Tag Archives: Fixed Term Parliament Act

Swedish-style fixed term Parliaments

The 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA) established fixed quinquennial parliamentary terms, transforming the means of dissolving Parliament from a prerogative power exercised by the Prime Minister to a parliamentary process requiring two-thirds support in the Commons.

The major criticisms of the FTPA are chiefly about its shortcomings and the politics surrounding the act, namely for supporting the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, propping up the lame duck Second May Ministry, and its argued status as a dead letter due to the 2017 and 2019 elections with the latter being held by circumventing the FTPA via a simple-majority one-line bill. Such criticisms are bad faith arguments against the FTPA, merely stated ulteriorly in favour of the restoration of the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament.

One of the reasons that our party supports proportional representation for Westminster elections is that it would prevent early elections from being called for the governing party to benefit from an incumbency advantage and strong poll numbers as under First-Past-The-Post. However, this does not mean that PR should replace the FTPA entirely, an act that is not flawed in of itself but because its measures do not go far enough. If anything, complimenting PR, additional measures should be taken to strengthen the FTPA.

There may be an approach to fixed terms that has not before been considered for this country. In Sweden, quadrennial fixed term elections using part list proportional are held for the Riksdag. Sweden’s Prime Minister has the power to call an election part-way through a parliamentary term, but it would be an extra election, not an early election. Hypothetically, with the last Riksdag election being held in 2018, if an extra election were to be held now in 2021 due to the collapse of the current government, an election would still have to be held in 2022 instead of the election cycle being reset, the next election due for 2025.

Posted in Op-eds | Leave a comment

Paul Tyler writes….Clearing out constitutional confusions?

The current combination of Brexit bluster from No 10 and Corbynista claims seem to have confused even the shrewder media commentators: the rest are swallowing spin from both sides without any attempt at fact checking.

The idea that the Leader of the Official Opposition has a constitutional right to form an alternative government as soon as the current Prime Minister is defeated by a Vote of Confidence is wishful thinking by the Corbyn coterie. Similarly, the notion that Johnson can simply trigger a General Election in such circumstances is against the law.

Let me take you back to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (which I argued for even before the 2010 election resulted in the failure of either of their parties to achieve a Commons majority). There was no logic to the previous convention. Nor could it be claimed to be fair. The captain of one political team could simply blow the final whistle whenever he/she judged that they had the best chance of winning.

In a parliamentary democracy we Liberal Democrats argued – successfully – that was a totally unacceptable anomaly, more suited to an “elective dictatorship”, as described by erstwhile Tory Chancellor Lord Hailsham. Hence the 2011 Act, promoted by the Coalition Government.

Under the Act each Parliament will normally continue for a full five year period. An “Early Parliamentary General Election” can only happen in one of two circumstances. EITHER the Commons votes by a 2/3 majority (including vacant seats) for a specific motion calling for it (as happened in 2017), OR a Motion of No Confidence is passed against the current Government, and – after a 14 day interval – neither it, nor any alternative administration, has secured a Confidence Motion.

During that period the current PM cannot trigger an election: clause 3(2) reads “Parliament cannot otherwise be dissolved”. In that respect at least Dominic Cumming’s threats are absurd

However, as you will readily observe, it is one thing to prevent crash out Brexiteers from cutting MPs out of this particular nefarious sharp practice, but quite another to so manage the process to achieve a more democratic outcome.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 22 Comments

We’re heading for a minority Labour government backed by the SNP

whitehall
The Guardian have a very useful web page called Election 2015: The Guardian poll projection. On it, each day, they update their state-of-the-parties graph with the latest polling data, which then flows into an infographic showing the parliamentary arithmetic and possible government options after May 7th.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged , , , , and | 130 Comments
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