Monday, May 16, 2005

 

Problems over the idea of 'mandate'

Interpreting the mandate is not easy at the moment in the Labour Party. About a third of the PLP rebelled in some way against the government during the last parliament. Several, once returned, sustained their criticism by calling for Blair to pack up quickly and sling his hook. Loyalists and some not so loyal(for example Frank Field) castigated them for winning re-election on a Labour manifesto championed by Tony Blair, but hypocritically refusing to be beholden to it once elected. Some responded that they has indicated where they disagreed with the main manifesto in their local addresses to their constituents. So their consciences were clear. Loyalists dismissed this defence as absurd: why not accept that the majority of candidates were voted in because they were representing a Labour Party led by Tony Blair? So shut up and keep supporting the government.

So on which side does the weight of the argument lie? I have to say I'm not sure as it's a throny problem. How many Labour MPs were involved drawing up the manifesto? Not many I'd say. And how much detailed discussion, with criticisms taken into acount, allowed? Not much I'd venture. What can an MP do to indicate they disagree with aspects of the manifesto? Seems to me they can only do so via their local election addresses. Especially as Labour's manifesto was about the size of a small novel this time. Until MPs have closer engagement with the manifesto producing process it seems to me they must be allowed to express their democratic disagreements with the party leadership. This is a problem for the leadership rather than the rebels to solve.

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