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David Cameron says a Tory Government would prevent parties from replacing a serving Prime Minister without a new general election

Picture 24 David Cameron has been out campaigning in Thurrock this morning - a constituency which, in his own words, the Tories were "not originally targeting, but are now" - in line with the story in The Times this morning suggesting the party is targeting Labour seats lower down the target list than previously anticipated.

He addressed supporters in the seat, majoring on the message that he want to give more power to people rather than politicians, emphasising that the scenario of a hung parliament would give far more power to politicians doing deals behind closed doors.

Mr Cameron repeated calls for more all-postal primaries in the selection of Conservative candidates and for people to have the right of recalling MPs who are found guilty of wrongdoing.

He then made a new pledge with regard to the person holding the office of Prime Minister: he proposes that in future if someone becomes Prime Minister in the middle of a parliament, then a general election would have to be held within six months. He summarised:

"You should hold office because the people vote for you, not because the party stitches up a deal".

His point obviously refers to the fact that Tony Blair promised to serve a full third term in 2005, but then the Labour gave the country Gordon Brown in 2007.

In recent decades, the same would have applied to John Major replacing Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and Jim Callaghan taking over from Harold Wilson in 1976.

11.15am update:

The Press Association has more on the plans for stopping unelected Prime Ministers remain in office and on extending open primaries:

"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."

"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."

"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."

Jonathan Isaby

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