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General election: Timing is a scandal

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Most of us in business have to work to deadlines: whether they’re project completion dates; end-of-years; where you fit within your supplier’s capabilities; or, simply, when the client wants the work done. Once that date is set, businesses and the people within them move heaven and earth to deliver the job. Missed deadlines can jeopardise contracts and the likelihood of future business; if you’re in the building trade, you can get fined for not meeting contractual obligations. It’s a mean world, but we all live with it.

Which is why the past few weeks has been such an absurd spectacle. Why our elected government should be allowed to set its own timetables for calling a general election baffles me utterly. 

Since when has it been okay for any organisation to set its own timetable for a contest? Why is it deemed okay for a country to suffer months of uncertainty while lobbyists, advisers and ministers prepare for their month in the sun? The volatility of the stockmarkets in recent weeks has been largely down to the election waiting game: will they, won’t they? Will it be May 6? Will Gordon Brown draw out the agony to the final moment?

Setting aside all this commercial logic, Gordon Brown’s stately drive to the Palace surely grants him and his government a PR advantage over his rivals for office.

All good sense points towards fixed-term parliaments; if you can’t get the job done in that time, or if the headlines are against you when ballot time calls, then bad luck. That’s how the rest of us have to live.

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