Tories propose six-month limit for unelected PMs

Unelected prime ministers would be forced to hold a general election within six months of taking office, under proposals being announced by David Cameron today.

The Conservative leader will promise to legislate to prevent a repeat of Gordon Brown's three-year tenure at 10 Downing Street before he had to face the ballot box.



Speaking on a campaign visit to Essex, the Tory leader will also announce a plan to provide political parties with taxpayers' money to fund "postal primaries" in which voters will be able to choose their candidates for general elections.



The scheme would mean a £1.6 million cut in the annual budget of democratic watchdog the Electoral Commission.



Mr Cameron's announcements come as Mr Brown continues Labour's push for re-election with a public services rally in the East Midlands, while Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg takes a day off the campaign trail to be with his three sons, who returned to the UK last night after being stranded in Spain due to the volcanic ash cloud.



The Tory leader will also take a break from electioneering later in the day to attend his younger sister Clare's wedding to market research executive Jeremy Fawcus at a private ceremony in southern England.



It was Clare, 38, who introduced Mr Cameron to his future wife Samantha when they went on holiday together to Italy.



Three of the last five Prime Ministers - Mr Brown, John Major and James Callaghan - inherited power in the middle of a parliamentary term, rather than winning it in a general election.



Of those, only Mr Major has so far gone on to secure his own popular mandate at the ballot box, by winning the election of 1992.



Under Mr Cameron's plans, a Prime Minister who takes office after the death, resignation or overthrow of his or her predecessor will be forced to face the electorate within six months of taking over.



Tories would amend the Septennial Act 1715 - which requires elections to be held at least every five years - to ensure that Parliament is automatically dissolved six months after a change of Prime Minister for any other reason than a general election.



A new PM would be free to request a dissolution at any time during the six-month period, which would allow time for him or her to appoint a ministerial team and set out a programme for government and for Parliament to deal with any outstanding business, said Tories. The legislation would be flexible enough to avoid triggering elections at inconvenient times like Christmas or the summer holidays.



That flexibility would have been needed if the legislation had been in place when Tony Blair quit in 2007, as Mr Brown might otherwise have been forced to dissolve Parliament on December 27.



The Prime Minister is widely believed to have abandoned plans for an election in the autumn of 2007 because of a sharp spike in support for the Tories after they unveiled plans to take estates under £1 million out of inheritance tax.



Mr Cameron will also unveil plans to "open up democracy" by funding 200 all-postal primaries across the country over the course of the next Parliament at a cost of about £8 million.



The Tories were the first party in British political history to select one of their candidates by an all-postal ballot of a constituency when Sarah Wollaston was chosen in Totnes, Devon, in July last year. A second candidate, Caroline Dinenage, was later selected by the same method in Gosport.



Under the plans being outlined by Mr Cameron today, postal primaries would be funded by the state at an estimated cost of £40,000 each. The cash would be shared out between parties which take up seats in Parliament in proportion to their share of the vote in the general election.



Parties would select the constituencies where they want to hold primaries and put forward a shortlist of four or more candidates for a public vote. Everyone on the electoral roll in the constituency, regardless of political allegiance, will receive a ballot paper and a freepost envelope to return it in.



The Tory scheme envisages about £1.6 million a year being spent on the primaries, funded by cuts in the £23.5 million Electoral Commission budget.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain