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I was going to say, it's rather rich of you to declare our democracy dead when you just got a new PM w/out any general election whatsoever...

What's that about?  (No seriously, can someone explain why there was no election?)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 12:50:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a parliamentary system. The Prime Minister comes from the Parliament. There is only need for a new election if the Parliamentary majority is inadequate.

Why didn't the US have an election when Nixon resigned?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 12:55:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was not an election year.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 01:16:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not very knowledgeable about British politics.

In America, both the President and Vice President are elected.  It's known when you vote that the VP will replace the President if the President cannot perform his or her duties.  So you go into the voting booth knowing that.  Apparently it's also a fine way of keeping a country from impeaching the President: pick a nasty VP...

And every 4 years there is an election.  

When Tony Blair was elected, did people know Gordon Brown would be his successor if Blair stepped down?  Or could Blair pick anyone he chose, so long as they were of the Labor party?

Also, I don't understand the term limits.  Do they have them?  Why could Blair step down and appoint a successor instead of having to serve out a term at the end of which would be a general election?  They have something like "confidence" votes, right?  To see if they can stay on?  And if they win, then the only thing that prevents them from stepping down and putting a friend in charge is a Parliamentary election?  Are those done on a regular schedule?  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 01:31:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our terms are 5 years max, but the PM can choose to go earlier if they wish (and they usually do).

Blair did everything he could to stop Brown becoming PM, but had so commpletely neutered the party that any credible alternative had already been ruined. Brown wasn't appointed, he just won by default.

We have a parliamentary system where we vote a party, not for the Prime Minister. So the person who gets to be PM is a matter for the party and not the people. and if the individual concerned chooses to resign, that remains a matter for the party.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 01:58:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But Spiro T. Agnew was elected vice-president, not Gerald Ford. And none of the remaining presidential line of succession are subject to a nation-wide vote either.

Think of it this way: Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister (and Labour leader) in a similar sense that Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 02:02:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But Spiro T. Agnew was elected vice-president, not Gerald Ford. And none of the remaining presidential line of succession are subject to a nation-wide vote either.

Quite right.  But, that was a rather exceptional case, and not how Presidents and VPs are normally elected.  It's plan B or C, not plan A.  

Think of it this way: Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister (and Labour leader) in a similar sense that Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House.

Ok.  I can try to think of it that way.  It's just compartmentalized in my head in such a way that I want to say "But the legislature and executive and the party apparatus are all very different things, with different responsibilities..."  (Yes, Pelosi is in line for the Pres. but like I said, that's a worst-case-scenario backup plan.)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 02:13:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no real separation of legislative and executive in Parliamentary systems.

The way if works is that the parliament is elected for a fixed term, and they appoint a head of government from their own ranks. The head of government can dissolve the parliament ahead of time, and they can also resign or be voted out with a motion of no confidence, in which case a new head of government needs to be appointed. If the parliament cannot or will not appoint a new headof government there is a new election.

As Labour has an absolute majority of the House of Commons, Brown's appointment should be a formality. He's widely expected to call an election next year, one year earlier than expected and two years ahead of the end of the 5-year term.

In more proportional systems with multiple parties and coalition governments if the government fails usually a newcoalition cannot be assembled and a new election is called. But this has not been the case with Balkenende in the Netherlands during the previous term. He had several cabinets with changing coalitions without having to call an election because he was always able to assemble a new coalition. Also, recall the Czech parliament took several months to get a prime minister who could pass an investiture vote because the parliament was split exactly 50/50.

It's not like the US constitution, but it's not wrong.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:32:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't saying it was wrong, I was trying to figure out how it was democratic.  And I mean that sincerely, not rhetorically.

Do you think there is a much more distinct difference between parties in the UK than in the US, and that those who represent them stick to a clear platform?  Is there as broad a spectrum in the Labour party as there is in the Dem. party in the US (from Kucinich & Welstone to Lieberman & Casey)?  Could 2 individuals from the same party have very different platforms?  And if so, how do the people ensure the leader they get upholds the values of the majority and not that of some opportunistic wing of the ruling party?


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:47:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then you could tone down your rhetoric a bit.

The UK has a First-Past-the-Post system like the US, so the system tends naturally towards a two-party system as in the US. However, in the UK there is a sizeable third party at the national level (the Liberal Democrats) and a number of regional parties such as the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist), and Sinn Fein (Irish Nationalist) which are able to win seats by using their local strength. And there's also the Green party

I think the differences between Labour and the Tories have been largely diluted at the national level because of the poll-driven chase of the political centre that all Western democracies seem to have embarked in. In countries with proportional representation you see less of this, with the largest two parties engaging in this game but the rest of the parties stake out more well-defined platforms.

The introduction of Proportional Representation in regional (and European) elections has helped "third parties" in the UK, too, so I think people who differ too much from the party line just split and form a different party. For instance, the UK Independence Party seems like the rabidly anti-EU wing of the Tories. But bth the Tories and Labour have (at the level of national leadership) strayed to far from their core constituency and have left a huge number of disaffected supporters.

how do the people ensure the leader they get upholds the values of the majority and not that of some opportunistic wing of the ruling party?

I don't think that is a problem plaguing most western democracies right now. The thing is, if one of the two main parties has a leader that seems more opportunistic, it's likely they'll lose the swing voters in the centre. I think that's ultimately what's going to hurt David Cameron. He's even more opportunistic than Brown or Blair have ever been.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:59:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then you could tone down your rhetoric a bit.

I don't know what you are talking about and this conversation is ending here.  I have no place for unecessary nastiness in my life right now.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 04:29:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm talking about you being shocked, shocked every time something about the political process is not like you're used to. It seems to recur every few months and you always end up being offended.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 04:32:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to say I didn't see the outrage in poemless's posts. Looked more like a "dude, how's that work?"
by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:16:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US national political parties have structurally been coalitions of state political parties ... and with the US anti-parliamentary system of balance of powers, which entails in part no party loyalty in the legislature required for the Majority party to retain its status as the party in charge of the executive, there is by design more independence for members of Congress from the national party apparatus than for MP's in a parliamentary system.

Indeed, if everything had gone according to the intentions of the Founding Fathers, a party system would not have arisen at all, but at least there are limitations on the institutional power of political parties in the US system.

The parliamentary system in Australia is, in part, an effort to meld parts of each system, with half of each state's Senate delegation elected in each Senate election, acting as a genuine Balance of Power institution against the party in power in the Australian House of Representatives ... provided that the governing party does not also hold the balance of power in the Senate. The recent experience in Australia of working without a check on the actions of the governing party seems likely to restore a position with a third party ... probably the Australian Greens ... with the balance of power.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jun 30th, 2007 at 12:32:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The mechanics of PM appointments in the UK are somewhat different from those in countries with written constitutions. See wikipedia
There is no term of office for a prime minister. The prime minister holds office "at Her Majesty's pleasure". As however to gain supply (control of exchequer funds) that requires that the government be answerable to, and acceptable to, the House of Commons, in reality the convention "at her Majesty's pleasure" means "at the pleasure of the House of Commons". Whenever the office of Prime Minister falls vacant, the Sovereign is responsible for appointing the new incumbent; the appointment is formalised at a ceremony known as Kissing Hands. In accordance with unwritten constitutional conventions, the Sovereign must appoint the individual most likely to maintain the support of the House of Commons: usually, the leader of the party which has a majority in that House. If no party has a majority (an unlikely occurrence, given the United Kingdom's First Past the Post electoral system), two or more groups may form a coalition, whose agreed leader is then appointed Prime Minister. The majority party becomes "Her Majesty's Government," and the next largest party becomes "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition." The head of the largest Opposition party becomes the Leader of the Opposition and holds the title Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. By tradition, before a new Prime Minister can enter 10 Downing Street for the first time as its occupant, he or she is required to announce to the country and the world that he or she has kissed hands with the monarch of the day, and thus has become Prime Minister. This is usually done by saying words to the effect of:
"Her Majesty the Queen [His Majesty the King] has asked me to form an administration and I have accepted."
Although it wasn't required, Tony Blair also said these words after he was re-elected in 2001 and 2005.


Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:21:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"But the legislature and executive and the party apparatus are all very different things, with different responsibilities..."

That's on paper. In practice, the Preznit says "Congress must act on this urgent issue" and has a Congressperson introduce the legislation that the White House has prepared already. And the White House works in concert with the party apparatus to support (or undermine) local and state politicians.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 04:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
AttorneyGate being one of the most obvious examples of that.

The US wins by having at least a nominal culture of representation, where no one seems to believe that contacting a representative to express a view on an issue is a strange thing to do.

The representative probably won't listen and it may not influence how they vote - they have their business colleagues to keep sweet too - but it's just as possible that s/he will and it will.

The UK doesn't have that. MPs are used as local authorities in disputes - if you don't like the new road plans, talk to your MP - but there's absolutely no real sense that they represent local people in parliament, or that local people expect them to listen to their views.

Some MPs actually do represent their constituencies quite thoughtfully. But one of the turn-abouts of the Blair years has been the erosion of that process into irrelevance.

What happens now is that Party HQ picks MPs and tells them what to do. 'Party loyalty' is a prerequisite for promotion, and means voting to order and speaking to order, often against your personal views.

Independent rabble-rousers, like Ken Livingstone and George Galloway, usually leave their home parties and go independent. And it would take a complete overhaul of the UK system to turn this around.

What's not talked about is the fact that politics in the UK is utterly corrupt. The revolving door between business and politics means that politicians can use their time in Westminster to lay-out an employment case for themselves.

Not all MPs do this, but enough of them do it to make the process as a whole democratically irrelevant.  

So Westminster now is mostly political pantomime. The opposition tries to score points, but no one really takes it all that seriously. And I think most people would laugh if you suggested a 30s, 40s or 50s style public service ethic might be important.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 04:51:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MPs are used as local authorities in disputes - if you don't like the new road plans, talk to your MP - but there's absolutely no real sense that they represent local people in parliament, or that local people expect them to listen to their views.

That's something I absolutely don't undestand. Every time a problem is discussed at our child's school, people immediately suggest going to the MP without trying to deal with the relevant authorities (the ones that have actual decision-making power over the issue) first. And if you had to go to the central government you'd go to the department of education, or something, not to the MP, surely?

It seems like a throwback to feudal times to me.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:05:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems like a throwback to feudal times to me.

Throwback ?? What makes you think it was ever different ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:15:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it actually work? Can an MP really lean on the LEA and change something about after-school services?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:24:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, if he wants to and if he has enough clout. Civil servants at all levels can sometimes be quite resistant to requests from MPs if they don't feel like complying for any reason.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:38:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's my point: the MP is not even on the buraucratic chain of command.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:40:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given the nature of our politicians I'm sometimes glad that our government doesn't really work properly.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:49:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When asked to describe the UK in one word (I'm a foreigner living just ouside London), that word is "Feudal". (No, I refuse to diary!)
by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:18:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you also refuse to meet?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:21:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, as long as I'm not on camera. (Excepting the ubiquitous CCTV "security" version which are of course always good.)
by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:40:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With over 100 registered UK users we must have an ET meetup.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:41:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where and when?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 08:09:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Saturday in the second half of July? Somewhere nice?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 08:17:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to my weather guru, August or September will be a better choice.  Somewhere central?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 08:42:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Make it September, then.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 09:01:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
any idea as to a where?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 09:15:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll nominate this part of the world, on the grounds that it's easy to get to, it's not London, and it's really rather scenic.

Obviously I have a vested interest. But even so - if not here exactly, there's always Oxford.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:11:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where's this part of the world?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 11:03:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Somewhere nice?

Oh, so not in the UK after all.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 09:46:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, come on!

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 09:51:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we've done London & Nottingham.

Maybe we ought to do a poll to find out where our members are so that we can plan accordingly. No use keep doing it in London if everybody's up north. Good for you and me, but possibly not anyone else.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:44:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about Ludlow, home of the Slow Town and Slow Food movement in Britain?

I don't mind taking a train to wherever, to be honest. Someone should post a diary about a September meetup and try to get the 100 lurkers out in the clear.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 10:57:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good idea...I'll be there...

Edinburgh might be another alternative...

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 12:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You wouldn't go to a Whitehall department, because Whitehall is even more hermetically sealed against the public than Westminster is. Tell the Department of Whatever that you don't like what they're doing and they will laugh in your face.

The idea is that you go to your MP because your MP is allowed to deal with the relevant authorities, while you most certainly aren't.

Local councillors are mid-way between the two. They get some local power over local issues, but they still have to defer to Whitehall and Westminster on most issues.

So it's actually easier to talk to an MP because s/he will be one point of contact and can find the correct pressure point. If you try to find that point yourself you're more likely to end up being bounced from one place to another, with no one taking an responsibility - never mind bothering to answer your letters and emails.

Metaphorically, people in the UK are subjects, not citizens, and the political environment still reflects that.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:26:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose, then, that electing an independent MP isn't actually an improvement.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, utterly useless.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:39:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The largest cracks seem to be in local council elections. People mostly don't care who gets elected and don't see them as important - turnouts are reliably low. So if - hypothetically - a group of people decided to infiltrate one of the major parties and make the lists, it would be a lot easier to make a difference than in almost any other way.

The media and academic battle is still the most important one, I think. Think tanks and consultancies are far more influential than MPs or councillors are. With the right leverage you can make a far bigger difference with far less effort, time or money.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 07:18:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The European Parliament elections also have reliably low turnouts, but the constituencies are much larger so a much larger number of votes are needed to get elected (for instance, 160k votes in London), and the number of candidates is much smaller so the parties have an opportunity to exercise much more control over the shortlists.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:02:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... people in the UK are subjects, not citizens ...

Great quote, I'm going to steal that and use it out of context. ;)

by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:20:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Constituent service has become a major aspect of most democracies.  Legislators figured out that if they became ombudsmen in the 1960's that the could get reelected unless they were found with a dead girl, or a live boy.  

This is the secret to incumbency, and at least in the US it generates something like a 5% advantage at the polls for an incumbent.  I imagine this matters less in Britain where politics is more fluid with no less that three parties being serious players.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 07:20:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Helen [I don't have statistics], in the UK constituencies are even less likely to change party hands, so the power of incumbency is even higher. This may have something to do with "captive voters" who are beholden to one party or another for social/communitarian reasons (as in "my family has always voted Labour").

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:04:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]

But the legislature and executive and the party apparatus are all very different things, with different responsibilities...

That's on paper. In practice, the Preznit says "Congress must act on this urgent issue" and has a Congressperson introduce the legislation that the White House has prepared already.

That's on paper too! From Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution:

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;

The annual "State of the Union" speech derives from this, but so does the recommedation of legislation throughout the year.

Incidentally, I had completely forgotten about the next part of that sentence:

he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;

I don't suppose that this has ever been done.

by Toby Bartels (toby+8190809933@ugcs.caltech.edu) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 09:37:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you saying the president has the power to adjourn the Congress?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 02:28:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Well, only "in case of disagreement between [the House and Senate]". And since those bodies usually convene and adjourn independently, then one should be able to argue that they have agreed on such independence, rendering the President powerless. Also, the "adjourn to" language makes me suspect that he would have to state a time of their reconvening. Plus, every two years there's a new Congress, so things should return to default status then.

But I'm just trying to interpret vague language that, as I said before, has probably never been used. After all, it's a myth that our (the U.S.) Constitution was all written down in 1787, as our "strict constructionists" pretend. Really, we rely on tradition just as much as the UK's unwritten constitution, and even Supreme Court decisions have recognised this. So if any President tried to activate these powers, then this would cause a constitutional crisis, just as if (in the UK) the Sovereign were to try to exercise theoretical powers that have not been used for centuries. ("Sorry, Mr Blair, I don't accept your resignation, and I refuse to appoint Mr Brown, because I don't like his looks.")

by Toby Bartels (toby+8190809933@ugcs.caltech.edu) on Tue Jul 3rd, 2007 at 11:14:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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