Politics 29 December 2009 Labour shouldn't be able to duck a by-election It should be a legal requirement to hold a by-election within three months Sign up for our weekly email * Print HTML After the sad death of the Labour MP David Taylor, who was one of the few genuine socialists left in the Commons, attention has turned to the possibility of a by-election just a few months before the general election. Labour is likely to do all it can to avoid holding one, and with good reason. The party's majority in North-West Leicestershire, which Taylor first won in 1997, is only 4,477 votes and would be overturned with a swing of 5 per cent to the Tories. By convention, by-elections are held three months after the death or resignation an MP but there is no constitutional obligation to hold one within this period. Yet it would be unacceptable to leave Taylor's old constituents unrepresented for up to six months. The solution is surely to make it a legal requirement for by-elections to be held within three months of a seat becoming vacant. Like fixed-term parliaments, such a reform would end the manipulation of the electoral calendar by the governing party. I won't get my hopes up, but this is exactly the kind of high-minded reform Labour should pursue in its final months in office. Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter › The return of the shah, sans jewels George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman. Subscribe from just £1 per issue More Related articles The public like radical policies, but they aren't so keen on radical politicians Theresa May dodges difficult questions about social care and NHS in Andrew Neil interview Why is Labour surging in Wales?