Fixed-term Parliaments Act

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Busaholic, 7 May 2015.

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  1. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    I've had almost no support on here for getting rid of this noisome act, so a little in advance of results from the General Election I'd like to quote from a letter in today's 'Times' newspaper which, as you may know, I'm unable to provide a link to, but I can assure you I am quoting directly.

    It is from Lord Lisvane who as Sir Robert Rogers was Clerk of the House of Commons 2011-2014, with donkey's years before that in more junior positions.
    Wise words imo: thoughts?
     
  2. higthomas

    higthomas Member

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    I definitely agree with you on this one. I can not believe that this bill was pushed through with so little controversy. I massively effects the entire political process; propping up weak governments and long term I fear leading to a more American style democratic system; not something I relish.

    If we do get a messy sort of hung parliament (as I fear we might not get) I fell it will get removed fairly quickly once we get back into a stable situation and people realise what damage it might do.
     
  3. table38

    table38 Established Member

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    There are still two ways a government might not last 5 years:

    • if more than two thirds of the House of Commons vote to call an election
    • if a motion of no confidence is passed or there is a failed vote of confidence, there is a 14-day period in which to pass an act of confidence in a new government. If no such vote is passed, a new election must be held
    One thing the act does do is provide a little more predictability for the smaller parties who do not have the resources to fund an election campaign at the drop of the hat.

    It was also of course designed to prevent the incumbent from calling an election when it suited them, probably fall-out from Gordon Brown's dithering in 2007.
     
  4. TheNewNo2

    TheNewNo2 Member

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    I thought five years was probably a bit long, but that overall the idea of a fixed term parliament is a good idea. The idea that the PM could call an election at any time was always a bit strange, and tilted the deck significantly in their favour. Fixed terms take the uncertainty out of it - we know when the election will be from now until the end of time, barring shortened parliaments due to confidence votes and the like.

    Higthomas, I fail to see what "damage" a fixed term parliament does. A hung parliament is hardly an awful thing, it's a consequence of the fact that the total CON+LAB vote share has been declining for the past 30 years, with smaller parties growing in popularity, and first past the post has simply been obscuring it by understating the vote share of other parties.
     
  5. HilversumNS

    HilversumNS Member

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    Part of the reason it was introduced was to stop the party in power deciding when was the best time for THEIR party to go to the polls, allowing them to aim for the 'normal' 4 year term, but delaying it if they felt that they were in a losing position.

    This was the case in '91/92 with John Major, also in 2009/10 with Gordon Brown.
     
  6. higthomas

    higthomas Member

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    I am not afraid of hung parliaments. I actually feel that they are quite a good thing, and generally I would like a more broad range of parties in Parliament. I agree that we have a very imperfect voting system, which we really should do something about; although I do not know what. That UKIP got 12% of the vote and currently have 1 seat compared to SNP with under half the vote share (5%) yet with 56 seats shows that there is something seriously wrong with our parliamentary system. Yet it is unlikely to change whilst both the main parties gain significantly out of a first-past-the-post system.
     
  7. TheNewNo2

    TheNewNo2 Member

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    You're quite right on that, and for me, if there is a small silver lining to this election, it was in Douglas Carswell's victory speech in which he called for and end to the current voting system. The situation is worse than you stated - UKIP got more votes than the Lib Dems and SNP combined, yet only get one MP. That means there will be calls from the right, as well as from the left, for a more proportional system.

    Just working off the overall vote totals and dividing by the number of seats, this would be the approximate makeup of a proportionate parliament:

    Conservative 239
    Labour 198
    UKIP 81
    Lib Dem 50
    SNP 31
    Green 24
    DUP 3
    Sinn Fein 3
    Plaid Cymru 3
    UUP 2
    SDP 1
     
  8. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Well that would be one interesting Parliament!
     
  9. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If we were to get proportional representation then one thing is almost for certain - no one party will be able to rule with an absolute majority in the foreseeable future the way votes are distributed in this country. May not be a bad thing.

    The drawback though, is that it paves the way for a Tory-UKIP coalition on this year's figures. I don't think I can think of anything worse for this country.
     
  10. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    However, a lot of people would vote in a different way with a fairer voting system. In addition, if you introduce second preference votes then that would change things further.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Busaholic has repeatedly complained about the fixed term parliaments, and his beef appears to be that 5 years is too long, claiming that gives an advantage to the incumbent government. But that is illogical, as governments were able to continue for 5 years if they so wished. They have actually lost the flexibility to call an earlier election if they think it is a good time for their own political advantage. To put it in terms Busaholic might be persuaded to believe, a confident government has *effectively* had their term reduced from 9 years to 5 years. I say this because, in general, an election called after 4 years was a guaranteed 'free pass', as they delay the prospect of a realistic election defeat for a further 5 years.
     
  11. jcollins

    jcollins Veteran Member

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    When the exit polls were released last night with the Conservatives 10 short of a majority and the Lib Dems with 10 seats, DUP with 8 and UKIP with 2, I thought "Oh no, that would allow a Conservative + DUP + UKIP Coalition."

    There were rumours if that a Coalition including the Conservatives and DUP was voted on that Sinn Fein MPs would actually show up to vote against it.
     
  12. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Have no fear of any Sinn Fein MP ever turning up to vote in the House of Commons whilst there is the need for monarchical acceptance...<(
     
  13. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    I do believe five years is too long between general elections, and there are few countries in the world which allow this long, except for those which slavishly adopted the UK system i.e. those in parts of the British Commonwealth. I would still believe the act to be a bad one, though, even if amended to four years because it was put through in a hurry, so carelessly drafted and, of course, with absolutely no mandate, just the whim of a newly-empowered individual.
     
  14. TheNewNo2

    TheNewNo2 Member

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    No mandate? It was passed by a majority of the elected representatives of the country. We don't have a direct democracy or a presidential system - we don't directly vote on laws or for prime ministers. We vote for local representatives, who come together in parties to decide who becomes prime minister and forms governments, and then they decide what laws should be passed. That is all the mandate necessary.
     
  15. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    Not a word in the Conservative Manifesto about this measure. It is generally agreed in democratic countries that profound changes to the constitution are not devolved to what Robin Day memorably called 'here today, gone tomorrow' politicians. Your definition of mandate is laughable: so, if the first act of the new government is to announce that everyone who voted for them is to be spared paying any income tax during the life of this parliament, and they duly get their lobby-fodder to vote it through, then that is OK, according to you, because they have a 'mandate' so to do. The mandate of Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe, I would suggest.
     
  16. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    But can't you see that the limit was always five years, and elections were only called earlier when it was in the interests of the governing party? I can't see how a governing party benefits out of this law, compared to the old system.

    What would you prefer? I assume you want the limit to be 4 years or less, but in what circumstance(s) would you allow an election to happen sooner?
     
  17. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    I'd accept a compromise of a fixed-term of four years, personally, as much better than the prevailing situation. The inadequacies of the act won't now be immediately put to the test, and maybe not at all for another five years, contrary to expectations prior to Thursday night! I do take the point about governments choosing election dates to suit themselves, but it sometimes backfires, like Harold Wilson going to the country in 1970 a year ahead of time and (unexpectedly) getting beaten by Ted Heath. A proportion of the electorate will always seek to punish a government that seeks an unnecessary election.
     
  18. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Can anyone see matters changing in the foreseeable next few years on the subject matter of the thread, noting the recent General Election result?
     
  19. jcollins

    jcollins Veteran Member

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    I think Cameron wanted to say 5 years because that was the longest you could previously have between 2 elections and he didn't feel he could make a good enough impression over 4 years to get back in to No 10 considering how fragile the economy was when he became PM.

    With EU and local elections every 4 years, I think the sensible idea would be in all areas a 4 year recurring cycle of:

    Year 1 - no election
    Year 2 - general election and town/parish council elections
    Year 3 - no election
    Year 4 - EU election and county/borough council elections

    Always having 2 elections on the same day would reduce the costs of elections.

    I actually wonder what will happen the year when the 5 year UK government ends the same month as the 4 year EU government and 4 year local councils. Will some people vote for everything on the same day and then nothing for the following 3 years?
     
  20. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    I'm not so sure about that, though I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment definitively.

    In the last Parliament Cameron could squash some of the more outlandish ideas arising from his back benches on the grounds that the Lib Dems would not accept them (something I suspect he found quite handy, though he would never admit it). The combined majority of the Coalition was big enough to survive a modest rebellion without having to rely on support from other parties.

    Neither of the above now applies. If there is a rebellion by more than a handful of the Tory right Cameron now has to rely on the votes of opposition MPs. However, the opposition now has little incentive to withhold that support (assuming they oppose the right-wingers' point of view) because they can't bring down the government by so doing. Turning it on its head, it also means that a few Tory left-wingers could derail a proposal from the mainstream of the party, as long as most of the other parties were also against it.

    It's just possible this could lead to a more collaborative way of working between the government and opposition. However it's also possible that it will result in a "zombie government", unable to pass the measures it wants to but also unable to call another election that might resolve the situation.
     
  21. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    I'm going to turn the argument round the other way, and seek to show with specific examples that governments under the 'old' system only dragged it out for five years when they were unpopular and/or failing and were hoping against hope that something would turn up to save them, like Billy Bunter's mythical postal order.

    Taking all post-1970 examples:=
    1979. Jim Callaghan had become PM when Harold Wilson suddenly stood down in 1976, and the government's struggles with the trades unions intensified culminating in the 'winter of discontent' of 1978/9. Callaghan had been urged to go to the country earlier in 1978 but decided he wouldn't be likely to win an election, so bottled it.

    1997. John Major, by common consent at that stage the most useless PM since the 1930s at least, had lost the confidence of a lot of his party, ostensibly over Europe, leading to many whom he labelled '*******s' voting with the opposition on numerous occasions and his government being propped up by the Ulster Unionists in return for rewards for Northern Ireland, the last (fifth) year of this government being especially unproductive but, as he rated high in the stubbornness stakes, if nothing else, he refused to call it a day until the last possible minute, then b***ered off to the Oval ten minutes after the inevitable happened, leaving Tony Blair to pick up the pieces.

    2010. Gordon Brown, inheriting John Major's mantle, and probably even more stubborn, dithered until the last possible minute again when, just maybe, if he'd gone in 2009 he'd have been more justified on blaming the recession on the USA.

    I've not been selective, having quoted ALL the 5-year parliaments since 1970 and hoping to convince those receptive to arguments and ideas that 4 year parliaments would be a much better idea.

    If you have been, thank you for reading this.
     
  22. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    As an aside, the reason the Callaghan government finally fell, ushering in 18 years of Tory government, was... the SNP withdrawing support after a row over interpretation of the result of a devolution referendum.
     
  23. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    Yes, it wasn't the last possible month in 1979, nevertheless I think my argument still applies.
     
  24. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    Just to clarify, which is your preferred choice?

    1. Fixed term parliaments of 4 years
    2. The old system, with the government choosing the date at any time up to 5 years from the last election.
     
  25. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    I could live with no. 1 if it was further amended to incorporate some of the points outlined in the Times letter which was the basis of my original contribution to this thread.
     
  26. adrock1976

    adrock1976 Established Member

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    As it presently stands, Sinn Fein do not take up their seats in the House of Commons, due to having to pledge allegiance to the monarchy. Somebody who I had not seen for a while asked me if I ever considered standing as an MP and entering the Commons, and my response was that I could not as it presently stands, due to me having to pledge allegiance to the monarchy, something I do not and ever will recognise. My allegiance would be to the people who elected me.

    European Parliament elections are every 5 years, not 4. The first one was in 1979, then 1984, then in subsequent years that end in 4 or 9. The previous EU election was last year (2014), with the next one due in 2019.

    In peace

    Adam
     
  27. 12CSVT

    12CSVT Established Member

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    They could do what Tony Benn used to do (and there was no rule from preventing him from doing so) - Swear allegiance to Mrs Windsor, but before that, make it clear they are only doing so under protest.
     
  28. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    He said if he did that with his fingers firmly crossed he didn't have to mean it! Then he always was the the Worthers Original i.e. an old humbug.
     
  29. deltic

    deltic Established Member

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    Given the fact that short termism is endemic in both business and politics - fixed term 5 year governments seem a step in the right direction to me
     
  30. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    It certainly worked for the Soviet Union.
     
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