How Gordon Brown has changed his mind on the general election date

It’s there in black and white, supported 100% by Gordon Brown – “We [the Labour party] will introduce as a general rule a fixed Parliamentary term.”

Oh – the date of the commitment? The 1992 Labour manifesto as supported by one G Brown. I agree with him – the 1992 vintage that is. It shouldn’t be down to just one person – the Prime Minister – to decide whether or not to hold an election (and making that decision based on their own party’s self-interest).

I want to see fixed-term Parliaments, with provision for early elections if (a) the government loses a vote of confidence, (b) there’s a change of Prime Minister or (c) there is cross-party support (to cover unusual crises or surprises). Cross-party support is crucial for (c) as otherwise it would just once again let the PM pick whatever date they want – and then get it through with a whipped vote. Quite how this would work depends on what happens to House of Lords reform (finally!), but the basic idea is clear.

But back to Brown – I’m amazed what a soft ride the media have been giving him on this. We all know what he’s up to – he wants the election to be on the date that best suits him, and wants to sow as much confusion as possible in the interim as to when it might or might not be. Where’s the democracy in that? Yet the media have gone along with his game.

It’s one of the odd paradoxes of modern political reporting – it’s usual bathed in an instinctive cynical covering about how all politicians are liars and fools – but also is often terribly conservative in playing the traditional rules of the game rather than questioning them (when was the last time a journalist blew the whistle on an unattributable dishing of one politician by another? You see – the rules of the game are that unattributable personal attacks are ok, so they just report them time after time).

So if I was a journalist – I’d be asking Brown to justify why he’s changed his mind, and why – in a democracy of all places – the PM should be able to fiddle the system by picking a date of his or her own choosing? When Mrs T used to do that, Brown opposed it – ah… perhaps that’s where his new-found admiration for her comes in!