let us bar the gates of Westminster and stop MPs leaving for their summer holidays until this crisis has been sorted out, and every nook and cranny of our political system has been reformed.The Lib Dem leader's proposals are summarised in an accompanying news report:
The demand for fixed-term parliaments is familiar in radical circles, though presumably there would have to be provision for calling an election outside the agreed timetable if there was stalemate at Westminster and no one could form a government.
• By week three legislation would be passed to introduce fixed parliamentary terms of four years from 2010, denying the prime minister the right to name the date of general elections.
• By week four the new Commons Speaker would convene all-party talks to introduce a series of changes to parliamentary procedure that would be agreed by day 100. These include handing MPs the right to decide the parliamentary timetable, giving MPs a greater chance to scrutinise government spending and subject ministers to confirmation hearings.
• By weeks four to five parliament would pass legislation to allow a referendum to be held on electoral reform – the alternative vote plus system proposed by the late Lord Jenkins – that would be held on day 100.
• By weeks six to seven parliament would pass legislation to replace the House of Lords with a wholly elected senate.
Giving MPs more power over the executive is the least glamorous demand here, but almost certainly the most important. I wrote about the need for it in House Points last week.
I find it hard to work up too much enthusiasm for the alternative vote, in particular because it will do little about the greatest evil of our current electoral system: the safe seat.
Finally, I do support an elected upper chamber, but we do need to recognise that in the last 30 years the Lords has often reflected public opinion more faithfully than the Commons has. It is the lower house that is most in need of reform.
Still, Nick has seized the headlines with this initiative, so well done to whoever thought it up.