The long and grinding road to polling day

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The once much-vaunted coalition, born amid a chorus of political billing and cooing, is now collapsing in chaos at our feet, beset by back-stabbing and ill-feeling.

Good riddance? Some might say that. But at the time there seemed no other option. David Cameron had led the Tories to victory but with insufficient seats to command an overall majority in the House of Commons. Cameron was not prepared to try to go it alone with a minority government so a coalition was inevitable. There were some senior Tories, including Lord Tebbit, who thought Cameron should have risked a minority government but the Prime Minister ignored them, probably wisely.

So Cameron had nowhere else to turn but to the Lib Dems who had a poor general election result, losing five seats when it was confidently predicted they would increase their tally. It did not turn to dust immediately, but it did soon become apparent to Cameron that he had on his hands a grumpy and sometimes divisive Business Secretary in Vince Cable, a sometimes downright hostile deputy Prime Minister in Nick Clegg, as well as other tricky characters, including Education Minister David Laws, who have been highly and publicly critical of Tory policies in a government which they are supposed to support. I can almost hear Cameron muttering to himself, “never again” and I wouldn’t blame him for that.

That could explain, partially at least, why, reportedly, Conservative Central Office is planning for two general elections this year, the first time this would have happened since 1974. Ed Miliband might now be equally dubious about forming a coalition if Labour turns out to be the biggest party in any hung Parliament. After May 7, if the soothsayers are correct, the Lib Dems could be out of the running to join in any coalition themselves. Those who predict these things say they are heading for near parliamentary oblivion after this election.

But we are now being confronted with a four-month general election campaign. Posters are being announced, press conferences with a general election motif are being held. By the time we get to May 7 we shall all be bored rigid with it.

The answer to all this is to repeal the law enacted for fixed-term 
paliaments, and hold the election almost straightaway. This Parliament is ready for the knackers yard, and should be consigned there without delay.