Monday, 11 July 2016

Democracy

Since the Referendum on June 23rd, when the UK voted to leave the European Union, British politics has been in a state of upheaval. David Cameron announced his intention to resign, triggering a Tory leadership contest. Boris Johnson was positioned to be the frontrunner, but when Michael Gove failed to support him and instead announced his own leadership bid, Boris stood down. Gove was, in turn, defeated at the second-round vote, and today, Angela Leadsom has pulled out, leaving Theresa May as the only remaining candidate.

Labour MPs passed a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, which has set the Labour Party on a path to civil war and possible break-up. Angela Eagle has announced her intention to run against Corbyn in a leadership contest - she commands enough support amongst Labour MPs, but possibly not within the wider Labour Party membership, which elected Corbyn with a big majority only 9 months ago.

And this has all been happening against the backdrop of people protesting against the result of the Referendum, and continuing to campaign to remain in the EU. One word seems to fill the air more than any other: democracy.

Remain campaigners say that it's not democratic for us the leave the EU, because less than 50% of the overall population voted for it. This is a fairly bizarre argument, because it seems to imply they favour giving the vote to children, criminals, the clinically insane and the peerage.

Now that Theresa May is set to be the next Prime Minister, people are arguing that she will be 'unelected'. This argument is even more ridiculous, because:

  • In the first two rounds of the Tory leadership contest, she had the overwhelming support of Tory MPs, who are ultimately the ones who will have to work with her on a day-to-day basis;
  • She will have to be confirmed by Parliament - the overriding qualification for being Prime Minister is that you have to command the confidence of the House of Commons. Obviously, as the Tories have a majority, it is highly likely that this will happen;
  • We do not directly elect the Prime Minister. We never have. Each constituency elects an individual MP, who then goes on to elect the PM. Most countries do not directly elect their head of state or government;
  • Once May is PM, there is very little to stop her from calling a General Election. OK, there's the issue of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which technically stops her from doing it, but there is provision in the Act for an election to be called early. Or, with the aforementioned Tory majority, she could simply repeal it.

What's the solution? You want to see Theresa May leading a united Tory Party into a General Election on a ticket to leave the EU (given that Leave just won a referendum on it - May backed Remain, but she has said that she's committed to Brexit) against a Labour Party which is bitterly divided on ideological fault lines, whose voters just ignored the party line and sided with UKIP?

In the last 2 years, we've voted for a majority Tory Government, and voted to Leave the EU. Nothing in the polls suggests that public opinion has shifted much on either of those 2 points (as far as you can trust the polls, anyway). That is the will of the people - that's what they want. And that, barring something highly unusual, is what they're going to get.