M/s Truss's premiership is over - or, at least, it will be in a week.
Her resignation after barely six weeks "in office but not in power" raises both major and minor questions. To deal with minor ones first:
1. Will she be entitled to submit a list of resignation honours? I believe both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown passed over this little perk, but subsequent Tory premiers (Cameron, May, and Johnson) have re-introduced it. (Yet another step back after Labour have taken a step forward. An earlier example is that Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan stopped granting hereditary honours but Margaret Thatcher re-introduced them: an Earldom for Harold Macmillan and a Baronetcy - hereditary knighthood - for her husband Dennis, probably so that it could be passed on to their son Mark on whom she allegedly doted)
It's also interesting to speculate what will happen to Johnson's resignation honours if he makes a comeback. Will they be put on hold or will he get two bites of the cherry?.
There may be a case for some sort of national honours, on the same level that universities award honorary doctorates and golf clubs have honorary captains, but these should surely not involve a seat for life in the legislature. And prime minsters who serve only a limited period, or are ousted in disgrace, or both, should not be allowed to submit their list.
2. Ditto for the £115 000 per year allocated, post Margaret Thatcher, to ex-prime ministers, for "office expenses," apparently for life. Multimillionaire socialist Sir Tony Blair claims the full whack, Tory Mrs May about half of it.
3. Neo-liberalism, trickle down effects and other synonyms for cosseting the rich on the pretence that it benefits the poor becasue the advantages "trickle down" should henceforth be labelled TRUSSONOMICS just to remind the credulous that it has been tried in spades and ended in disarray.
On to the more serious lessons to be learned. I think we need to take a long hard look at the current method all the major parties use to select their leaders.
First a little history. I am not been impressed by all the indignant huffing and puffing about "our new prime minister" being imposed on us by only the 180 000 or so Tory party members, the mere 0.3% of the population.
It's not all that long ago that, when the Tories were in power, new prime-misters were imposed not by umpteen thousand Tory party members, but just three. These were "men in grey suits." Always men, we didn't necessarily know who they were (though I think Lord Salisbury usually featured). One "consulted" the Tory MPs, a second the Peers taking the Tory Whip and the third the party chairmen (presumed to be always men) in the constituencies. They then got together (in a cigar-smoke-filled room?) and decided on the winner. That is how Harold Macmillan "emerged" rather than R A Butler after Anthony Eden resigned in 1957, and how Lord Home "emerged" rather than either Butler or Quentin Hogg when Macmillan himself resigned in1963 becasue he thought he was more poorly than he actually was.
Until then both the Labour and Liberal parties left it to their MPs to select a leader. We Liberals had "elections" even when there were only 6 MPs. The Liberals (or maybe we'd become the Liberal Democrats) were the first to move to allow the MPs to select the top two but then put the matter to the membership. This was thought to be modern and super-democratic and both Labour and Conservatives eventually followed.
This has turned out to be a terrible mistake, not just for the Tories as at present, but has set back the progressive left as well
Labour members selected Jeremy Corbyn. Personally I applauded this as he seemed to me to have been right on most things, from the rights of the Chagas Islanders to the folly of invading Iraq. But the Labour MPs were wiser, because they perceived, correctly as it turned out, that he would be an ineffective leader and too easy a target for the right wing press. So the poor old Labour party remained in opposition for yet another two terms.
Similarly our Liberal Democrat members, the majority of whom had only just joined the party, chose the bouncy but inexperienced Jo Swinson as Leader, she embarrassed us by presenting herself as the potential prime minister, lost here seat and produced a parliamentary party with 11 seats, one fewer than in the previous election.
Enough said about the Conservative party membership choosing Johnson.
Ours is not a presidential but a parliamentary system. For effective democratic government we should revert to choosing as prime minister whoever can command majority in the Commons. Cut out the membership vote and leave it to the MPs.
The final major point. It is deeply embarrassing and humiliating that the return to the premiership of Mr Johnson is even being discussed as a possibility. Should he even be on the ticket after his abysmal record will be a source of shame. A win for him would be beyond farce.
Personally I applauded this as he seemed to me to have been right on most things, from the rights of the Chagas Islanders to the folly of invading Iraq.ReplyDelete
Of course even if he was right on all that (he wasn't) it was massively outweighed by the fact that he supported the IRA.
For effective democratic government we should revert to choosing as prime minister whoever can command majority in the Commons. Cut out the membership vote and leave it to the MPs.
The problem with that is that it quite easily turns into a vicious circle where the leadership decides who gets to be an MP, the MPs select the leader, the leadership then selects more MPs like them, they then ick the next leader etc etc, and the party in Parliament drifts farther and farther away from representing the members — which is a disaster because parties rely on their membership when elections come around, and a membership that feels that the Parliamentary party no longer represents it is ripe for defecting en masse to another party which they feel better listens to their concerns. As has already been seen with the Conservatives and UKIP, and arguably was also a factor in the death of the Liberal Democrats when the party leadership during the coalition was seen by many in the grass roots to have ceased to represent them.
Possibly a good compromise would be for the MPs alone to select the leader when the party is in power, and thus whoever leads it needs, for good governance and the sake of the constitution, to be able to enact business; but for the members to have the final say when the party is not in government, meaning that a party which had drifted away from its base when in government could be re-aligned with them when it is out of power.
Alternatively: retain the system where MPs select the member, but give local associations power to select their own candidates when there's a vacancy, rather than having to chose from a list approved by the central party leadership.Delete