04 May 2010

AJ4PM: More turmoil

In the unlikely event that Labour is in a position to do a deal with Nick Clegg on Friday, John Rentoul, the emeritus chairman of the AJ4PM campaign, has this to say on his blog:
(a) because Brown would hang on as Labour leader; and (b) because it would look most odd to end up with David Miliband or Alan Johnson as prime minister when they did not lead their party in the election campaign, including the televised debates.
If our cunning plan had succeeded before the election, it would have been fine to have two unelected PM's in the same parliament.  So why is it "most odd" for AJ or DM to replace Brown if he is not acceptable to the Lib Dems?

The voters elect a Government not a Prime Minister.


  1. Well, not many voters think that they elect a Government - they talk about electing Gordon Brown, David Cameron, etc. We may not have a Presidential system, but it is reasonably clear that a significant amount of voters have the intention of electing a particular person as Prime Minister. You can also see this in the relationship between ratings of leaders and Party voting intention.

    As such, it is hardly democratic to crown another PM without the public having a say through the ballot box. Indeed, in a hung parliament scenario, there is no intermediate stage between (i) Not-Brown and (ii) Who can command a majority - i.e. the Labour Party don't get to stay the Party of Government once it is clear that Brown won't be PM, as UK Polling Report makes clear here - http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/?p=2645&cp=6

  2. That may be true in constitutional terms, but it would be an abuse of power.

    The political system in this country is very shaky after donorgate etc. There is little enough trust between the ruling class and those they rule. Could the system really stand up to something like that?

    1) To campaign with Brown as leader but to switch to another leader just because you dont like the results would be disregarding the choice of the people. Labour campaigned for Brown to be PM. If the results mean that he cant form a government then they have failed and Cameron should be given the chance to do so.

    2) Brown as PM has the right to try to negotiate a coalition to form a new government. AJ or DM do not. If Brown could not form a government he would have to go to the palace and resign. The job of forming a government would then fall to Cameron.

    3) The parties have decided to campaign on the personality of the leaders. They chose to hold leaders debates. Too late now to say that personality doesnt matter but party does.

    4) The country has been stuck with an unelected PM for three years. To go straight from an election to another unelected PM would be treating the voter with contempt.

    5) DC has already put the idea of going to the country within six months of a change of leader. Failing to do so in this case would enable him and the media to portray it as a stichup. The Labour party is in no shape to have another election this year.

    6) Labour have already lied to the electorate once, with Blair promising to stay the whole parliament but quitting half way through. Who would take them seriously in future elections if they make a habit of it?

  3. Will - There have been numerous examples of a PM being replaced midterm and voters have not batted an eyelid.

    What Rentoul and I were advocating for months was that Brown should have replaced to give Labour a better chance at the election. At no time were we calling for an immediate election, although there was a case for one in Oct 09 if Brown had fallen the previous June.

    Rentoul, on this occasion, is not being logical. What was good before the election stands after the poll.

  4. Nonny - 1) that argument doesn't apply under our system.

    2) No. In fact you could argue that if Heath had been replaced in 1974, the Tories would have cut a deal with Thorpe.

    5) Is unworkable and Cameron knows it. A leader of an unpopular party would never be allowed to seek a mandate as you suggest.

    6) That's politics. Anyway, Blair didn't lie. Brown forced him out.

    I am pointing out an inconsistency in Rentoul's approach. If the Tories don't do as well as expected, then Brown could be replaced in deal with the Lib Dems. It all depends on what happens on Thursday.