Clegg on the “profound effect” of fixed-term Parliaments

NickClegg.com has noted the significance of today’s legislation to establish the principle of fixed-term parliaments, removing from Prime Ministerial whim the timing of future general elections:

“Establishing parliaments of fixed-terms is a straightforward, but fundamental, change in our politics. It is a simple constitutional innovation, but one that will have a profound effect.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has pledged the introduction of a five year fixed term parliaments will have a “profound effect” and lead to greater stability in the political system.

The Fixed term Parliaments Bill faces its second reading in the House of Commons this afternoon.

“Establishing parliaments of fixed-terms is a straightforward, but fundamental, change in our politics. It is a simple constitutional innovation, but one that will have a profound effect,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“For the first time in our history, the timing of general elections will not be a plaything of governments and Prime Ministers will no longer have the power to go to the polls at a time of their own choosing. Instead, there will be greater stability in our political system and people will know exactly how long a parliament can be expected to last.

“There may be exceptional circumstances in which it would not be appropriate for Parliament to continue to run for its full term. When there is a need to seek an earlier dissolution, that will be for the House – not the Government – to decide.”

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27 Comments

  • Bravo! No doubt Labour will try to find some way to oppose it.

  • Just who’s agenda is this serving? Certainly not the British public’s. All this tinkering around with the rule book, may seem of importance to a career politician, such as Clegg. But out in the real world, that is inhabited by the vast majority of the British public, this would rank way down on their list of priorities. If it is policies like this, that you are pinning your hopes to, I can only pity you.

  • It is downplaying of the importance of creating a modern democracy by people like Jaya that have meant that after 13 years of the last Labour Government and a 100 years after the power of the House of Lords was first challenged we still have 90 hereditary Peers in this country. People, who solely due to their birth are making key decisions as to how our country is run. For those that want to wax lyrical about Labour’s supposed record, I suggest they carefully think about that.

    It is utter nonsense that we hold General Elections in this country, which should be a competitive and fair contest amongst different polical parties, when one person in the race in effect has the starting gun and can decide at a whim what day to call the General Election.

    A great reform – and long overdue.

  • You just found it Mboy, from Jayu. Its “pointless tinkering”.

    So pointless Labour will expend great energy arguing against it, and failing to see the irony.

  • What do you hope for jayu?

  • Paul McKeown 13th Sep '10 - 3:28pm

    Jayu, will you get over yourself, please?

    Fixed term parliaments were a specific pledge given by the Labour party in its General Election Manifesto for 2010. I should know, I read it. Did you? Page 61. Go check it out.

  • Paul, Labour weren’t that great at keeping their manifesto committments in Government so I wouldn’t expect them to do so in Opposition either….

  • Should we also be thinking about the span of fixed-term parliaments? Is 5 years too long? The Australian 3 year term seems to short, would 4 years be a happy medium?

  • I wonder if it’s possible for the Lib Dems to even announce they exist without the Guardian quoting Jack Straw on how evil the Lib Dems are.

    You could replace the entire parliamentary Labour party with a cassette player that plays “ConDem betrayal” on repeat.

  • LOL @blanco
    So true…

  • I welcome fixed term Parliaments but five years is too long. If five years had been the average length of a parliament during my lifetime it would have meant one less general election for me to vote in.

  • Paul McKeown 13th Sep '10 - 5:27pm
  • Labour, bless ’em.

    The faux outrage is hilarious. You’d think any right minded person would welcome a a longer session, the longer period of scrutiny and debate that allows and the lessening of legislation for legislation sake that tends to happen at Queen’s speeches.

    Especially a party who have bleating since the election about things being rushed! They really have no shame.

  • @Felix – 5 years is too long, it should be 4 years (In my view one year – but we can compromise over cost/bureaucracy). However, I think the tories insisted on 5 years?

  • Tony Greaves 13th Sep '10 - 9:09pm

    Parliamentary sessions are entirely artificial things, particularly those that only last 12 months. Why do they exist at all? They could have a “Governemnt policy speech” every year without involving the Queen, who has to come, take part in a ludicrous ceremony, and read out a speech which much make her cringe. The whole legislative process of “stopping and starting again” is unhelpful in every way. Unless there is something I’ve missed…

    The only relevant stop and start process is at the start and end of a parliament.

    Tony Greaves

  • five years to dismantle society so that Thatcher could say that the job was complete.

  • Patrick Smith 13th Sep '10 - 9:25pm

    The arguments for pressing for a five year parliament will include, importantly, to stabilise the business of doing `Coalition Government’ that surely enables more Liberal led well chewed through reform,to be put through the conferences where policy is agreed and voted on by the body politic of the Party.

    Will a five year manadatory parliament stop the prospect of fighting a London General and Local Election on the same date, that was a travesty to local liberal thinking people and their issues on May 6th 2010 ?

  • Thank god for Bob Russell articulating the voice of so many of the grass roots in utter despair at Osborne’s far right attack on the poor. It’s a blessed relief that not every Liberal Democrat MP has lost their mind and principles for a Ministerial salary.

    It’s a shame that his voice and so many others like him aren’t being heard more here even though it resonates up and down the country.

  • Good.
    @Felix Holt: With the parties spending £40mil between them at the election, Labour having their own mini deficit problem, and the total cost of a general election running around £80mil, I can’t see a huge amount of support from any of the major parties for a shorter electoral cycle.

  • While in theory I think a four-year parliament would be better, that would synchronise the general election with a particular set of council elections – unless we moved one type permanently to the autumn. That would put certain councillors and authorities at a disadvantage to the rest and potentially mean certain types of local election never got a fair crack of the whip. As it is the English counties had no standalone council election between 1993 and 2009 and even then it shared polling day with the Euros.

  • The principle is good, but like others, I feel it is too long. However, the mechanics also seem incorrect to me. It’s generally accepted that the current coalition didn’t really have long enough to discuss policy. If we accept that, then surely an early to mid April election date would have been better, with a view to having the new government take over ‘no later than’ 5 years after the last election.

  • There should be four year fixed-term parliaments, five years is too long.

  • I agree that fixed-term Parliaments are a good thing in principle, but five years is too long. After all, in the country whose elite winds the key in Cameron’s back, elected terms are mainly four years, though six for Senators. I would tend to go for three rather than four, my only concern being the length of the campaign, which in the USA is of inordinate, tedious and costly length.

    I agree with the comments about the constitutional reform process being piecemeal. Basically, it amounts to a succession of crumbs being thrown in Clegg’s direction to appease his party which, though having the appearance of democratic modernisation, actually benefit the Conservatives most. AV, redistricting without the right to appeal, and reducing the numebr of MPs are the most obvious examples.

    Oh yes. It was a breath of fresh air to watch Bob Russell last night lay into the Buckinghamshire Ripper, George Osborn MP, with Mike Hancock sitting on the bench behind. Most Lib Dems think like Bob Russell, and will become increasingly vociferous as the tape begins to slips from their mouths.

  • Whilst I don’t disagree with fixed term parliaments, I do oppose the decision to make it 5 years. I seem to remember that the Lib Dem manifesto said they prefered four year fixed parliaments, so I’ve been wondering why it’s been changed to 5.

    I have the theory that this is Cameron’s plan to give the economy as much as as possible to recover from the spending cuts, and really be recovering so he can go into the next election saying “My economic plan worked. Yes, there were a couple of years of slow growth, but the economy back up and running.” For me that is not a justifiable reason for making it 5 years.

    All recent 5-year governments have seem real unpopularity and a distinct feeling of defeat at the next election. 2010, 1997, 1992, 1979, and even 1950 were examples where the government were unsure of whether they will return to power so hung on till as long as possible before going to the polls. No other democracy has such a long time between elections, and I just feel that Clegg has let himself be overruled by Cameron on the length of fixed term parliaments.

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