George Trefgarne

An election before 2015 could soon be illegal

Amazingly, the forces of conservatism derided by Tony Blair, are in the ascendant, their enemies scattering and in retreat. Bin Laden is dead, the oil price tumbling, the Royal Wedding was a triumph and now Labour and the Lib Dems beaten at the ballot box. Surely, we tell ourselves, this is an alignment of the stars, a Conservative moment. David Cameron must seize the day, or at least the year, by abandoning the Coalition and calling a general election soon. Landslide, here we go!

Hold your horses. Britain’s electoral machinery is off the road, its parts all over the workshop floor. Thanks to the constitutional tinkering of the Coalition, the procedural and practical obstacles to holding a general election in the next four years are substantial and rising. Indeed, before long, if Clegg & co have their way, it could actually be illegal.

To understand why, go along to the House of Lords on Tuesday, May 10th, where business will be dominated by an abominable piece of legislation called the Fixed Term Parliament Bill. It is at Report Stage, which means the Lords will be considering amendments. Top of the list, I imagine, will be changing the second sentence, which reads: “The polling day for the next parliamentary general election after the passing of this Act is to be 7 May 2015”.

Although, the country is not ready for another election just yet, the local elections and referendum both go to show that holding one in the next year or two could be reasonable. Labour certainly thinks so, and the shadow cabinet is reportedly on standby. Why should we have to wait, by law, until 2015? And why, in future, should we always be forced to make do with any Government, however bad or unpopular, for five years? The answer is that this is a commitment in the Coalition Agreement, which now looks terribly out of date.

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