Thursday, August 07, 2008
Why Brown's Possible Sucessor Doesn't Need to Call a Quick Election
The sole requirement is that a prime minister can command a majority in the House of Commons. Who that leader is, or whether he or she changes, is irrelevant in constitutional terms. That is why the often-heard argument that Gordon Brown’s premiership is illegitimate because he was unelected is baloney. We live in a parliamentary, not a presidential, system. Mr Brown was elected an MP, just as Tony Blair, or any future Labour leader was, in May 2005 by voters in their constituencies. No one was asked who should be prime minister.
He is quite right of course and there is nothing in the rules of what passes for our constitution that David Miliband, let us say, should not repalce Brown and serve until the very last day in 2010 before he has to call an election, five years after the last one, 5th May, 2005. But constitutional rules do not recognise political realities. One replacement without public endorsement might be accepted by voters without cavill but two is unknown territory. Riddell must know that any call for a quick election would receive a degree of public support.
How much support is the key question. If two million voters marched through Whitehall demanding an election, I suspect the constitution might well be made a purely academic consideration. But would there be such an emphatic reaction? Buggered if I know, but I would guess not.
I agree entirely that constitutionally there is no obligation on a new leader to hold an election, and in fact I said so on many occasions when people were saying Gordon Brown should go to the country.
What I do think is that any leader who effectively overthrew Brown because they wanted to pursue a different direction would have a moral imperative to seek a mandate for that. If they didn't I am sure the electorate wouldn't march through Whitehall demanding an election, but I am equally certain that at the earliest opportunity they would punish a Labour leader who had not sought a mandate.
The case for Brown was very different in my opinion. He had been Blair's chancellor and right hand man for 11 years, and the only changes he proposed were, sadly, cosmetic.
I agree. Even May next year would be pushing it if a new PM-installed in the autumn- wanted to establish himself before an election.
Constitutionally, remember, there is no law saying that the PM HAS to have a majority in the House of Commons - in fact, we have frequently had governments opposed by large and hostile majorities. The PM is the person nominated by the Sovereign to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the government. Would you then argue that John Major should have refused to resign had the Queen not dismissed him in 1997? The same logic applies.
I agree with Bob Piper - there won't be marching crowds, but there would be another dip in the polls, and you can hardly afford that right now.
Not sure there is much in the argumehnt that the Queen plays any role at all. But I agree Labour doesn't need to get any more unpopular than it already is.
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