The decision over when to hold a general election will be transferred from the hands of the Prime Minister to Parliament, under reforms being considered by Gordon Brown that could include "fixed term" governments, according to Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader.
Such a move was floated by the Prime Minister in the summer as part of a package of proposed constitutional changes but was firmly renewed during a televised discussion last night in the wake of the row over whether Mr Brown should have called a "snap" poll this autumn, which Ms Harman said had "thrown a spotlight on something that needs to change".
"People do feel unhappy," she told BBC1's Question Time. "[It is] not right the way that the Prime Minister can choose and swish up to Buckingham Palace and get the Queen to decide on a general election." In what appeared to be a pre-prepared attempt to regain the initiative after the row over election timing, Ms Harman said: "It's right that we should look at whether Parliament should decide on whether an election is called and that Parliament should decide... So I think we should change the way we do that."
Asked by David Dimbleby if Ms Harman had raised the matter with Mr Brown, she said: "Yes I have, and the House of Commons is going to consider whether [to] take over that right."
Ms Harman also indicated fixed term parliaments – where election dates are set in advance for every four years, as in the US – were also under consideration. "I can see the attraction in fixed-term parliaments, but I think you have to have some flexibility," she said.
Under the current arrangement, the Prime Minister can choose when to go to the country.