Tuesday, 29 September 2015

How long is long enough?

One of the leaders of the Conservatives in Wales has told us this week that five years is too long a term for the National Assembly.  But Andrew Davies hasn’t, as far as I can see, enlightened us as to how long the term should be.  Perhaps he hasn’t made his mind up on that one yet.  Or perhaps Stephen Crabb simply hasn’t told him the right answer yet.
It’s true, of course, that the extension from the previous norm of 4 years to the new one of 5 was more accidental than intentional, as an unthought-through consequence of the decision (by his own party) to move to fixed term parliaments for the UK, and the perceived need to avoid holding elections on the same date.  He’s not arguing with that decision, it appears, even though the effect of a move to a fixed term at Westminster has probably increased the average length of a Westminster parliament from around 4 to 5.  And he doesn’t seem to be arguing that the elections should, after all, be held on the same day.
I wouldn’t object to a shorter term, as it happens.  After all, from what I remember of history, ‘annual parliaments’ was a core demand of the Chartists.  Now that would be a neat way of keeping them on their toes, and getting rid of some of them a bit more rapidly.  It’s an entirely honorable demand to make – but something tells me that it isn’t what he means.
My real questions are:
(a)  how do we decide how long the term should be – he’s come up with a negative with no real justification to back it up and no argument for any alternative; and
(b)  why, if the issue is relevant for the Assembly, it isn’t also relevant for the Westminster and European parliaments.  What’s the difference?
It would be nice to be able to believe that he and his party see the Assembly as being the most important level of government; so important that we need to vote on its membership more often.  I rather suspect, though, that he’s coming at it from the opposite perspective.

No comments: