Britain does not need a general election

CALLS for an immediate general election in the light of the expenses scandal that has engulfed Britain's MPs are understandable - but must be resisted at all costs.

CALLS for an immediate general election in the light of the expenses scandal that has engulfed Britain's MPs are understandable - but must be resisted at all costs.

As something of a political anorak - I've followed each general election campaign with great interest since February 1974 and that was three years before I was old enough to vote - I love campaigns and covering them.

But to have a general election in the current fevered atmosphere would be a disaster for the country and would risk leaving us with a parliament populated by the inexperienced and incapable.

Worse still, we could be left with a parliament of cranks replacing a parliament of crooks - and that would be no good for this country or democracy as a whole.

There is a real danger at the moment of fringe candidates winning seats that they are really not fit to represent adequately.

It might seem like a good idea to vote for an independent or a fringe party, but what could they really achieve during a five-year term at Westminster?

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There are real fears among some local politicians in Ipswich that in the current atmosphere there could be some strong support for the BNP in some parts of the town.

If that is happening in Ipswich, a town noted for its tolerance, just think what could happen in some more intolerant places like Burnley or Stoke on Trent?

Would a BNP presence in Westminster be good for democracy? I think not.

Then Esther Rantzen is planning to stand in Luton against scandal-engulfed MP Margaret Moran.

Miss Rantzen is a brilliant TV presenter and a superb campaigner - Childline is a superb legacy for her to look back on.

But she should not allow herself to be persuaded into standing in Luton. It would be a disaster for democracy.

Luton South is not Tatton where Martin Bell defeated disgraced Tory Neil Hamilton in 1997.

Luton South is a marginal where the Tories were probably favourites to win even before Miss Moran's difficulties became apparent.

Tatton was a safe Tory seat where both Labour and the LibDems stood down before Martin Bell sought election. There is about as much chance of the Tories standing down in Luton South as there is of Sir Alex Ferguson managing Liverpool next year!

So if Esther Rantzen does stand she will have fight both Labour and the Tories. The vote would be split and the result would be too tight to call.

But if she did get in, would that really be better for the voters than having an MP with the backing of a big party behind him or her?

One thing's certain . . . Margaret Moran will not be MP for Luton South this time next year!

What is needed over the next few months is for all parties to look very hard at all their MPs and to root out those who have brought parliament into disrepute.

They need to get new candidates in to replace them - and ideally not in a rush so they can fully check out who will be standing in the next election.

That does take time - too often constituencies have chosen candidates in haste and repented at leisure as skeletons emerged from the cupboard,

So for all those reasons it is best to have a general election next May as planned. There is a great opportunity for us all to have a say in the European and county council elections on Thursday.

And then when we do have a vote in the general election a more reasoned debate can follow.

DAVID Cameron certainly seems to be making the best of a bad job amid the MPs' expenses row - but his latest proposals to reform the political system are a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good is his proposal to reduce the number of MPs - from 659 to about 600. If he was serious about his other proposals then the number really should be even smaller, more like the 450 that the chamber was initially built for in the 19th century.

The bad is his total rejection of any thought of electoral reform - at present every general election is decided by a few thousand voters in marginal seats. It is time the whole country was given an equal vote.

And the ugly is his promise to devolve more power to councils and local communities if his party wins power.

Anyone who has any knowledge of political history since the war knows that promises like that are forgotten within a few months of winning power at Westminster,

Mrs Thatcher promised a similar move in 1979 but as soon as Labour and the Alliance started winning power in town and county halls, their powers were taken away and handed to quangos.

Labour then made the same promise in 1997 and guess what happened when the Tory local government revival started?

So why on earth should we believe David Cameron when he is making the same promise today?