The five-year parliamentary life-span decreed by the 1911 Parliament Act is something of a snare and a delusion. Convention has it that a government which travels beyond four and a half years has got itself ‘boxed in’, since thereafter it has no further options for deferment if it runs into squalls. Consequently most modern Prime Ministers who have not, like Callaghan in 1979, been drummed out by Parliament, or, like Heath in 1974, concluded that their options have been prematurely closed, have chosen to take their records to the country with six months to go. It is far from clear that when, as in 1964, government has used its full term, the voters have punished its prevarication. But politicians are often more swayed by legend than experience, and the dangers of running voluntarily over four and a half years command a wide acceptance.
KeywordsPrime Minister Opinion Poll Labour Party Nuclear Disarmament Early Election
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