Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gordon's Snap Election?


One of the controversial powers of a prime minister is the ability to call an election whenever they want. We may think we're electing five year parliaments, but not if the premier of the day prefers to go earlier. The usual reason for this - as exercised by Thatcher and Blair - is to assure a victory while polls are high, instead of waiting for the unpredictability of another year.

There is another reason, and it's being discussed at the moment. All three parties are preparing for a possible snap election as early as next year on the grounds that Gordon Brown, if elected as new Labour leader, might want to capitalise on the novelty and not wait for disillusionment to set in. He would also be keen to get his own mandate.

It's an odd call this, as on the one hand it seems the very essence of democracy that a leader elected by a party should then seek a wider mandate. Our parliamentary system, however, doesn't operate like this. We don't elect prime minsisters, we elect representatives for a period of five years. We do not ask for, and certainly don't get, a guarantee that the party will keep the same leader for the 5 year duration; we do ask that representatives continue to exercise their judgement about the laws they pass, and stick to the broad manifesto they offered at the general election. A change of leader doesn't necessarily mean a change of political direction. Perhaps we also ask that they don't subject us to an abuse of their power to call elections when it suits them?

1 comment:

Lestaki said...

I think there's a distinction between what's technically true in politics and the de facto state- in this instance, many generally vote for the leader rather more than the candidate, often with a limited awareness of the candidate, and to pretend otherwise is idealistic at best. As such, I don't particularly fault Brown on that front. However, I don't think we'll see any snap election from him, offhand. Regardless of my earlier comments it would be unorthadox and so risky- if too many people think like you do, we'll fall back on the old democratic standard and vote with our vote. The idea of Gordon being punted out of office the very moment he got there after ten years of waiting is both amusing, and also telling. I think it would be a gamble, and I don't think Brown will be inclined to take it.