Why a fixed term is good for the UK

momentToday in the Argus Newspaper I have published the following: I have had the privilege of working with a wide range of organisations at a governance level, extensively within the charity sector but also businesses and the public sector. The way in which these organisations handle recruitment and contracts varies enormously. One vital element of any contract is the period of notice required by those impacted should notice be given to end the contract early. In a bid to protecting many charities and other bodies, senior members of staff are often asked to give 12 weeks or in exceptional circumstances even 26 weeks notice if they intend to leave. At less senior levels the notice period may be 4 weeks or even one week. I should stress I am no expert when it comes to contract law, but this is certainly what I have observed over many years. As well as this approach protecting organisations from the loss of key workers without warning, it also explains why some people cannot easily make career changes at very short notice.

The decision of the Cameron and Clegg Government to persuade Parliament to vote for a Fixed Term arrangement was something that helped give confidence to voters and MPs alike, or alternatively puts both in a position of enduring a damaging and chaotic government for much longer than might have been the case in previous generations, depending on ones point of view. One of the clear strengths of this arrangement is that for people who wish to get involved in Parliamentary Politics, a fixed term Parliament ensures that they have plenty of time to plan for a major change to their lives. The fact is that large numbers of people outside of the world of party politics have grown increasingly frustrated at the way in which MPs and Cabinet Members arrive in Parliament with very little experience outside of the world of party politics and political theory. Clearly Parliament would be a great deal more chaotic if every single MP and Cabinet Minister had just arrived fresh from running a business or teaching in a School, or working for a large employer such as the NHS or a major supermarket etc but equally to have a dearth of such qualities and life experiences is just as problematic.

The decision to call a snap election with the minimum amount of notice possible is something that was instigated by Theresa May with the full support of her Cabinet. To date the reasoning for this decision at such short notice has not been made public in a manner that really explains why the decision was taken. One of the explanations given was that it followed a walking holiday in Snowdonia. That is hardly a good reason for a General Election to be called less than a month after MPs voted to enact Article 50 and timed to fall barely a month after large parts of the country had voted in local elections. Nevertheless over 500 MPs including every Sussex representative then voted in agreement with this call by the Government. Amongst the candidates taking part is Stephen Lloyd in Eastbourne who was previously their MP and was in any case preparing for the 2020 election, his plans were brought forward and the Lib Dems have managed to raise £20,000 to fund his campaign which is very impressive. What we will never know about are people who may well have been planning to stand in 2020 but who could not change their plans in time for June the 8th or whose funding plans were not able to be brought forward in the way that Mr Lloyd and his party has managed.

The truth is that we are being badly served by a Government and indeed a Parliament which has chosen to go to the country at a time and manner of their choosing despite the existence of the Fixed Term Parliament Act. If people in key positions in charities, businesses and public sector bodies acted in a similarly reckless manner our public and privately run services would be in a constant state of chaos and we have yet to find out just what sort of problems this decision will have on our nation. The phrase public servants is often applied to MPs and therefore one could expect such men and women to take the time to consider if this decision was the right one for their communities and if the timing was appropriate. Whilst I have no problems with an election being called, I do believe that a more measured time frame would have been the responsible way to deal with whatever issue really triggered this decision in the foothills of Snowdon. The tactical advantage to incumbent MPs cannot be ignored by such a decision and the impact on hard working civil servants will also cost society dearly.


About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
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