The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 was introduced by the 2010 – 2015 Conservative – Liberal Democrat Government with the best of intentions. It abolished the power of the Prime Minister to call general elections and instead created a system under which parliaments would sit for a fixed period of five years.
The legislation was intended to replace Prime Ministerial discretion with fairness and also introduce a measure of stability. A five-year term would be a five-year term. The only way an election could be called in those five years would be if there were a successful vote of no confidence in the Government or if at least two-thirds of the Commons voted for an election. Thus it was that the election of 2017 was called, bringing to an end a parliament that commenced in 2015.
The problem is that it was never thought that an opposition would ever decide it didn’t want the opportunity to dislodge a sitting Government. And that is true in normal times; but we are currently living through times that are far from normal.
There can be no doubt that we desperately need an election. The Government has lost its majority. The country needs an end to the seemingly interminable Brexit process. People want the issue settled.
However, nothing the Government puts forward is likely to find the support of the majority of the House. Indeed, the majority of the House seems only to want to prolong the process, by calling for yet a further extension of the article 50 period to the end of January, with apparently no clue as to what should happen then.
The Government therefore wants to call a general election, correctly calculating that it will break the logjam and hasten the conclusion of Brexit. Labour, however, don’t want one because the polls are against them and they are concerned they will lose. So it is impossible to obtain the consent of two-thirds of the House.
Ultimately, the problem will have to be resolved and an election called. However, this state of affairs must never happen again. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act doesn’t work. It must be repealed.