Fixed-cost political opportunities?

By Sir Merrick Cockell and David Rees | 05 May 2015

Fixed-term parliaments are alien to national politicians but entirely normal for those working at local level. Whether local government is elected by thirds or all-out every four years, everyone knows exactly when they will be up for election.

That predictability means they plan around the electoral cycle. Wise councils do not introduce revolutionary new ways to recycle in their final six months and developers do not aim to take a major planning application to committee in January of an election year.

In contrast, the historic ability of an incumbent prime minister to go to the country at the point of maximum advantage for their party had the potential to either throw public services into sudden confusion or lead to undue caution. It meant decisions were put off to accommodate an election which no one knew when exactly it would happen. The private sector had to build this risk into its relationship with Government.

Now, the fixed-term parliament has allowed political parties to start writing their manifestos knowing exactly when they needed to launch them. They have planned policy pre-announcements from the final round of party conferences through to the Autumn Statement and Spring Budget.

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