The Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011 entitles governments to five years in power, where they can run the country how they see fit. However, as we get ready for the third election in four years, Fraser Innes asks why governments would give away this right.
For centuries, Prime Ministers have been able to call elections whenever they see fit, this power has been used to call elections when they are riding high in the polls. However, this power was theoretically limited by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, forcing two-thirds of all MPs to support the election before it can happen. However, this has done little to stop the onslaught of elections.
Since his unexpected rise to Labour leader in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn had been criticising Theresa May and her government, yet wallowing in the polls. When on 18th of April 2017, Theresa May shocked the UK and interrupted my S3 exam revision to announce a general election. Her advisors were convinced that the Labour Party, more than 15 points behind in the polls, were in a state of disarray and would be defeated by a landslide. May seized this opportunity to put the Labour Party behind for a decade. History tells a different story as the narrow Conservative majority disappeared, leaving a hung parliament rather than the landslide the pundits expected. Theresa May tried to use a polling advantage to call the early election, surprising her opposition, as Prime Ministers have done for decades, however she was met with a well organised movement opposing her and suffered as a result.
When Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July, he was left with a party short of a majority, the worst party discipline in living memory and promptly withdrew the whip from MPs, it was quite clear passing any meaningful legislation was going to be impossible – he lost almost every vote he put to the house. The election next month was not a surprise to anyone. It was a necessity, like in the second election of 1974, it happened due to a lack of parliamentary arithmetic for the Prime Minister to progress. And while Labour tried to avoid it, the election was inevitable and was coming sooner rather than later.
In conclusion, Governments call snap elections if they think they are in a good position to win; or if they have to as they will not function on the parliamentary arithmetic of the time.