March 25, 2022 - 5:15pm

Yesterday marked a milestone moment in British political history: the repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. With the passage of the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act (DCPA), the power to dissolve parliament has returned to the Sovereign.

If you’re a constitutionalist, this represents a significant victory for defenders of the Royal Prerogative — powers exercised, with a few exceptions, by the Executive on behalf of the Crown.

A large school of thought has long maintained that the Prerogative cannot be revived once it has been superseded by statute law passed by Parliament. This has now been done.

But the significance of the moment extends beyond such arcana, important as they are. For the mere sight of a nominally Right-wing government repealing anything is all too rare an occurrence.

Too often, conservatives get themselves stuck in a doomed rut wherein they fight this or that reform tooth and nail until the moment it passes, whereupon they simply give up. When they eventually gain power again, they don’t go back and try to undo the damage but start drawing more pointless lines in the sand.

Such an approach puts the Right at a serious disadvantage. If their intellectual case on a given topic (the ‘nanny state’ being an obvious example) is no more than a reflexive defence of the status quo, it doesn’t spur them to any positive action. They then squander their time in office.

Meanwhile, their progressive opponents are spared the need to fight any defensive battles and can concentrate all their resources on pressing the attack.

There are signs, at its best moments, that elements of the Conservative Party are starting to shake off this thinking. From devolution to the Supreme Court to the Human Rights Act, there is a growing body that aspires to do more than stand sentinel over New Labour’s constitutional cuckoo eggs.

But it is still a minority pursuit. Elsewhere, the Tories remain bafflingly incapable of undoing things. How many times have we been promised a ‘bonfire of the quangos’, for example?

Yet twelve years since the Conservatives first took power, the deep state Tony Blair built is largely intact. A bold Government would simply legislate to increase political accountability for bodies which usefully discharge state functions and abolish the rest.

But that would require sustained, structural thinking about the State and a positive vision for what it ought to look like, and more often than not the Tories simply don’t put in the work.

As a result, how noisily they complain about something like the BBC is pretty much in inverse proportion to the odds of their actually reforming it. Speaking softly is the privilege of those with big sticks, after all.

Nonetheless, the repeal of the FTPA — which I honestly did not think I’d see — shows what a Conservative Government can achieve when the vision and the political will are there. Hopefully the next generation of Tory lawmakers will take inspiration from this rare example of their party getting something done.

Henry Hill is Deputy Editor of ConservativeHome.