Legal bid for fixed term parliaments

Howarth tables fixed term parliament bill
Howarth tables fixed term parliament bill

The Liberal Democrats have launched a legal bid for fixed term parliaments.

The party will table a bill when the House of Commons returns today calling for four-year fixed parliament sessions.

They claim such a restriction would prevent the "game playing" seen in the past few weeks.

Lib Dem solicitor general spokesman David Howarth said: "The Liberal Democrats have for a long time argued that parliament should be on the basis of fixed terms like most other modern democratic countries.

"It is quite wrong that the prime minister of the day should be able to fiddle the dates of an election for short term political advantage."

Although fixed-term elections are a long-standing Lib Dem policy, Mr Howarth argued events of the last few days have shown how damaging it is for the prime minister to solely hold the power to call an election.

He said: "Gordon Brown has been playing games with the electorate in a system that is all too open to abuse."

The Conservatives have been highly critical of Mr Brown's last minute move to quash the snap election speculation.

David Cameron said: "He has shown great weakness and indecision - it is quite clear that he has not been focused on running the country and he has been trying to spin his way into a general election campaign, he has now had to make a humiliating retreat."

If adopted, the fixed term parliament bill would set the date of the next general election on May 7 2009. Subsequent elections would he held on the first Thursday of May every four years.

Mr Brown has indicated he wants the next election to be held in 2009, saying a 2008 poll would be "very unlikely".

The prime minister is also expected to transfer the right to call an election to parliament as part of his constitutional reforms.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.