Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Presidential election

Posted on This is My Truth on 24 April

Its been creeping up on us for years but this election marks the turning point when Britain adopted a Presidential system.

The TV debates have formalised the trend towards focusing a party's election campaign on their leader. From now onwards when choosing a leader parties will be judging candidates even more so on their 'character' and ability to perform on camera. Inevitable perhaps, but today's proposal by David Cameron goes too far.

The Conservatives are proposing to change the law to ensure that if the governing party changes their leader they'll be forced to hold a general election within six months of the new Prime Minister taking office.

Far from shifting power back to Parliament from the Executive - as Mr Cameron has been insisting he would d0 - this move would concentrate even more power in the hands of the Prime Minister.

Surely in a Parliamentary system Prime Ministers emerge from the body of MPs. Political parties widening the franchise have diluted that a bit, but nonetheless the precedents of Callaghan, Major and Brown taking over in mid-term has confirmed that we vote for MPs and parties, not simply for Leaders.

If a PM loses the support of their MPs between elections then they give the keys of No 10 to someone else. In that scenario a party low in the polls looking for a fresh direction would be held to ransom by a PM who had lost their way if they knew that they'd be forced to go to the polls in mid-term. Cameron's proposal will strengthen the hand of the incumbent - perhaps he's thinking ahead to stymie David Davis?

This will not strengthen Parliament, this will weaken it. In Opposition politicians always talk about making the Commons more effective at holding the Government into account, but as soon as they get a whiff of power they go off the idea.

Change you can believe in?

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