… this time at least.
Nigel Farage is quite right to have a go over how short Parliamentary by-election campaigns have become:
I do not think democracy is being well served and fear that the voting process is now actually undermining the ability of constituents to hear and weigh-up the alternatives being offered in a considered fashion.
The problem is most acute when it comes to parliamentary by-elections. Our recent experience is that where the Labour Party is responsible for moving the writ, it has taken to condensing a campaign into the shortest legally-permitted time frame.
His dig at Labour is a little cheeky, however, as all parties move the writ for by-elections in seats they hold quickly when it suits them. Of course, as those are the rules, I don’t hold it against any of the individuals who therefore use the rules in the way that most suits their party.
However, having got fixed-term Parliaments and so got rid of the absurdity that the Prime Minister gets to fix the time of a general election in order to maximise their own party’s chances at an election, it’s about time that Parliamentary by-elections were treated similarly.
If the party that holds a seat got to choose who is in the electorate at the by-election, or what the spending limits are, or how many hours the polling stations are open for, they’d rightly be outrage. Yet picking how long the campaign will be is hugely influential on the result too – so shouldn’t it be set at a sensible length which lets the public have a chance to hear from candidates rather than letting the incumbent party picks what suits them best?
Progress is being made on expanding the length of Parliamentary by-election campaigns, hooray. Progress should also be made on removing the discretion to fix the date in order to benefit one particular party.