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Not as iffy as it looks

The new coalition has come under fire from all sides for its proposal to fix parliamentary terms to five years. Critics such as Peter Hennessy claim that it will rob Parliament of an effective way to bring down a government, with the introduction of a higher bar to dissolve Parliament (55% of MPs will be needed to trigger a general election rather than the current simple majority of 51%). Yet Hennessy's "iffy politics" description is wrong. If we know the date of the 2018 World Cup, why shouldn't we all know the date of the next election? If fixed terms are good enough for local councils, the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, why not Parliament?


And the 55% rule makes sense. It will prevent a government - including the current coalition - from dissolving parliament at a time of their choosing, for instance when Labour might be in the throws of a leadership contest in September. Granted, the new plans are not without flaws. Elections should be held every four years instead of the proposed five. If the new politics is to be coalition government, then the chances increase of a lame duck administration limping on for most if not all of its life. Why prolong the misery? Even more importantly, the British people have clearly indicated their distrust in politicians of all stripes, so it seems wrong that they will be given fewer occasions to "vote the buggers out".

But overall, the coalition proposals move us in the right direction. They ensure a prime minister will no longer have the right to call an election at the time of their choosing, an enormous and unjustified advantage for the incumbent. Thatcher called one only when she was popular, and Major (1992) and Brown (2010) clung on long enough so that the other side could take enough hits to deny them outright victory. Taking this power away from the Queen's first minister should mark the first of many steps to reduce excessive executive power in the UK.

No more third way please

Take it Back