NEW POLL: Do you believe in term-limits?

This week, Boris Johnson announced his support for legislation which would limit the term of office of the elected London mayor to two terms of four years. Over at his Liberal England blog, Jonathan Calder applauds the move:

This seems to me entirely sensible. In a perfect world all local councillors would be limited to two terms. When you are elected you fully intend to represent the people in the council chamber. Unless you are very careful, after a few years you find yourself representing the council officers in your ward.

The trouble that all parties have finding council candidates means that this will never happen, but it is certainly possible when it comes to the Mayor of London. I suspect that a widespread feeling that he had outstayed his welcome was one of the reasons for Ken Livingstone’s defeat this time.

In the opposing corner *inserts gratuitous West Wing plug* we have fictional US President Jed Bartlet:

I get nervous around laws that fundamentally assume that Americans can’t be trusted. We better have mandatory sentencing, because judges can’t be trusted to disperse even-handed justice…. We better have term limits, ’cause voters can’t be trusted to recognize corruption. Oh, and by the way… when the playing field is level and the process is fair and open, it turns out we have term limits: They’re called elections.”

So here at LDV we’re asking you the question: do you believe elected politicians should be subject to term-limits? It’s a simple yes or no answer… or use the comments thread if you want to be nuanced.

Result of last poll:

We asked LDV readers – somewhat controversially, it seems – What do you think is the most likely outcome of the next general election?

Here’s how you voted:

> A Conservative victory with a Commons majority: 239 (50%)

> Conservative largest single party but no overall majority: 166 (35%)
> Labour largest single party but no overall majority: 57 (12%)
> A Labour victory with a Commons majority: 17 (4%)
Total Votes: 479. Poll ran: 9th-20th May 2008

So, apparently, a whopping 85% of you think the Tories are heading for victory, of one sort or another.

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  • I strongly believe that elections are the best requirement for deciding whether councillors should get another term.

    I also disagree with the opinion that after two terms you go native and support the officers. In my fourth term as a councillor (yes, I started young!), I believe that it is often the less experienced councillors that take officers’ sides.

    A more experienced councillor will know how to get things done, by a roundabout route if necessary and is more likely to challenge.

    Certainly, speaking from a council that has been LibDem majority controlled since the last millennium, I see no signs that the longer-serving councillors are the weakest in terms of delivering – quite the reverse in many cases.

  • Martin Land 20th May '08 - 7:34pm

    Call me a democrat if you wish, but I think voters should decide how many terms of office any politician can serve…

  • Term-limits are only really necessary in societies where demogogues like Robert Mugabe continue to hang on to office.

    Surely we ought to consider ourselves slightly more enlightened and less violent than that.

    Both artificial and authoritarian restrictions on our freedom to choose have entirely equivalent results and are both to be avoided at all costs.

  • The article doesn’t distinguish between two important options: term limits for holders of executive office and term limits for representatives.

    I am ambivalent about the first but firmly against the latter.

  • David Morton 21st May '08 - 12:26am

    Didn’t Livingstone demonstrate that Jed Bartlett was right ? I think term limits are fundamentally illiberal. Unless you can powerfully demonstrate Mills harm test about long serving officials then I just don’t see what there is to debate.

    term limits for Civil Servants and senior council officers, well I could warm to that

  • I could be predictable and say that if we had a decent voting system then term limits wouldn’t be neccessary, but under some voting systems they’re generally an improvement simply ‘cos the voting system’s rubbish. Ergo change the voting system rather than introduce term limits. (So that voters can choose between candidates of the same party as well as between parties – ensures that the electorate can easily make a choice to kick out an unresponsive official as no seat or office becomes ‘safe’.)

  • I’m against directly-elected executives in principle so would support a term-limit if it were a limit of zero terms and a decision to stick to parliamentary process.

    Otherwise I’m with Jed all the way – surely the most senior elected Lib Dem in history?

  • Darrell,
    the US Presidential race is so enlivening because the US Presidency is so stupifying.

    Term limits result in either the setting loose of the bull in the china shop or an eventual lame duck executive, whereas the current UK system allows for collapse by providing a natural self-correcting mechanism.

    I suggest your enthusiasm for the US system is consequent of your favoritism towards the democratic candidates and premature conclusion that McCain won’t win – imagine for a second the situation were the Republicans to retain the White House this time round: it would be used as vindication of their policies over the past 8 years.

  • I think that offices with executive powers, like Mayor of London or Prime Minister should have term-limits, but offices with legislative powers, like MPs or jurisdiction, like judges, wouldn’t have to have such limits.

  • Er, Darrell, we don’t have fixed-term parliaments, we have a maximum limit of 5 years. When was the last time a parliament actually reached the full term? Even Callaghan waited only 4 1/2 years, which was considered too long.

    Personally I don’t think watching the party of government unravel deadens politics or discredits it – on the contrary, it puts life back into debate, and while it does discredit the party that does the unravelling any further inference is purely a matter of perception in the mind of the audience and is anyway counterbalanced by the relief surrounding the new inhabitants of Downing Street – even Brown bounced in the polls (what goes up must come down!) before being bounced around on policy.

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