The parliament elected in the early summer of 2017 is coming to an end, having lasted only just over half the time provided for by the “infamous” Fixed Term Parliaments Act wished on us by the Liberal Democrats in 2010. That Act may expire, regretted by few. It’s not British. Fixed term elections may be all right for the Americans and some other foreigners, but not for us, even though Westminster’s Scotland Act mandated a fixed term for the devolved Scottish Parliament.
Be that as it may, the general mood will, it seems, be one of relief. It’s been a rotten parliament (as my editor says) unable to get anything done, most importantly unwilling and unable to make Brexit happen. Accordingly many will greet its end with a sigh of relief or even lusty cheering. Even some Remainers are fed up with it.
Once again I find myself in a minority, While others celebrate its demise, I echo Sam Goldwyn and say “include me out”. I think it’s been rather a good parliament, good, first, because it has mirrored the mood of the country. Of course it hasn’t got Brexit done, but this is because there is no consensus as to what Brexit should be, what form it should take. There’s no such consensus in the country, and so there is none in parliament. Even Brexiteers in the Commons can’t agree on how clean the break from the EU should be.
Mrs May negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement, and did so when she had notionally or nominally a majority in the Commons, thanks to her understanding with the DUP. Usually a government with a tiny or fragile majority can get its business through the Commons. Back in the late Seventies, Jim Callaghan was just able to govern because of the pact he had made with the Liberals, and because his own Labour party was loyal and disciplined, while he also had the support of the SNP until they deserted him after the failure of the 1979 referendum on Scottish devolution.
Then in 2010 the Conservatives were some way short of a majority, but the coalition with the Liberal Democrats held for five years, and got its business done. In short a government with a majority, even if that depends on the support of a smaller party, has been able to exercise power. The opposition may cavil and criticize, but it has been essentially impotent.