Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK elections of 2010, 2015, 2017 and 2019 (and THAT referendum)

Archive for the tag “presidential”


Why is it that some Americans think they can make crude inflammatory videos ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad without consequences?  The right to free speech does not carry an obligation to be offensive.

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In a Pact Programme …

I am still amazed by the way that the media still can’t get their mind around the implications of having a coalition government.  Some members of the public are not doing to well either.

They seem determined to find winners and losers in the Queen’s Speech.  We seem to have two-party leaders who for better or worse (and I have my doubts) have thrown in their lot with each other. Have Cameron or Clegg betrayed their followers?  Or did the Labour leadership (by its negotiating stance) betray its followers?

No one “won” the election, (despite some Tories claiming their, almost feudal, “right” to rule,) so no one party can “have their way”.  So the alternative is either complete stalemate or a coalition and that means compromise.

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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:

  1. 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
  2. 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”).

The Aftermath III (of ?)

The press today seem to be almost uniformly condemning Gordon Brown and calling for a Conservative Government. I also understand some Sky correspondents are having a melt-down.  They seem to be of the view that 36% of the vote gives a party a near-divine right to rule and anything else is illegitimate. A conservative on the World at One (BBC Radio 4) has just described the Conservatives as “the majority party”; I think someone does not understand even the First Past the Post voting system.  They also seem to be of the view that, because Clegg said during the campaign that it would be sensible in the event of a hung parliament to talk to the largest party, he is committed to rolling over and supporting the Conservatives.

I don’t think Gordon Brown had any choice, but it has given rise to some interesting quirks. I also think that Clegg is in a no-win situation.  Both have to play out their given roles. Read more…

Who chooses the Prime Minister?

David Cameron on Andrew Marr (2 May 2010) condemns Proportional Representation, saying:

It’s not the voter choosing the prime-minister

No David, it’s not – but neither is First Pass the Post (FPTP).  FPTP makes a few voters very important in electing the MPs in the marginals – and that determines which party has the lotto majority in the House of Commons.  The House of Commons then (by not voting down a government in a no confidence debate), selects the Prime Minister (the person “most able to command a majority”).

Proportional Representation makes a better job of choosing the House of Commons, and more of the voters matter.  Under STV around 80% of votes matter – in all constituencies. (see previous thread)

If Cameron really wants “the voters to elect the Prime Minister”, let him propose a Presidential System.  Unless he does that he is just being sanctimonious, two-faced, and self-interested (i.e. a politician) in his attitude to PR.

What are we electing?

A government? No.  Individually we are electing MPs to a Parliament – that’s all (!).  It is the Parliament which in effect elects a Government (by not voting it out on a confidence motion).  It is a bit like a glorified Electoral College.  In that respect the “Presidential” style debates are appropriate.

In a United States Presidential Election, the population elects members of an electoral college who then elect the president – it is meant to help hold the states together, but can lead to someone winning the Presidency whilst losing the Popular vote.

It looks as if the same could happen here, but because we have a three/four party system our “President” gets elected on a minority vote – and then the electoral college (the MPs) becomes the equivalent of the US Congress, so the chances of our “President” and his executive being effectively held to account by the legislature is minimal because they always support each other.

It’s a mess:

  • If we want a Presidential system (i.e. electing an individual as head of government and letting him or her appoint the executive), let’s make sure it is done purely on the popular vote – and then make sure that the legislature is representative (and accountable).
  • If we want a Parliamentary System (i.e. we elect individuals as representatives and they support an administration), let’s make sure that our representatives are representative.

At the moment we seem to have the worst of both.

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