Thursday 20 April 2017

Goodbye fixed term parliaments

The fixed term parliament act, foundation stone of the 2010 coalition government, has been swept away as easily as a small sandcastle encountering a large wave.

During the negotiations for the agreement of the  Liberal-Tory coalition the insistence on ensuring that the government be stable was paramount. Neither side much trusted the other. 
The dripping wet, high tax-higher spend, liberals, were not natural bedfellows of the evil, NHS privatising, poor bashing Tories. {Though in reality on both sides the senior people were quite happy moving even closer to the centre than their respective parties were.}

It was a very strong political card that David Cameron had given up to become Prime Minister.
It was accepted the leader of the nation be able to call an election at a time that suited their own agenda. Either at the judged peak of the wave of their popularity, Thatcher style. Or by hanging on to the last possible second before an election had to be called in the hope something might turn up to reverse their dismal fortunes.Brown style. Either way the decision was the Prime Minister's to make.
A mild gerrymandering of the political system to favour the incumbent government.

The financial crisis of 2008 was so serious that stability was deemed essential. The huge polling leads that the Cameron Tories had enjoyed pre-2008 evapourated when the Clunking Fist managed to convince people that only his masterful stewardship of the economy could save us from an economic tsunami.  The public voted on traditional lines. With the liberals mostly keeping their high numbers of MPs. Labour supporters voted Labour. Except in Scotland where the SNP made significant gains.
Tories voted Tory. Kippers voted for UKIP. And the result was a hung parliament. The Tories narrowly falling short. Brown's promises to spend our way out of debt resonated better than Osborne's spending will need to be curbed.

So, the coalition came into being and the Fixed Term Parliament act was devised to ensure neither side could back out when the going got tough. 

It proved a masterstroke. The Liberals, the Italians in this axis coalition, would have bailed out if they could. Their polling figures slumped ever lower. Partly caused by the shock of a lefty party getting in a righties bed. But mostly by their own penchant for telling enourmous whoppers at every election opportunity in the knowledge they would never have to deliver on their false promises.

Stability was achieved. The act seemed to be a permanent part of politics. Worded so carefully that only in the case of extreme political turmoil could it even be discussed whether it might be amended.

So it was quite surprising that it was overturned by a government with a tiny, semi-rebellious majority. For no good reason other than it absolubtely suited the Prime Minister to call an election at this time for purely opportunist reasons entirely favourable to herself. 
Overturned{it wasn't overturned - just now ignored, but essentially its a dead duck.} by 522 to 13.

Labour,desperately wanting to be put out of their own misery.Liberals sensing a closing window of opportunity to gain from Brexit. And the SNP, having managed to over rhetoric themselves into a feisty 'bring it on' position they didn't want at this time, has meant all sides prepared to reset the board, no matter how unfavorably that might turn out for them.

And we used to think Cameron was a lucky leader facing second rate opposition in Brown and Miliband.


Nick Drew said...

Perhaps she will go on to ditch (as many Tory MPs are naturally militating) the fairly inane reduction in number of MPs. Sorting the boundaries for number of voters per constituency is one thing; absolute reduction quite another

Anonymous said...

Not sure it's quite goodbye to them - the stars have aligned for May in this instance, future governments may not be so fortunate unless Fixed Term's are actively removed.

Could easily see a party - perhaps led by someone with more wits about them than, say, Corbyn - frustrate attempts to go to the polls at the best time for an incumbent.

I am surprised at how supine the other parties have been, I'd have thought it a perfect opportunity to deal a blow to the government.

Blue Eyes said...

It is always going to depend on the circs.

There might be times when the opposition could legitimately say that it really is not appropriate to hold an election. If Corbers had done that yesterday then the obvious response would have been "what are you afraid of, the voters?".

It would be highly unusual - I would suggest - in a democracy to refuse the voters a chance to vote.

I don't have any inside knowledge but I strongly suspect that T May took soundings before pressing the button. Corby was on record as saying that he was happy for there to be an election, so the numbers were there from the start.

Nick, you and I share the frustrations of boundary reform delay. I hope to goodness that the manifesto has an explicit promise to enact the current review asap. I have been arguing with a Tory activist (my mum) since about May 2015. I say that Cameron should have done the first bit right away, she says the first round is out of date, I say that there might be an election before the next stage comes due so doing the first bit would be at least a start... Anyway she is now cross because her constituency has not been reformed stymying any likelihood of the useless twit incumbent being ousted or redrawn away to safety. And the Tories don't even have a candidate!

CityUnslicker said...

Boundary reform will surely start again, all those likely new tory mp's wont want their constituencies taken away too early.

I think Corbyn could have, with a lot of balls, really smashed May up in terms of credibility. But he only got two e's at a-level after all so I am pretty sure May knew he would fold at the first whiff of gunfire like all good lefties. Still was a gamble though. He could even have been Prime Minister for 5 mins if he had done it well.

Still, the best betting for me this next few weeks is on the lib dems, they are not going to get close to the seats they think they will.

Steven_L said...

I think the 10-19 seats band looks tempting for the lib dems. The book is wide open on that one, nobody has a clue how it will pan out.

Bill Quango MP said...

Sl-I think that too. Anywhere from 12-20.
Tory wins in the South West have not had any cash yet. They have been Lib dem seats for 20-30 years. They could swing back very easily. Still have all their ground troops. They only thing stopping them is the EU-love the Lib dems have.
SW is Brexit voting.

But they will get metro wins without too much trouble.They can really wipe out the Corbyn's in Frappe-cappuccino country.

James Higham said...

Who in his right mind would go into coalition with Cleggover?

Steven_L said...

The EU announcing we can come back if we vote out the tories has put 11-20 out to 6/1 - that's a massive price :)

Blue Eyes said...

What happened in that ECJ case, does anyone know? The one launched in Ireland to ask whether a country can withdraw its Art. 50 notification.