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MPs reject early election motion

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A motion to dissolve Parliament and pave the way for an immediate general election has been rejected by MPs.

Plaid Cymru and the SNP tabled the motion - backed by the Conservatives and Lib Dems - saying that the government had lost authority.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson called for an "historic, reforming election" to rebuild trust in politics in the wake of the expenses scandals.

But Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said an early poll would "trigger instability".

The motion was rejected by 340 votes to 268.

'Political crisis'

The debate was scheduled before last week's conflict within Labour over Gordon Brown's leadership.

But the SNP said the events of recent days showed Mr Brown had "lost his grip" and reinforced the need for a general election straight away.

Mr Robertson told the Commons that arguments against dissolution were motivated by "pure naked self preservation" on the part of the Labour Party, which performed badly in the local and European elections.

Commons chamber
Opposition parties say the public should be given their say now

Parliament was in disrepute due to the actions of certain MPs, he said, and the public should have the opportunity to pass judgement on them.

He added that an election would allow all parties to put their proposals for cleaning up Parliament to the electorate and "the reform process will then have a mandate."

Mr Robertson added that the argument against having an election in tough economic times was simply "not credible".

"We need an election to rebuild confidence in UK economic policy," he said.

For the Conservatives, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said the choice was between a "visibly divided government" or a new parliament with a "mandate approved by the people of the country and the authority that comes from demonstrable public approval in a democracy".

He called for "the people of Britain to decide their own future", adding: "That is what the country wants, that it what our democracy needs."

Lib Dem MP David Heath said the "collapse in respect" for MPs made the need for an election urgent.

"We need to give the public an opportunity to back or sack every single one of us," he said.

Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd said the expenses scandal had turned Parliament into a "busted flush".

He added: "If we went to the country there would be a renewal."

But Labour MPs dismissed calls for an immediate election, saying reforming Parliament must be a priority and any changes agreed will be put to the electorate soon anyway as an election must be held within the next year.

Mr Hain said the SNP and Plaid were "the Tories' little helpers" in light of Conservative leader David Cameron's calls for an immediate poll.

He added that all politicians had been sent a message at the European elections to "clean up, shape up, and come back to us when the problem is fixed".

Labour MPs who wanted to replace Gordon Brown were warned by loyalists that such a move would lead to an immediate election, at a time when Labour has just suffered its worst national poll result in 90 years.

Among the Northern Ireland parties the DUP voted for dissolution while the SDLP and the sole Ulster Unionist, Lady Hermon, voted against.

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