Boris Johnson able to call early election under proposed new law

Boris Johnson could be given the power to call an early election under a new law proposed by the government.

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 took away the prime minister’s power to hold an early election without the approval of MPs.

But the government has now begun the process to scrap the act, as it said it would in its pre-election pledges.

Last month MPs warned against handing the power to set the election date back to prime ministers.

The government said their new bill would reinstate “tried-and-tested constitutional arrangements” and prevent parliamentary stalemates.

The next election is currently scheduled for 2 May 2024.

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act was brought in by then-Prime Minister David Cameron to reassure his Liberal Democrat coalition partners that he would not call an early election.

The law states that there can only be an early election if the government lost a vote of confidence or if it is supported by a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons.

It also created a fixed five year period between elections.

Before the act, prime ministers would have to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament – essentially meaning prime ministers could call an election whenever they wanted.

At the 2019 election, the Conservatives promised to get rid of the law arguing that it had “led to paralysis at a time the country needed decisive action”.

Last autumn, Boris Johnson tried to call an election following several failed attempts to get his Brexit deal approved in Parliament.

MPs initially rejected, but later accepted, his efforts to call an early election in order to break the Brexit deadlock.

The House of Commons also approved an early election in 2017 at the request of Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.

In September a Commons committee said the current law had “limited the ability of incumbent governments to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents by choosing an election date that suits their political ends”.

It said: “Whatever legislation replaces the act it is important that this ‘level playing field’ for democracy is maintained.”

Constitution minister Chloe Smith said: “The Fixed-term Parliaments Act caused constitutional chaos last year which, when combined with total gridlock in Parliament, meant the previous government couldn’t deliver what it was asked to do.

“So we are going back to the system that lets elections happen when they are needed – we want to return to constitutional arrangements that give people more confidence in what to expect, and more security.”

A cross-party committee of parliamentarians will scrutinise a draft of the bill.

Elliot Page: Juno star announces he is transgender

The Oscar-nominated star of Juno has announced that he is transgender, introducing himself as Elliot Page in a social media post.

The Canadian-born actor, formerly known as Ellen Page, said he could not “begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self”.

“I love that I am trans. And I love that I am queer,” he wrote on Twitter.

Page also used the post to address discrimination towards trans people.

“The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I’m scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the ‘jokes’ and of violence,” the 33-year-old wrote.

“To be clear, I am not trying to dampen a moment that is joyous and one that I celebrate, but I want to address the full picture. The statistics are staggering.”

Addressing the trans community, Page said he would “do everything I can to change this world for the better”.

Page received international acclaim for starring as a pregnant teenager in the 2007 film Juno.

Other major films include Inception and the X-Men series, while the actor has more recently starred in Netflix series The Umbrella Academy.

Page came out as gay in 2014, telling an audience in Las Vegas: “I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission.”

The actor, who is married to choreographer Emma Portner, has been a prominent advocate for LGBT rights.

Trans people across the UK have told me that Elliot Page’s coming out has happened at a “much needed time”.

This news, from one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, who now becomes one of the world’s most famous transgender stars, has happened on a big day for trans rights in the UK.

Today, a legal case about puberty-blocking drugs concluded, with leading charities calling it a “rolling back” of trans rights, and “a catastrophic moment” for trans people.

In Elliot Page’s statement, he referenced how he will now fight for better trans healthcare.

Since coming out as gay in 2014, Page has become known as one of Hollywood’s most outspoken LGBT actors. In his viral speech in 2014, he said “I suffered for years because I was scared to be out… And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain.”

Today’s coming out has triggered another huge international wave of support.

Many praised Page following his announcement on Tuesday.

“Elliot Page has given us fantastic characters on-screen, and has been an outspoken advocate for all LGBTQ people,” said Nick Adams, director of transgender media at advocacy group GLAAD.

“He will now be an inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people. All transgender people deserve the chance to be ourselves and to be accepted for who we are. We celebrate the remarkable Elliot Page today.”

“So proud of our superhero,” Netflix wrote on Twitter.

Esther Dingley: Partner says police looking at non-accident options

Police searching for a British hiker missing in the Pyrenees are “looking at other options” beyond an accident, her partner has said.

Esther Dingley, 37, last messaged her partner Dan Colegate via WhatsApp on 22 November, when she was on top of Pic de Sauvegarde on the France-Spain border.

She had been due to return from her solo walking trek on 25 November.

Mr Colegate said after extensive searches the “prevailing opinion” is she is not in the mountains.

In a post on Facebook, he praised the French and Spanish search and rescue teams’ efforts, but said: “Taking into account Esther’s high level of experience, the nature of the terrain, the good weather she would have had, the fact she had a clearly defined route for Sunday evening and Monday, and various other factors, both search coordinators have essentially told me that the prevailing opinion in the search teams is that she isn’t there.

“If she had fallen from one of the paths, they really would have expected to find her given the intensity, the closeness of the search and the fact most of the trails are really quite straightforward across open ground.”

Mr Colegate said Ms Dingley is now listed as a national missing person in Spain and her case has been passed to a “specialised judicial unit in France”.

“This means they will be looking at other options beyond a mountain accident,” he said.

Mr Colegate said: “While this is a terrifying development in many ways, I’m trying to focus on the fact that it leaves the door open that Esther might still come home.

“She was so utterly happy and joyful when we last spoke, I’d do anything to see her face and hold her right now.”

Ms Dingley had been travelling in the couple’s camper van while Mr Colegate stayed at a farm in the Gascony area of France.

The weekend she set out on the trek, the couple’s story about their adventures around Europe in the camper van since 2014 was published by BBC News.

Ms Dingley had started walking from Benasque in Spain on Saturday and had planned to spend Sunday night at Refuge de Venasque in France, Mr Colegate said.

The couple had lived in Durham before deciding to pack up their lives and go travelling after Mr Colegate nearly died from an infection.

Louth crash: Keith Lennon pleads guilty over three deaths

A 21-year-old man has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of three people from Northern Ireland following a car crash in County Louth.

Keith Lennon, of Forest Park, Dromintee, County Armagh, appeared at Drogheda Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Bryan Magill, from Newry, County Armagh, and Mary and Kevin Faxton, from Bessbrook, in County Armagh, died in the two-vehicle crash on 29 February.

It happened on the N1 at Carrickarnon, Ravensdale, Dundalk.

The court heard Lennon wanted to surrender his bail as an acknowledgement of the serious wrongs committed.

Judge Patrick Quinn adjourned the case to January and remanded Lennon in custody to appear by video-link.

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