A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fixed Terms?

The Liberal Democrats have suddenly decided to promote the idea of fixed term parliaments after Gordon Brown's election dithering. The idea seems to be finding favour with certain quarters, but I would suggest that it is not a good idea.

In Britain we elect Members of Parliament in single-member constituencies. These members are representatives not delegates. Even if they are elected for a particular party, they still have the right of switching sides, or crossing the floor. Also, there may be times when a government has a small majority and, after a period in office, that government loses the confidence of the House.

It may also be that the government of the day wishes to embark on a legislative programme that is extremely controversial. The new agenda may be brought in due to international circumstances or a domestic crisis of whatever nature. To insist that the government continues on regardless could mitigate against the interests of the electorate.

It is easy for the Liberal Democrats to suggest this. They are unlikely to be running off to the Queen to seek approval for such legislation. Harriet Harman thinks the House of Commons should decide whether or not an election is called. Sounds nice, but with each side having whips to consider, it is unlikely to be a free vote.

Just think what it would be like if Gordon Brown went to the House of Commons and said he wanted an election. I'm assuming the MPs would be allowed a debate. What if, like this time, the Conservatives suddenly shot up in the opinion polls. Are Labour MPs in marginal seats going to vote for an election. Hardly! The same goes for MPs of other parties who may have doubts about the election.

No, it's all best left as it is. We have a parliament for a maximum of five years. That's good enough for our democracy.


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