So, we are getting fixed-term Parliaments which is something I support; it is not right that the executive has the power to determine when elections are and call them to their own advantage. However, looking at the finer print this is not the triumph of democracy that it first appears to be. Looking at the finer print of the Liberal Democrat-Conservative deal that Liberal Conspiracy exclusively published we see this:
A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.
The devil is in the detail of the last line; now, for Parliament to be dissolved a simple majority will not be enough. In one fell swoop the redistribution of power from the executive to the House of Commons is reversed in a neat little ‘ConTrick’. As a side-note this means the Liberal Democrats have effectively tied their own hands because even were they to leave and de-camp back to the opposition benches the Conservatives would remain in power as they currently have 47% of the MP’s in the Commons. More worryingly an executive can now remain in power without being able to command a majority in the Commons and the only mechanism for a governments removal is for its effective removal is for its own MP’s to vote against it – if the government of the day was that unpopular then this would be akin to asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. An important safety-valve in our representative democracy has therefore been closed as the Commons has been neutered and lost the power to remove an unpopular government.
I am told this is necessary for fixed-term Parliaments to be meaningful; if that is the case then I would question my original support for them as the legislature does not make any realistic gain in authority versus the executive with the insertion of this clause. However, I do not believe it is necessary; if fixed-term Parliaments required the neutering of the ability of the legislature to dissolve itself then why not just remove this power altogether instead of merely raising the bar? The answer lies in what realistically this is; not a bold ‘reforming’ move but the desperate scramble of this sordid coalition to ensure its own survival. No doubt Mr Clegg and his crew are already highly attached to the honorifics their patron has given them.
Cynically twisting the rules to enshrine the cosy position of the executive doesn’t seem like ‘brave and bold’ or particularly ‘new’ politics to my mind. In fact, it seems rather hackneyed and clichéd to me; so much for this ‘bright new dawn’ promised by Clegg and Cameron.
For more see NorthernHeckler’s blog.