Sunday, May 07, 2006

Yer'll never get nowhere if yer too 'asty

There's an Observer leader about Labour's leadership today. If Mr Blair stands down too soon his successor could justifiably be accused of having no mandate because the general election last year was won on the basis that Mr Blair would serve 'a full term'. I've been bleating on to anyone who'll listen (ie virtually no one) about the battering from the opposition and the hostile media that the new leader would face under such circumstances.

As the Observer puts it: "those calling for resignations should consider the question of democracy. Just a year ago, Labour was re-elected with a good majority, Tony Blair having declared that he would serve another term (but not fight the next election). Is it right, then, for his internal opponents to subvert the electorate's choice?".

Mr Brown on the Andrew Marr show this morning said that the situation was unique and that an orderly and stable transition was needed. He refused to be drawn on a date for things to happen; he said this was a matter for Mr Blair and the party. He also spoke about broadening the coalition of support for Labour, about increasing the confidence of the British population in the face of globalisation and about ensuring that extremist couldn't seize control of the party. One day he'll make a fine Prime Minister.

Btw the title of this post comes (loosely) from a 1962 song called "Right said Fred" which we thought was jolly good. The sixties wasn't quite such an exciting decade, especially in its early stages, as some would have you believe.


At 11:14, Anonymous camdenlady said...

The arguement about 'quality of democracy' is a difficult one. Its a serious failing of our democracy that it is basically elected dictatorship, and its unlikely that many voters approved of all policies, people etc of the party they voted for.
Just because someone voted labour, there's no guarantee, or even likelihood, that they approved of every single aspect of Labour.

At 13:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sixties-the white heat of technology-it doesn't mean the pound in your pocket is worth less-
I know what's going on,I'm going on......halcyon days!!!

At 14:17, Blogger DCveR said...

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to hold new elections should Mr. Blair resign? Or is the 'antecipated elections' scenario something that can not happen in the UK? Sorry if this question sounds too ignorant, but here in Portugal when the leader of the ruling party resigns both things can happen, antecipated elections or a new government with a different leader.

At 15:09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no requirement that an election must be held if the PM resigns.Many PMs have resigned- Wilson, Thatcher for example-mid term.
Portugal doesn't exactly have a long history of democracy!

At 17:26, Blogger Bob Piper said...

Why should we have an election when Party Leaders resign? The Lib Dems and Tories have changed their Party Leaders since last year's election.. so what mandate do Ming and Mork have to be leaders of the opposition on the basis of your argument. Council's frequently change their leader in the wake of local government elections... do their new Leaders have a mandate? What if Blair had lost his seat at the last election? Would Labour have not been able to form a government? We don't have a President, we elect a Government and the Leader of the largest Party is invited to form a Government.

At 20:52, Blogger politaholic said...

Bob Piper is right: (i) this is a parliamentary system, not a presidential one so there is no constitutional requirement to call an election when the PM changes; (ii) the Conservatives did not call an election in 1990 when Thatcher was ousted (and, yes, Bob, the sight of her leaving Downing Street in tears made me laugh with joy); (iii) the Conservatives won the 1992 election after changing leaders mid-term and they might have lost had they not done so; and at the 2005 election Brown was more of an asset for Labour than Blair; (iv) if Brown becomes leader later this year or early next year he does not have to wait until 2009/2010 to call an election. He can call an election when still is his "honeymoon" period if the polls are good; (v) everyone is assuming that in a Brown-Cameron contest Brown will struggle (the Tories certainly think this). I wonder. Will the voters really want a Tory-Tony-clone after Tony? Brown may be seen as a dour and grumpy bugger but he is, I think, also seen as a substantial, experienced politician (he is far too right-wing for my taste, but that's another matter). Cameron is all image and spin just like his role-model, and I suspect the voters are tired of that. I think Brown can eat Cameron alive; (vi) speculation about the timing of Blair's departure will continue as long as he stays. This won't go away. The longer it goes on the greater the damage done to the Labour Party. It is better to lance the boil.

At 21:39, Blogger Hughes Views said...

Thanks for all your comments.

Camden Lady, I wish I'd been the person who first said something like 'democracy's a terrible form of government, its only redeeming quality is that it's so much better than any other that's ever been tried'. It is of course true that no one is likely to agree with every policy of any party. In my view it's a question of finding the closest fit but considering also if the party is likely to get into power in one's lifetime. A pessimist would have to choose the least awful and an optimist the best.

dcver, in the UK our parliament (well the House of Commons) chooses when a general election will be held (although it must be within five years of the last one). In reality this usually means that the Prime Minister makes the decision except (as for example in 1979) if he loses a vote of 'confidence'. Labour don't want another election yet because they're at the start of some unpopular reforms and want to wait for the brighter days ahead when some gains from the present pains should come through.

Bob, a problem I see is that Labour won the election after Mr Blair had promised (you'd possibly say threatened) to serve a full term. If he goes now his successor would be taunted by the opposition parties and the media for 'not having a proper mandate' and Labour could be accused of lying to the electorate even though there was nothing in the manifesto. I guess he could go on health grounds like Wilson and Macmillan did but otherwise it's difficult to see how it would be in the party's long-term interest.

Politaholic I think a problem with your suggestion is that the government's popularity isn't likely to peak again for a few years - there are some potentially difficult things going through at the moment and Gordon Brown is committed to them just as much as Tony Blair is. Plus there's always the charge of 'cutting and running' if a government calls an election early in its term especially if it already has a decent majority. And, although people are apt to forget, Labour does have a decent majority (one that we'd have died for before 1997) at the moment.

anonymous said...... , Portugal seems to be doing pretty well now after 30 years of democracy and 20 in the EEC/EU. (One of the good things about the EU is that it only lets democracies in and this has helped and is helping to spread democracy across Europe, but I'm not sure if this was a factor in Portugal's democratisation.)

At 18:01, Blogger DCveR said...

Thank you for the explanations. As for Portugal I guess we have as bad a democracy as any other western country, but then again it is in fact better than a dictactorship wihtout any elections.
And being part of the EU didn't change our democratization, it took two bloodless revolutions to do that, but by the end of 1975 the process was pretty much over. Not long ago I know.


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