Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Paul Linford Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Paul Linford Columnist

Article excerpt


DURING the course of my lifetime, there have been 13 general elections, which - without necessarily being too precise about my age - means an average of roughly one election every three-and-a-half to four years.

Certainly that was the pattern during the premierships of the two most electorally successful Prime Ministers of that period - Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

Both seemed to think that a four-year gap between elections was about right, and both were duly re-elected twice after having served four-year terms.

By contrast, the three premiers of recent times who hung on into the fifth year of a Parliament - Jim Callaghan, John Major and Gordon Brown - all ultimately went down to electoral defeat.

So when David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced in 2010 that their Coalition would run for five years, and later legislated to provide for five-year fixed-term Parliaments, I was initially dubious on two counts For starters, it seemed to me that however good a job the Coalition ended up doing, making the public wait five years before it had the chance to pass judgment on it would scarcely be good for democracy.

If five-year fixed-term parliaments remain on the statute book that long, it will mean approximately six fewer elections over the course of the next 100 years than was the case over the last 100.

While some people will doubtless welcome that, one thing it certainly won't do is make our political system more accountable.

But further to that, as longstanding readers of this column will recall, I was also somewhat sceptical about whether the Coalition would even last that long in any case.

My suspicion was that the internal dynamics of the two parties would almost certainly pull them apart sooner rather than later, with both the Tory right and the Lib Dem left demanding a more distinctive policy agenda from their respective party leaderships.

Well, it seems I was wrong about that. But I wasn't wrong about the difficulties that would be posed for the Coalition by the two parties' very differing world views. And even though he once extolled the merits of Coalition government, it now seems that even Mr Cameron has had enough of its inevitable compromises, having apparently decided it will run for five years and no further. …

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