Originally posted by UK Wizard
Since Gordon Brown took the mantle of Prime Minister there has been much controversy as to whether he should have called a general election when Tony
Blair stood down, many say he has no right to be Prime Minister as he was never elected.
However the political system within the UK works by voters within a constituency voting for a representative, the party with the majority of
representatives can form a Government and their leader is made Prime Minister. In the case of Labour this is Gordon Brown and in the case of the
Conservatives this would be David Cameron.
Precisely. No prime minister is ever elected by the general public - it's only by their party. To elect the Prime Minister would basically mean
turning the job into that of a president in all but name... because if a PM was directly elected, a change to the constitution would be required. Is
this fair? Does it matter?
Half of all Prime Ministers since the war (six out of the twelve: Eden, Macmillan, Home, Callaghan, Major, Brown) have taken over mid-term, and only
one of them called a snap election (Eden in 1955). Some went on to win subsequent elections (Macmillan and Major), others went on to lose (Home and
Callaghan) and Eden himself resigned before facing the electorate again due to his handling of the Suez Crisis.
Having studied this (and written an essay on it) I would suggest it doesn't matter nearly as much as you think. It's true that the Prime Minister is
the front man/woman - the face of the government. But he or she has very limited time and cannot take decisions on the vast majority of issues; these
are left to Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and Junior Ministers. Indeed, the vast majority of issues are dealt with by the civil service with
only major decisions reaching ministers, and generally only highly important issues reaching the prime minister himself.
A prime minister must also maintain the support of three key bodies:
1) Parliament - If he or she loses their majority, their job is under threat.
2) The Party - If he or she becomes unpopular in the party it can catastrophically weaken a Prime Minister's authority. See Thatcher and Blair for
examples - both were forced out by their own party before they wanted to go.
3) The electorate - This is the crucial one, as it has a major impact on the other two. If a PM is unpopular with the public then it might make his or
her party more likely to dump him/her before the next election (as Labour is contemplating with Brown at the moment) and it might also embolden the
Opposition in Parliament to try to inflict critical defeats on the government, eventually calling for a no confidence vote.
Truth be told, despite what some people think, the job of Prime Minister is an incredibly tough one and is somewhat paradoxical; at the same time it
is both the most powerful position in government and potentially the weakest too. Much is down to the person in office and the circumstances they find
themselves in. The system we have now works better than you might think at first. And I for one don't really like the idea of a British president.
As for MPs and parties... well, again it's a bit of a paradox when you look into it. Independent MPs would be more democratic perhaps, but would it
make for more effective government?
If people vote for their MP because of his/her party, surely that's their right as a voter? They can vote for a candidate for whatever reason they
like. If most vote for a party rather than a person, isn't that the public's own fault?