Fixed-term Parliaments ... So simple, so why re-invent the wheel?

Here is a clip of David Cameron being interviewed on the Politics Show yesterday.


He seemed to be very confused about fixed-term parliaments, saying that there were problems to be "worked through"

• that he thought there should be a fresh election when there is a change of Prime Minister
• that a parliament unable to form a stable government should not be forced to limp on for a four year term without provision for an early election to break the deadlock

I've got very little time for the first argument. Let's say that Cameron is UK Prime Minister after the next election (that's not too hard to imagine) but that he gets killed by a stray javelin in the 2012 Olympics. Is he seriously saying that all the half-finished legislation should be ditched for a new general election ... especially in mid-term, when nearly all governments are at their most unpopular? Of course not.


As for the second, this is a much more serious concern. But Cameron (quite remarkably, since he's apparently been thinking about it for three years) once again shows an astounding ignorance of what is already the case in the UK outside England. Both our National Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are elected for fixed terms. However that does not preclude a vote of no confidence leading to an attempt to agree on a new First Minister ... nor does it stop them going to the electorate early in order to resolve a situation in which it proves impossible for the currently elected AMs or MSPs to agree on a First Minister.

The proviso is that if an early general election is called, the new Assembly or Parliament only lasts for the remainder of the original four year term ... except when it has less than six months to run, in which case the new Assembly or Parliament will run for four-and-a-bit years. This is for obvious reasons: namely that a government could otherwise call a contrived vote of no confidence in itself, fully expecting to be elected for a fresh four-year term.


Once again (for it's the same story with expenses) if only David Cameron realized that Westminster already has two good models to emulate in the Senedd and Holyrood, he wouldn't have any excuse to procrastinate in the way he did in this interview, pretending that he needs to re-invent the wheel.

Well, it's either that ... or that the Conservative Party is being less than honest by sounding positive about something they don't really intend to deliver once they are in power. If you look at the interview again, it strikes me that all he really seems interested in is having a general election as soon as possible.

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Anonymous said...

It would be nice if BBC commentators as well as English MPs knew what went on in Wales and Scotland. They're always quoting PR in Israel, Germany, Italy, Ireland ... anywhere except Wales and the same is true of fixed-terms.

The National Assembly comes out of this stronger. It'll be difficult for 'True' Wales to argue the patronising line that Westminister/ daddy knows best. Westminster is discredited. More power to the Assembly - we can get on with things much better without them.

Draig said...

And this is Cameron all over. There's absolutely nothing to him. Now people seem to think that a former spin-meister is going to re-invent the wheel. He won't do anything of the sort, but you can guarantee that he'll put a bloody good gloss on it!

I agree with Anon. though, I think the Assembly does come out of this stronger. We already have many of the reforms that are being discussed, but we don't yet have the real power to deliver substantive change. I really think that we should "up the ante" and start campaigning for slightly more than what's on offer - i.e. full lawmaking powers a la Scotland.

We have a unique historical opportunity and we need to grab it with both hands.

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