Monday, May 19, 2008

Term Limits

I understand that Boris has written to the Government, asking them to impose a two term limit on the Mayor's job. The effect would be to prevent anyone serving longer than eight years in the post. This follows a failed attempt to insert a two term limit in the act which extended the GLA's powers recently.

Term limits are common in America, but are unheard of here, and I have mixed feelings. We showed that in London, it is possible to beat a strong incumbent who supposedly holds all the advantages, so is a limit really needed?

Term limits would have cut Margaret Thatcher's rule short in 1987, and ended Tony Blair's reign in 2005 - would this really have been a good thing?

For my own experience, I did three terms as a Waltham Forest councillor and by the end I was getting a bit stale, I would not have wanted to do four. On the other hand, I'm on my third term at the London Assembly and - thanks to the change of Mayor - it really does feel like a new job.

Now, I do think we should be writing to the Government asking them to end 'proportional representation' for the London elections, but that is a different story...

Term limits - good or bad?


The Voice said...

Term limits for the position of mayor make sense, because it is a role that grants wide-ranging powers to an individual personality -- just like the U.S. President.

The comparison with councillors is misplaced; and while British PMs have tended to operate more and more presidentially, they are still only leaders of an executive team, and members of a legislative house to whom they are accountable.

For these reasons, I would suggest that it is right to propose a term limit for the London mayor, but that this needn't set a precedent for other political roles.

Your views on proportional representation ought to be formed on the basis of the available information, rather than the Conservative Party's somewhat irrational aversion to the idea. There are some important councils in England which would have significant Conservative representation were PR introduced (Sheffield being a good example).

PR is not something that inherently benefits specific ideological positions, despite attempts to dismiss it as a left-wing tool. Moreover, the argument that it hands power to minor parties who "hold the balance of power" is based on a lack of awareness of the available voting methods. A well-implemented system of PR (which means ignoring Italy or Israel) will tend towards sensible coalitions which reflect the broader sentiments of the people. Minor parties who abuse their "balance of power" can be shut out via "grand coalitions".

Whether or not you approve of PR in Westminster elections, I think it would serve the Conservative Party well to be more receptive to the idea at a local level. Many of the arguments in favour of FPTP simply do not apply to local government.

I hope that gives you some food for thought!

Martin from MayorWatch said...

Pretty much against a law which, if introduced before 2016 (assuming 2 terms for Boris), would in effect only apply to a single man.

sjm said...

I'm all in favour of term limits for every politician, three being top whack as far as I'm concerned:

One term to learn the job
One term to do the job
One term to teach the newcomers and retire gracefully

And that means three terms in total, not starting again afer a break!

And I'm definitely with you, Roger, on eliminating PR.

Jack said...

I think that term limits for a "presidential" style job (including mayor) make more sense than having them for a prime minister. Because, however presidential the role has become recently, it's still possible to get rid of them!

However, I don't really see the need for them really. Why introduce an artificial block in the democratic system? If the people (who the elected official is there to serve) don't want the person in the job they won't vote for them anymore. Imagine there comes along a fairly universally liked, relatively young mayor who is fairly universally seen to have many years ahead of them at the end of their second term but has to move on because of a term limit, perhaps allowing someone awful in? As long as the assembly is doing its job with keeping the mayor in check (not allowing the system to become like the Russian presidency) then I don't see the need.

(Disclosure, I voted for Ken Livingstone and I'm probably genetically unable to vote Tory. But I also feel that I'm able to separate my views on the system from what would benefit either myself or whatever party I vote for)