Thursday 4 October 2007

That end of term feeling

Give me five reasons why we shouldn't have fixed term parliaments. I can only think of one reason why, no prime minister ever really wants to give away any of their electoral power; it is the same reason why virtually all of the other reforms to our electoral practice have never been given a serious outing on the legislative timetable. The current situation where we don't know if Gordon will or won't call a general election means that great swathes of the most important people in the country are too busy worrying about winning and loosing seats rather than doing their jobs. Every expert commentator seems to agree on one thing, that even Gordon doesn't know 100% for certain what he is going to do, and therefore all the other ministers of the crown are in the dark. While I know that jobs based on patronage aren't renowned for stability or piece of mind, but in this case there is no way that any of 30 people who attend cabinet are at this point concentrating more on their jobs than on the prospect of being out of a job before Christmas. Of course in opposition things are different, the 1992 Labour Party manifesto said:

This general election was called only after months of on-again, off-again dithering which damaged our economy and weakened our democracy. No government with a majority should be allowed to put the interests of party above government, as the Conservatives have done. Although an early election will sometimes be necessary, we will introduce as a general rule a fixed parliamentary term.

A counter example is the circus that is the electoral cycle for the President of the United States. I do feel however that this is more to do with the shear amount of money floating around and term limits than fixed terms themselves. The only way to be sure on this is through experimentation, we leave the current system running as a baseline reference and then set up several parallel supreme heads of the executive branch of the US government. We could then alter all the appropriate variables, one of the systems would have strict funding caps, one would have no fixed terms, one would have no term limits and so on. This would give us the opportunity to appraise my thesis and inform the UK government as to the likely effects.

None of this is new; in 2001 Tony Wright (Lab, Cannock Chase) introduced as a Private Members Bill the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill which in less than 800 words would have solved all these problems. Instead everyone in political life is at the equivalent of the end of term at school, fidgeting, distracted, playing games and wondering what is going to happen in the summer holidays, in fact anything other than working.

No comments: