OK, now this ridiculous farce about the timing of the general election in the UK has gone on long enough.
Why on earth should the incumbent Prime Minister have the power to call a general election at any time, up to the date of the final expiry of the Parliament? It is just another piece of the Royal prerogative that has long outlived its usefulness. It is blatantly unfair that an incumbent government should be allowed to decide for itself when its mandate needs renewing, with all the advantage in planning and party expenditure that this allows.
The first sign of a government that is serious about reforming Parliament would be to set fixed expiration dates for each Parliament. At present, the date is movable up to five years after the previous election. In my view, it should be a fixed date every four years. That would allow all those involved in the electoral process to plan their lives, and remove the potential for abuse that currently exists.
Of course, if a hung Parliament does emerge from the next election, then I suspect that a fixed term will indeed become compulsory: if I were Nick Clegg, I would insist that any coalition agreement was allowed to run its full course, otherwise the potential for political mischief by the Prime Minister of the day could be substantial.
Meanwhile, as yet another week passes with no date for the budget and no date for an election, the economic position of the UK grows more grave and the political outlook grows more uncertain. Fixed term Parliaments operate in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: it is long overdue that they were introduced for Westminster too.