The stitch up or the new politics?
“Prime Ministers should be voted into 10 Downing Street by the people of Britain, not because their party has stitched up some deal”
David Cameron, in Essex – 24th April 2010
The idea that we elect a Prime Minister is a fiction (aided by X factor style debates). We elect MPs (however imperfectly) and the Prime Minister is in effect indirectly elected by them because he or she has to command a majority in the House of Commons. When one party has a majority we get the pre-stitched up choice of that party; when no party has the majority the stitch up has to be done after the event.
So this boils down to: Do we want:
- a parliamentary system, where we elected representatives and they in effect elect the government – if so how do we want to see the method of electing that parliament improved, or
- a genuine presidential system, where our ballot paper says Brown, Cameron, Clegg (Foggy, Compo and Cleggy) and we elect a “presiding minister” directly (who then appoints the executive) with a separate election for the legislature?
The latter could lead to a minority “presiding minister” with absolute power, or under AV, “presiding ministers” who will always be from the left or from the right. See-Saw politics with a conspiracy of acceptance between left and right because each knows they will get their inevitable turn. That pushes me back towards favouring a parliamentary system, hopefully elected under a system that means my vote counts and I can choose to support (or not support) an individual rather than a party list*. Then we need to be more adult in our election campaigning and get away from the cult of presentation and personality (over principle and policy) caused by X-factor style debates.
In a democracy, we must tolerate a range of views; the corollary of that is that we have to accept that governments which do not get a clear majority have to “compromise” (possibly a more appropriate term than “stitch up”).