Clegg in a Fluster

I've just read this very strange story in the Scotsman:

Nick Clegg: Time running out on dual poll

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has admitted that time is running out to find a solution to ensure the Westminster and Holyrood elections do not take place on the same day in 2015.

The Tory/Lib Dem government has come under fire for its plans to introduce a fixed term of five years that mean the two election dates clash. Opponents have said that it is evidence of a "disrespect agenda" with Scotland and other devolved nations, and that having the two polls on the same day would mean that the Holyrood vote would be overshadowed.

Mr Clegg has made it clear previously that he hopes to give the Scottish Parliament greater powers to move its election date from the one month variable power it has now.

However, giving evidence to the House of Lords' constitution committee yesterday, Mr Clegg said that the government was struggling to come up with a solution.

"There are no easy answers," he said. "I have looked at various suggestions which all have sorts of dilemmas of their own." The Deputy Prime Minister added that a solution needed to be found soon, "because with the devolved elections in May, bluntly, voters need to know what they are voting for."

The Scotsman, 14 October 2010

I find this ridiculous. Yes, it is important that the elections don't clash, but if the ConDem government is determined to have the Westminster election on the first Thursday in May 2015, the solution is to move the Welsh and Scottish elections so that they don't clash.

The power already exists to move these elections by four weeks (though Scotland can decide this for itself, but Wales needs the agreement of the Secretary of State ... that's an anomaly that should be fixed) but if this is not considered to be enough of an interval then it is a simple matter to legislate to allow them to move by more. Alternatively, I can't see it would make any real difference for one election to be on the first Thursday in April and the other on the first Thursday in June in those years when they clash, but on the first Thursday in May when they don't.

Nick Clegg is working himself into a tizz over something that is easy to sort out. Good grief, the ConDem government still haven't worked out what to do about the potential clash between the AV referendum and the Welsh and Scottish elections in May of next year, which is every bit as important an issue, but in much more urgent need of a solution. Why on earth is he getting flustered about something which is more than four years away, but not dealing with the more immediate problem?

It looks like Clegg is in headless chicken mode already!

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Unknown said...

Clegg really has painted himself into a corner over this! As you say, the date of the next general election is supposed to be a long way away!

The AV Vote - upon which the coalition hangs, it seems, is imminent, but still has to get through the house of Lords, which may well prove to be more problematic than getting it through the commons was.

Personally, I will probably vote for AV as a small step in the right direction, much as I voted for devolution as a small step in the direction of self determination. But I expect that the electorate in general will vote NO with most of the Tories campaigning against, and Labour at best being luke warm about it. What will Clegg do then?

Cracks are already appearing in the coalition - Hune's bold statement about the cuts not being set in stone (for which he was soundly beaten up by the tories!), the necessity for the LibDem cabinet members to swallow the tuition fees volte-face (Kennedy, amongst others is going to rebel against this!).

All in all, it is very likely that there is going to be a General Election long before 2015, so I don't know what Clegg is getting so worked up about!

By the way, why is it deemed necessary to have a referendum on the voting system, but not on the wholesale reform of the constituencies, and the introduction of fixed term parliaments?

MH said...

I agree with you on AV. It's a step in the right direction, so I'll vote Yes ... but we're still a long way from knowing whether we'll get the referendum on it in May or not. The Lords will not be a push over.

But on AV, I found this poll interesting. It's clear that the arguments that convince some are not the arguments that convince others. It might give us a clue about how the AV campaign will pan out.

Alwyn ap Huw said...

The simple answer would for councils, the devolved bodies, Westminster and Europe to have the same fixed term, be it four years or five years. A different election could be held annually without the clash problem ever arising.

After next May's Assembly elections the council elections are due in 2012, Europe in 2014 UK in 2015. If the 2011 Assembly and 2012 council terms were increased to 5 years the same as Europe and Westminster, the problem is solved (with a free year for possible Lords elections).

Ian Johnson said...

Simple and straight to the point, Alwyn.

By introducing a 5-year fixed term UK Parliament, in opposition to the 4-year fixed term cycles for other elections in the UK, the Con-Dem Alliance has messed about with the natural order - and the only way of re-introducing that balance is to have a 4-year fixed term Parliament, or, if it must be 5, to change the rest as well to fit.

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