It takes a long time to do even a very simple boundary review, doesn't it? And the boundary review that equalises constituencies and reduces the number of MPs to 600 isn't simple. There must be a big question mark over whether the review will be ready. And this by itself will tie in the politicians to a late election.
Yes – although of course both coalition partners say they want to go the full five years anyway. The review will take a good while. Unlike Danny, I expect it will be finished in time, but its lateness in the parliamentary term will still be significant.
Two words: candidate selection.
This can’t take place until we know what constituencies there’ll be. So it will have to take place late and quickly. This will mean would-be candidates (including MPs for seats that have been taken apart and then put together with bits of other old seats) rushing to get selected by their local parties and then known to the local public. The obvious consequence is that, except where one of them is a sitting MP for a mostly or wholly unaltered seat, the candidates will be less familiar than usual to the voters come polling day.
(Many, perhaps even most seats will be unchanged. But nobody will know which until the review is done.)
But also, I think this means that local prospective candidates will have an advantage in selections, as they may at least be known in the area as campaigners and/or councillors. National party ‘stars’ and leadership favourites will have much less chance to cultivate local party supporters, as they won’t know which seats will look tempting prospects until the review is complete. And if selected, they’ll have much less time before the election to get to know the area and its people.
Finally, while sitting MPs always have an advantage over other candidates in terms of their profile, next election this edge will be greater than usual: if they are selected to fight mostly/or wholly unchanged seats, then the lateness of the selection won’t make much difference to their long-term self-promotion campaign.