’ve written before about the fact I like fixed-term parliaments: In praise of 5-year fixed-term parliaments. You may remember that a few years ago, former Cambridge MP David Howarth tried to introduce them. Then in the Coalition Agreement, they became reality.

YouGov has asked the public what they think about them, and you can see the result below courtesy the New Statesman’s May2015 polling website:

yougov fixed term parliaments - 1

Despite the sub-heading claiming ‘The public are divided’, that’s not really true: by a 2:1 majority, voters think they’re a good idea (56% in favour with just 29% wanting to revert to the old system of Prime Ministerial whim). Of the 56%, who support fixed-term parliaments, though, there is a pretty even divide between those who prefer 4 or 5 years as their length. Here’s what I said about that in June:

Personally I quite like five-year terms. It reduces the temptation of government ministers to resort to “initiative-itis” as they know there’s a fair chance they will actually have to live with the consequences of their reforms and be responsible for their successful implementation (or not). … The usual pattern, pre-fixed-term parliaments, would have been for cabinet ministers to have two years in post; then a mid-term ‘scapegoat’ reshuffle; followed by another two years in a different post leading up to an election. It’s a recipe for poor government. I’m not saying that having the same ministers in post for 4-5 years guarantees good government, by the way (the names of Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove spring to mind). But at least there’s clear accountability: it’s hard to blame your predecessor for the failure of your policies if you’ve had a whole parliament to get it right.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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