No, no, really, no

Sometimes, their rule-bending works almost to perfection. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011, which stated that governments should always last five years, except in narrowly defined circumstances, protected the Tories during the early 2010s, when their austerity and economic policies were so unpopular that they trailed far behind Labour in the polls, and the chancellor George Osborne was booed at the London Paralympics.

No, it was standard game theory. If you’re in a coalition – even Coalition – how do you make sure that the other party doesn’t defect when the time seems right? How can you ensure that continued cooperation? Make it impossible for the defection to lead to an election, that’s how.

Thus that’s what was done.

8 thoughts on “No, no, really, no”

  1. Andy Beckett is giving a case study in why no one with a brain reads the Guardian for anything other than amusement. Zero understanding of recent political history is not a good look for a commentator

  2. No, it stated that *Parliaments* would always last five years. You can change governments as many times as you want within a single Parliament, and a single government can last many Parliaments. Maggie’s and Tony’s both lasted three and a half Parliaments.

  3. As with many things if one variable is constrained something else has to give. Fixed term parliaments may help maintain a coalition but also make it possible for coalitions to change without facing reelection.

  4. How can you ensure that continued cooperation? Make it impossible for the defection to lead to an election, that’s how.

    It was more a case of guaranteeing Nick Clegg a role in govt that would last five years. It avoided the risk of David Cameron disolving parliament in the event that the balance of LibDem vs. Tory popularity tipped in favour of Cameron.

    With Clegg reneging on his student fees commitment in order to join the coalition, LibDem support plummeted as witness the 2015 election results.

  5. “…trailed far behind Labour in the polls”

    Yep, there would have been hundreds more Labour governments if only elections didn’t only happen on election day.

  6. Wasn’t it the LibDems who insisted on the fixed term? It was certainly mainly to their advantage going in to the coalition; the Tories could easily expect there to be a time when they were doing well enough to risk calling an election with a reasonable chance of winning outright, but that would never be a realistic prospect for Clegg’s lot, so the advantage of banning early elections was all to their side.

  7. The fall-out from Nick Clegg was seen much sooner than 2015, the 2011 slaughter of LibDem local councillors. A side effect was that the majority of the councillors who lost their seats were centrist left-liberals, not Cleggist Orange Bookers, so culling them dramatically shifted the elected Party base from the Yellows to the Oranges, straining it against the membership.

  8. Our local provincial govt called an early election in the middle of Covid as polls were well in their favour. The handful of Greens that were in coalition to make a majority were of course furious that they had been stitched up as they had a coalition no early election pledge. Turned out not to be worth even the paper it was written on

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