I have been somewhat surprised to see media speculation that, in the light of tensions within the coalition, we could see the end of the coalition and ‘an early election’. Comparative experience suggests coalitions can survive internal tensions – as I pointed in a chapter on the subject, disharmony should not be confused with instability – but, that aside, the suggestion of a possible early election ignores a rather fundamental chage in our constitutional arrangements. That is, that we now have fixed-term Parliaments. Section 7 (2) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 provides that ‘This Act comes into force on the day it is passed.’ It received Royal Assent on 15 September.
The Act provides that the next general election will take place on 7 May 2015. The only circumstances in which there could be an early election are (a) if the House of Commons carries a vote of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government (and no new government can be formed within 14 days) or (b) the House votes by a two-thirds majority for an early election. Given that there are strong political and financial reasons why none of the three main parties would favour an early election, there is no obvious incentive to trigger either option.