The 2011 Fixed Parliament Act makes it nearly impossible for Theresa May to call an early general election. Unless two-thirds of MPs vote to call one – which would necessitate Corbyn and May being in the same room as each other without a catfight breaking out – or the government declares it has absolutely no faith in its ability to govern, May cannot call an election before 2020. And that is a very good thing.
Some want another general election due to concerns that May was not elected by the British people. These concerns seem significant; for them, May replacing Cameron is an outrageous, unforgiveable act. But people forget that, in the United Kingdom, the populace has never elected a Prime Minister. When we vote, we do not vote for individual MPs – we vote for a party, not for candidates. The party chooses its own leader, and the Conservative Party chose May. On top of that, whether we like it or not, in the last election the Conservative Party won really rather convincingly. Whatever your opinion of her, there is nothing undemocratic about how May became Prime Minister.
Many of those dissatisfied with the Brexit vote want an early general election because they feel their government no longer represents them. This is understandable. When a political decision has caused as much pain and fear as the referendum did, nobody could be blamed for wanting to lash out at the people who made Brexit a reality.
However, the argument for another general election is as flawed as the argument for a second referendum – it ignores the basics of our democracy. This country is too diverse and disparate to have one unified opinion; when we vote, we do it in the knowledge not only that the conclusion will not please everyone but that we must accept it. Voting is how the British people express their right to have an opinion over what happens to them. We are entitled to disagree with the outcome of a vote, but we are not entitled to attempt to undo it.
It is also worth pointing out that, with the Labour party in chaos and the Liberal Democrats haemorrhaging in the corner somewhere, there is no guarantee that another election will result in a drastically different government anytime soon. It is more important to protect the process of voting than it is to protest its outcome – democracy is inefficient and unsatisfactory for many of us at times but we all recognise that it is better to have it and protect it, and that this is of paramount importance.
I would also like to be able to hold the Conservative Government accountable for a change. I am tired of the opting out we have seen lately on the part of our politicians. The people who govern us are not meant to be able to pull a David Cameron or a Boris Johnson, quitting when the country is in turmoil. We should not encourage them to do so either.
The government that led us into Brexit should follow it through. British politicians need to remember that their responsibilities lie with the British people. If the British people are angry or critical or scared, then their responsibilities should be taken even more seriously.
In the 2020 election, I expect to see an entirely different outcome. But, for now, I want Theresa May and the Tories to step up and fix the chaos they created.
Image: Bryan Calabro