Because there is no Parliament, there is no legislature to hold the Executive to account. The longer Operation Temperer remains in place, the more this abnormality will be felt.
The terror threat level has been raised to Critical, thus triggering Operation Temperer – the deployment of some 5000 troops under police command. Temperer has not been put into effect previously when the level was raised to Critical. This itself has only happened twice, fairly briefly in both instances. However, there is no reason to believe, given what Theresa May has described as “the possibility of a wider network”, that Temperer is likely to be called off soon, or the threat level downgraded.
We are thus in the peculiar situation of there being no legislature to question the executive about its response to the Manchester atrocity and the terror threat. It is important to stress that the Prime Minister did not raise the threat level: the body responsible is the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which sits within MI5. ConservativeHome is not suggesting that the wrong decision has been taken. But the longer Temperer endures during the run-up to June 8, the more unusual the situation will be. Watch for when the Left and others begin to agitate about it.
It is desirable to return to general election normality. But for the time being it is impossible to do so.
As we write, it is not clear for how long the political parties will suspend campaigning. The decision is not necessarily a black-and-white one: local leafletting and canvassing could resume, for example, before the Party leaders and campaigning machine creak back into full gear. And obviously, it is desirable to show the terrorists that democracy continues as normal – or as near normal as is possible under in the aftermath of a terror atrocity, with further atrocities being, alas, far from impossible.
The more one thinks about it, the more one comes to grasp that campaigning normality is not possible for the moment, and won’t be for quite a bit – perhaps even for whole of the remaining campaign. It is simply impossible for the usual name-calling and mud-slinging to take place in the aftermath of the Manchester slaughter – first, because children are still missing, people are still dying, funerals will soon take place, and so on. And second, because of the hunt for a possible terrorist cell.
Campaigning as usual would thus be seen by many voters as being in the worst possible taste. There will, too, be calls for “a more mature type of election campaign”, which are likely to have an impact, however briefly. The Prime Minister is off today to the NATO summit. The Sunday papers will pore over the Manchester terror. If one adds all this together, the sum is that the campaign is unlikely to resume in earnest until at least next week. The EU referendum campaigns eventually resumed course after the murder of Jo Cox. This may be different.
It is not desirable to call of the general election. Fortunately, it seems impossible for this to be done, too.
The opposite reaction to “carry on as usual” is “call the whole thing off”. It can’t be. There is no Lords or Commons to recall. Theresa May is not an MP. Nor are any of the members of the 2015-17 Parliament.
For the time being, this general election is in No Man’s Land.