Lot of news about Cameron's new proposals today, the Mail were unpredictably gushing
I don't need to explain my view on Cameron - he's an opportunist jumping on the reform bandwagon, but we will get little real reform from him - as the old saying goes: 'turkeys don't vote for Christmas'
I instead wish to debate the finer points of reform, as Paul Waugh points out, the Tories are a bit lukewarm on the idea - saying fixed terms are worth looking at, but also saying that it would mean we couldn't get rid of Gordon Brown or campaign that he didn't have a mandate
Now, I'm going to ignore the fact that as fixed terms should be four years, Gordo would already be facing an election
But Cameron is also missing a major point - does he really think we could just 'swap' Prime Ministers with a fixed term system? We can now because the rules are non-existent and it's all very 'House of Commons' - picking a suitable minister from the ranks is ridiculously outdated, as shown by the public contempt for the situation we are now in
So a change would surely be accompanied by the tightening up of the rules - if you are elected for a fixed term you are obliged to serve that - obviously we can exempt health matters and such, but Blair simply walked, seemingly for the hell of it, after promising a full third term - that is an unacceptable situation
Can you imagine Barack Obama deciding he would quit one year in, then spending a year 'on tour', as it were? - No, because he can't - only in exceptional circumstances
Also note that this implies all Cameron would do, or even contemplate doing, is changing the process from being 'there must be an election within five years', to 'there must be an election at xxxx date' - he doesn't seem to consider the party reselecting a Prime Minister for itself mid-term, you look deep enough and you can see just how shallow Cameron's plans are, the House of Commons remains largely untouched, all that is removed is the present government's advantage of timing - it is a piecemeal offering
Instead, if a Prime Minister does decide to resign, it should trigger an election - while I used America as my example, we are not America, we do not have an elected head of state/government - but as Blair's resignation shows, we effectively have such a situation in the public mind, it's all very confusing and British
But there is no need for us to stick rigidly to four years - the American situation is very different, the fact is we can take a far more realistic approach - what Blair did is uncommon, it's happened twice in thirty years, or once in nearly twenty years, and you can't expect many Prime Ministers would simply quit before they even got halfway - evidence in most countries shows that they tend to know the rules and intend to serve the full term, the only reason Blair and Labour did it was because they could
They could bizarrely rip-off the electorate and change leader after two years simply because the system allows them to - if we changed the situation then 1) it wouldn't have happened in the first place and 2) we would've got our election
You see how Cameron spins? The situation barely changes in Parliament, but he gets his 'reform' to win over the public
There is an argument that being able to call an election at different times is better for government, it prevents lame ducks as it were - but in reality would it be any different? Brown is a lame duck and is clinging on to the very last minute - when was the last time we didn't use the conventional four (or longer) years? It was 1974 if you're interested, and that fact has to be weighed against the fact that most countries accept the system and we'd be removing a massive advantage that is given to the incumbent government
Like I say, a fixed term isn't perfect - but it's better than a government manipulating us, and I would love to see an example in modern British history where it has proved beneficial to the public to allow the government to set the date at their own convenience? Tie that in with the fact that if a government is defeated over a major bill (i.e. a supply bill), an election can be called - likewise if the governing party really feel the need to stab their leader, who is the de facto head of state, in the back, we should get an election - see how often it would happen then....
That, to me would be a better system than even the Americans have