The general election campaign has officially begun after the prime minister informed the Queen of the dissolution of parliament.
The prime minister has driven to Buckingham Palace for an audience with the Queen ahead of a 7 May ballot, marking the symbolic end of five years of coalition government between Mr Cameron’s Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
Speaking outside No 10 Downing Street after returning from the palace, Mr Cameron said that the 7 May poll offeredd voters a “stark choice” between him and Labour leader Ed Miliband as prime minister. He warned that a Labour victory would deliver “economic chaos” and takes hikes of more than £3,000 for the average familiy.
Meanwhile, Mr Miliband warned that the referendum on EU membership promised by Mr Cameron if the Cosnervatives win the election represents “a clear and present danger to British jobs, British business, British families and British prosperity”.
Deputy Premier Nick Clegg, who followed David Cameron to the palace in his role as president of the Privy Council, predicted another hung parliament. “It’s my view that the era of single-party government is over in British politics,” he said, promising that the Liberal Democrats would keep a future government “anchored in the centre ground”.
In the past the timing of dissolution was decided by the prime minister of the day, sweeping up to Buckingham Palace to request of the monarch that they exercise their royal prerogative. But the Fixed Term Parliaments Act not only ended the power of a prime minister to decide the date of an election, but stripped the Queen of any role.
Another dissolution is not scheduled for another five years but there are circumstances – more likely to occur in the event of a very close election result and a hung parliament – that could trigger it sooner. It would require a two-thirds majority of the whole Commons to agree or the prime minister to lose a motion of no confidence and an alternative administration fail to be formed within a fortnight.
While the Queen may have lost the ceremonial power to dismiss the MPs, she is still required to send out a proclamation summoning a new parliament on the date selected by Mr Cameron. And that means a continued piece of pageantry in the City of London where the serjeant-at-arms and London’s common cryer, in full ceremonial dress, will read it aloud on the steps of the Royal Exchange. The royal proclamation will also be published in the London Gazette.