THE new Tory coalition government is facing an angry response to its plans to install itself for five years, and stay in power even if its coalition with the Liberals collapses.
The signed LibDem-Tory coalition agreement supports fixed-term parliaments which can only be dissolved with support from 55% of MPs.
It states: ‘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.’
Already, Labourites like Jack Straw, and ex Liberals such as Lord Adonis are saying that this is an attack on democracy, a ‘fix’ and a ‘stitch up’.
The Governor of the Bank of England has already said that the government that carries out what is required by the crisis in terms of savage cuts will be ‘unelectable for a generation’.
This Tory-LibDem move is an attempt to make such a government unremovable.
The Callaghan government was removed by the Tories in 1979 when it lost a no confidence vote by one vote.
The men of the ‘new politics’ have no intention of allowing the same thing to happen to them.
The prime minister, Cameron, will not retain the power to ask the Queen to dissolve parliament at any time within a five-year period.
The coalition agreement drawn up between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, says legislation ‘will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour’.
Former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis called it a ‘brazen attempt to gerrymander the constitution which calls into question the legitimacy of the coalition from day one’.
He added: ‘If the legislation ever gets to the House of Lords, it will meet opposition of an intensity and bitterness not seen for many years. This is a constitutional outrage.’
Straw said the plan was ‘completely undemocratic and totally unworkable’ while another ex-Home Secretary, Blunkett, described it as a ‘stitch-up’.
A former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, who declared the Iraq war to be legal after months of doubts, said he feared it would result in a ‘zombie government’ – as it would mean 53% of MPs could vote against a government but it would still continue until the fixed date.
Professor Peter Hennessy, of Queen Mary University of London University, commented that the plan looked like ‘very, very iffy politics indeed’ and there was a ‘certain brutal efficiency . . . about traditional confidence votes that one is enough and confidence votes under our system trump everything else’.
Tory backbencher Charles Walker, commenting on the measure, said: ‘This is perhaps just a little too much for our unwritten constitution to bear.’
It would be impossible for opponents, even if fully united, to muster the 55% needed to dissolve Parliament, unless at least 16 Tories rebelled.