One of the problems for all MPs today is that they are faced with voting for a U turn on at least two of the Acts that they voted into law while David Cameron was Prime Minister. No doubt there are many other Acts that came into law during that period that are much more deserving of being abolished or suspended than these two. In giving the country and indeed MPs in Westminster around 24 hours to consider such matters one could argue that Theresa May is being reckless and selfish or fiendishly clever, bearing in mind there are indications that she has already signed up Lynton Crosby and his company to fight the campaign between now and 8th June. There is no reason for this decision at this point and indeed there is a good argument to be made for a responsible Prime Minister to have chosen a different time. In any event there is no urgency. In calling for a vote today the action does not have time for any meaningful scrutiny or challenge. If Labour are put at a disadvantage, what about people outside of the political parties or in the smaller parties such as WEP? Once again the two main parties are proving that they get to set the rules of the game which they have most to gain from.
This announcement is destroying all that was intended to be achieved in the Fixed Term Parliament Act. A responsible Prime Minister would make the announcement and allow Parliament and the Civil Service to consider if there are Bills under way that will suffer as a result of what could be a major change in the political landscape. A responsible Prime Minister would have looked at the Calendar to see if there were alternatives. Why for instance did she not call an election 4 weeks ago so that the polling would have taken place at the same time as local elections? That would have saved the nation substantial sums of money. A responsible and effective opposition would refuse to support this action with the timetable that Mrs May has in mind. The whole point of having to gain 2/3 of Parliaments approval is that this must be a measured and considered action, not a panicky rush to a decision when there are prospects of a third World War and when many people in the UK are still recovering from the impact of the referendum. It would also be much more timely now that so much time has passed since the lies and dishonesty of the 2015 election to wait till the beginning of June to find out if any MPs or their agents are to be charged with electoral fraud before going to the country.
If one of the Acts that has been ignored is the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the other whilst superficially far less significant, does indicate just how damaging this action is. There were three parts to the Lobbying Bill which Theresa May voted for. Parts 1 and 3 referred to Trade Unions and Paid Lobbyists. Part Two however focused on the work of charities in the run up to elections. The law demands action from charities that spend more than £20,000 in England or £10,000 in the rest of the UK on “regulated activities”, they must register with the Electoral Commission as non-party campaigners. This must occur in advance of the regulated period before elections. This period is 12 months for UK general elections and four months for European and other national elections. Regulated activities are media events, transport for a campaign, the production of election materials, canvassing and market research, and public events if they can “reasonably be regarded as intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories of candidates, including political parties or categories of candidates who support or do not support particular policies or issues”. What the Act does not do is explain what the rules are if snap elections are called! In reality it will probably take 6 weeks for the charity commission to come up with guidance over this vital matter by which time the votes will have been counted.