In Praise of the Fixed Term Parliament Act
There has been much comment about “the problems with the Fixed Term Parliament Act” preventing a Government from calling an election when it wants to – even preventing a resolution of the dreaded Brexit Question.
However, I believe it is a useful bulwark of Parliamentary Democracy. Our Parliamentary Democracy is imperfect and has its problems but it is important to support it. The Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) does this.
A Parliamentary Democracy is one where it is Parliament (not Government) that has primacy. We elect MPs to form this (hopefully) representative body. (The fact it is not representative is a separate motive for reform.)
It is then for Parliament (usually implicitly) to elect a Prime Minister and an executive which can command the support of the House of Commons. The Government (between elections) is held to account by the Parliament.
If a Government loses the confidence of the House, it would seem logical for it to initially go back to the (representative) Parliament to try and resolve the situation. Parliament retains control.
For a Government which may be in trouble (or facing future trouble) to have the advantage of choosing when to go back to the country would seem to reverse the roles.
If Parliament is sovereign it should look at what to do if the Government cannot carry on.
In circumstances like we face today the idea of our representatives getting their heads together and forming an administration to act in the national interest and address the key issue facing our country seems to me to be a sensible and pragmatic way forward.
The alternative, an election called by the Prime Minister (exact date to be decided by the Prime Minister) does not allow these issues to be addressed. In fact calling an election could prevent Parliament from addressing those issues until it is too late!
The Fixed Term Parliament Act protects Parliamentary Democracy from such shenanigans.