Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Setting the date

When the new Con/Lib Government at Westminster announced the date of the next UK General Election it raised more than a few eyebrows in Cardiff Bay and at Holyrood because it clashed with something else they had planned for that particular day in May 2015...

Now an adviser to the United Nations has warned of the extent of the dangers of holding the two elections simultaneously. This article from The Guardian over the weekend is focussed on the Scottish perspective but much the same arguments apply to the Assembly.

Previously on this issue, Vaughan Roderick has blogged:

"I don't think for a second the Electoral Commission will allow the two elections to go ahead on the same day.

So what are the alternatives? Extending or shortening the fourth Assembly would be a possibility but there is another solution. They could postpone the 2011 election for a year.

Perhaps I'm cynical for suggesting it but that would suit certain parties down to the ground."

Hmm...I'm not so of the legalities or practicalities of that...I think it's more likely this is going to be one of those issues that rolls on and on well into the next Assembly and prove to be another point of contention between the administrations in Cardiff and Westminster.

Dewi Tri



Peter Black said...

The problem is that a postponement will not do it. With the Assembly on a four year term and Westminster on a five year term they will clash every 20 years.

Paul said...

We could hold the election next year as planned, then extend every Assembly term to five years, so they are always two years behind the Euro's and 12 months behind Westminster.

MH said...

There are a good number of facets to this story. Yes, it would of course make better sense for there to be four year parliaments; but the ConDem coalition will itself want to hang out to the bitter end, and it will also not want to see it self as "secondary" to the EuroParliament which has a five year electoral cycle. So for all practical reasons, if anything is going to change it will have to be the Welsh and Scottish elections.

Without making major changes to our four year cycle there are two ways of changing the date of Welsh and Scottish elections. First the respective Secretaries of State can move the election forward or back by four weeks. Parliament could vote such a proposal down, but the Assembly and Scottish Parliament would only need to be "consulted" and their consent would not be required. For much the same reason as Gordon Brown called the election for 6 May this year, it is very unlikely that an unpopular government at Westminster would want another election only a few weeks before their own, but holding it afterwards would be a real possibility. The big question is whether the ConDem coalition would want to avoid a clash. As I showed here and here it would be an advantage to both the LibDems and the Tories—but especially the LIbDems—to hold these elections on the same day. So why would they go out of their way to change one of the dates?

The second option is trickier, but does provide a way for Scotland and Wales to move the date of their elections without the consent of the respective SoSs or Westminster. Provided we do it less than six months before the election is due, we can engineer a vote of no confidence to bring down the First Minister and refuse to appoint a new one. This will force a new election, provided that we get a two-thirds' majority for dissolution. The new Assembly would then run through until May 2019. But again, this can only happen if there is strong enough feeling among the parties in Wales and Scotland that it would be disadvantageous to hold both elections on the same day. The only parties that would really be disadvantaged would be Plaid Cymru and the SNP, so the other parties might well not co-operate and therefore the two-thirds' threshold would not be reached.

If the three Unionist parties see any self-advantage in holding the elections on the same day, they will not do anything to avoid the clash ... but will of course find another way of putting it, such as saying it will increase turnout or reduce costs. For that reason the EC and the UN might be our only hope, though perhaps the EU will pitch in too.

Politics Cymru said...

MH: you make some interesting points but I don't know how viable either of these options are...

The first would be highly unpopular with grassroots members who'd be left campaigning continuously for 2 long months...while I can't imagine any First Minister being happy to allow himself to be voted out of office even if it's just for 'technical' reasons.

The more I think about it, the more I think that if this UK government lasts a clash is unavoidable.