Written by a Conservative member in the South West of England, as part of our general election series.
Although, like Brenda from Bristol, we may be tempted to roll our eyes and exclaim ‘not another one’, the decision by our Prime Minister to call a general election was undoubtedly correct. The 2015-17 Parliament was elected under very different circumstances, and it strains credibility to prolong it throughout the whole process of Brexit. Indeed, this election will be dominated by the question of Brexit. In seven weeks we will have a Parliament elected by the people in full awareness they will be voting to take us out of the European Union.
Although the motion to dissolve Parliament early was approved by a vote of 522 to 13 in the House of Commons, there has been some criticism, notably by Nicola Sturgeon, that this was called solely for the advantage of the Conservative party. We should remember that the Chartists, struggling for political reform in the early reign of Queen Victoria, demanded annual general elections – the only part of their programme we do not experience as reality today. One of the flaws with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (taking its title literally) is the five-year term. With parliaments since 1945 lasting on average only 3 years 10 months, a fixed term of five years is too long.
For the purposes of ensuring that public opinion is regularly reflected in the Commons and that the Commons is refreshed by infusions of new blood, we must welcome the event of this election. With such a short period since the last election, the opportunity for defeated former MPs of talent and ability, such as Esther McVey and Jo Swinson, to return to the House should particularly be welcomed.
The quality of our representatives aside, the problems British politics has faced in the second decade of the 21st century have been, above all, problems about the nature of our democracy. Who is supreme: Parliament or the electorate? Voters or their representatives? Perhaps even law or public opinion? A primary reason to breathe a sigh of relief at this election is it goes some way towards restoring the balance of the constitution.
As the Conservative party has adopted the position of Brexit, while UKIP is forgotten, the return of a Conservative majority is therefore, a majority for Brexit. We might almost consider the 2016 referendum as the most definitive of opinion polls. Although Parliament’s vote to notify Article 50 put the stamp on that poll, the actual business of leaving the European Union will be delegated to the chosen representatives of the people. This election will provide a definitive mandate to the government over the greatest question of our time.
A final point, this election feels curiously British and comforting. Unexpected as it is, it leaves just seven weeks to select candidates, devise policy, write manifestos, print literature and campaign. Britain generally enjoys advantages of decision and celerity in our electoral system. Compared with the months of electioneering in France – or the many years of the US electoral cycle – this is astonishingly short. By the middle of June, we will have a new government, with the Queen inviting the winner to form an administration.
We should be thankful still to be British: this election will clear the air like a thunderstorm on a stifling summer’s day. Under the circumstances, it may be the results are equally thunderous.