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It's really a direct mapping. You have a President and Secretaries, compared with a Prime Minister and a Cabinet. The seats in the 'cabinet' are more or less the same in the key posts in both systems (Defence, Treasury, Foreign etc). So what we are talking about is if Obama faced several resignations among his Secretaries, especially women (or other 'minority') at the same time as he faced huge losses in state elections and governorships. Add into this the equally bicameral Congress or Parliament in which both houses of each are increasingly discredited as being on the take, and doom is upon you.

Even the media play quite a similar role in providing a context for politics.  Almost all hierarchical systems have the same weaknesses. But in good times they look like the bee's knees.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 02:50:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except Congress can't topple a President...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 02:51:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, they can, technically.  It's just never been done before.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 02:55:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not by a simple majority vote of no confidence.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 03:00:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Getting rid of a PM is not that easy either ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 03:03:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One day impeachement will be used for that purpose...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 08:12:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Obama's cabinet began resigning, well, first off, that would be weird.  People don't really do that en masse unless the President is under criminal investigation that would implicate them.  But even so, he would still keep his job, at least until the next scheduled election.  Unless he has to resign because he has done something criminal.  

Britain can oust a PM whenever they decide it is feasible, correct?  And they have a system in which the party of the PM is determined by the party in power in parliament, correct?  Really quite fundamentally different than the American system.

What has Brown done to spur these resignations?  It seems to me that it is one thing to resign from a cabinet post (which in America is an unusual and personal thing) and another for a party to collapse.   Are the cabinet ministers just fickle?  Does the PM not really carry significant power?  What is the connection between the cabinet resignations and the party collapse?

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

by poemless on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 03:03:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh dear ..... you wanted the long answer..... ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 03:05:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're calling me upstairs for a G+T. It's Friday.  There really is no choice.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 03:07:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This diary of mine may give you a bit more background on the British political system:
European Tribune - The UK political system
I've adapted a recent essay to give a bit of an overview of the UK's political structures and a look at the checks and balances on the power of government.  

The PM must be the leader of the Party that holds the majority of seats in Parliament.  The PM can resign the post, lose the post by losing their seat or by the party no longer holding a majority or by being ousted, no-confidenced or forced to resign by the party.

It isn't unusual especially of late for MPs to backstab within their own party and to publicly express disagreement with the Party line on a Bill for example or in situations like this to point the blame and say that the PM goes or I will because I'm just too disgusted with this to stay....  Overwhelming public opinion against Gordon Brown is influential in MPs resigning and speaking out against him - perhaps in the vain hope that the electorate will remember that and they won't lose their seats in the next election.

The PMs power is reliant upon keeping key MPs and cabinet members by their side.  Gordon Brown hasn't done a great job of that.  That is partly due to him and partly due to panic in the ranks as MPs can see the Party going down the pan, and blame must be put at somebody's door.  When half of the cabinet resigns, the Party loses credibility, the power of the PM is reduced, and the constant negative press hugely damages the reputation of the Party.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 03:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The PM must be the leader of the Party that holds the majority of seats in Parliament.  The PM can resign the post, lose the post by losing their seat or by the party no longer holding a majority or by being ousted, no-confidenced or forced to resign by the party.

Alright - I think I knew this.  Perhaps I'm more ignorant of the political culture than the political system.  I've always considered the conventional wisdom to be that, of course there are disagreements, in-fighting, and power struggles with in the ranks and factions of all parties.  But everyone recognizes that there is power in numbers, so you do these things in private, and put on a show of unity to the people and the media.  Most people don't find that the rewards of losing or quitting their poltical position outweigh those of remaining in power in less than ideal circumstances.  And when party in-fighting becomes so serious and pervasive that it can no longer be glossed over, it is usually a sign of some fundamental, irreconcilable policy disagreements.  It's symptom of a public re-assessing its values.  

It's difficult for me to understand why a party would choose to cede power because of its disdain for one individual.  That's basically implying that your values, the issues you run on, are less important to you than the style or incompetence of one individual.  Am I mistaken, or does it seem to anyone else that Labour has decided it is better to have Tories running the place than Brown?  That's how the picture looks to me.  

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

by poemless on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:13:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But everyone recognizes that there is power in numbers, so you do these things in private, and put on a show of unity to the people and the media.

That worked for almost 12 years.

Until the party was good in the polls.

It's difficult for me to understand why a party would choose to cede power

That os not a necessary consequence. The default wqould be a replacement of the PM, with the new PM forming a new government from the same party.

But, if not, those who jumped ship can hope to not go under with the election loss, and return to the helm in opposition.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:26:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, let's see if I understand.

The Labour Party is trying to force Brown to resign, and they will fill his seat with a more likable person?  Aren't all Labour candidates tainted by this?  If your party is in such a bad condition that the leader of your country must resign, I mean, isn't there political fallout from that?  Is this normal?  It wasn't on my radar because this simply is not an option where I am from.  

How much of the meltdown is the fault of Labour and how much the fault of Brown?  Would simply replacing him with another Labour person make a big difference in the party's viability?  Could it prevent the conservatives from taking over?

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

by poemless on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:36:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aren't all Labour candidates tainted by this?

Agreed. But we see that from the outside. Those too close to the power centre is another thing -- especially the Bliarites.

If your party is in such a bad condition that the leader of your country must resign, I mean, isn't there political fallout from that?

In theory, one can hope for that to pass, and making a turnaround in the months left until the next elections have to be called. (In practice, it did happen just at the last elections here in Hungary: the year before, the then PM was toppled.)

How much of the meltdown is the fault of Labour and how much the fault of Brown?

Well, the meltdown is a wave of resignations, an internal affair. As for whether Brown can take the blame for the triggers of the meltdown... I doubt it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:44:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The PM must be the leader of the Party that holds the majority of seats in Parliament.

Well thats only mostly true. If brown quits, then its up to the replacement to convince the queen that he can form a government, and has enough support in the sitting MPs if not, then a new election is called.

This would however be a massive constitutional crisis. Which is one thing that Brown can threaten to keep the party in line.

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 5th, 2009 at 04:35:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If brown quits, then its up to the replacement to convince the queen that he can form a government

The... Queen?  Whoa there.  I thought she was basically a figure head.  But there are times when she can effectively decide which party should be in power?  Sven, take all your comparisons and go home.

This is wild!  I think I was trying to understand a situation I now see I will never really be able to comprehend.

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

by poemless on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:43:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the emphasis is on "convince the queen that he can form a government". If the guy doesn't have a majority anyway...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:48:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the Queen got to do with it though?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is to do with history.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:16:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not quite.  She can't decide which Party should be in power but she officially approves the Office of the Prime Minister.  Chops his head off with a sword or something.  Technically, the Queen could intervene and say no to the Party's choice of PM but her role is largely symbolic in officially agreeing whatever is recommended to her.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:49:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well if there's not a majority, She can invite anyone in theory, but in practice it would be the person who had managed to put the coalition that was in the majority. Minority governments have been invited before though. And in crisis, governments of national unity.

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 5th, 2009 at 05:19:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Minority Govts? I didn't know that.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:20:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd need a hung parliament.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 07:54:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When was the last minority government in the UK? Maybe the Liberals? If so, interesting that Canada and New Zealand kept that 'tradition' much fresher.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:23:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there was some in the 30'ies.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:27:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it was in the 30's, although in the 1970's we had Edward Heath refusing to resign, while in a minority and attempting to form a new government.

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 5th, 2009 at 05:40:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When was the last minority government in the UK? Maybe the Liberals? If so, interesting that Canada and New Zealand kept that 'tradition' much fresher.

Yeah, but New Zealand has proportional representation, while Canada has parties with strong regional bases, producing a multi-party system despite their unfair electoral system.

by IdiotSavant on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 08:33:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Still, the willingness of other parties to tolerate the minority government is what is necessary for the constellation to emerge -- and, AFAIK, most cases can be found in Commonwealth states.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 05:03:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Technically, the Queen could intervene and say no to the Party's choice of PM

...but no UK monarch has done that since 1834, and then it was the disaster which reinforced the rule.

but her role is largely symbolic in officially agreeing whatever is recommended to her.

And otherwise, Parliament cuts off her head.  Or her sock budget.  One or the other.

(In NZ, we have a Governor-General, who knows his place: he is there to make whoever has a majority PM, and sign whatever the elected Parliament puts in front of him.  Successive G-Gs have done this dutifully and without any hint of interfering or imposing their own views.  Unlike Australia)

by IdiotSavant on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 08:29:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
she's formally the Head of State (ie, for some, mostly representative, functions, the same as our and your president).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:59:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, figurehead Presidents in othewr European countries have the same powers regarding a replacement PM.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:00:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Queen has a ceremonial role here, not unlike the guy that the new US president swears the oath too.

In practice you need a parliamentary majority.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:14:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not comparable, because, when asked what it would take for Obama to become President, people do not bring up the bit about being sworn in.  It's nothing to do with the selection process.  They can't refuse to swear him in.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:44:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the fail him on the oath then? Repeatedly?

"What are you saying? I can't hear you? Come again?"

Yes, that would be absurd. Like the Queen refusing to appoint a PM that has support in the parliament. The power lies, it is just a ceremony.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:51:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Meant to write "the power lies elsewhere" but that was not to bad either.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 05:52:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then why bring it up?  It obviously carries some significance.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 06:16:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't the swear-in ceremony?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 06:18:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's like filling out your W-2 (income tax) forms when you get a new job.  It is required, but by then, you already have the job.  So I really fail to see the comparison.  

What is important about the Oath, is that you can't be held responsible for anything before it.  You're basically saying, Ok, from ... right...  NOW, I am officially in charge.

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

by poemless on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 06:23:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... phase in the life of a parliament, "XYZ is invited to form a government".

There was a time in the transition from the monarch as a real executive to the monarch as a figurehead of state when the monarch was more active in trying to get support for the fellow they wanted, but its long past.


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 Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 10:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But not formally past, right?

If a royal were to be extremely popular and extremely ambitious...

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 05:51:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like Simeon of Bulgaria?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 06:01:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Still not. They'd be able to remain behind the scenes after a coup. (Supposedly something like this almost happened in the UK with the Wilson Plot - which was an interesting example of how democracy really works in the UK.)

But an explicit return to monarchy via democratic elections would just confuse people.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 06:17:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the existing government was extremely unpopular and the other party likely to win the next election, the monarchy ... or its representative ... might dismiss a government without a vote of no confidence. The Governor-General of Australia did just that, at what is widely believed in lefty circles in Australia to be at the urging of Washington via the CIA, in the 1970's.

This, of course, made it a much greater likelihood that Australia will become a Republic if Charles succeeds Queen Elizabeth to the thrown. Their problem is finding a way to pick a President who would have even less power than the Governor-General, which is a tricky thing, but if the current monarch is sufficiently unpopular, they'll work something out.

Not as long as QEII is on the throne, of course, since she's a good sheila and not at all stuck up.

So the question would be, ambitious for what? Ambitious for power in the short term and the long term abolition of the monarchy in their country?


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 6th, 2009 at 12:08:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well you'd have to count on the party in power never getting it back again, or there might be a bit of a republican backlash.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 02:22:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you can't count on that, as long as elections are allowed to continue.


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 6th, 2009 at 02:44:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the question would be, ambitious for what? Ambitious for power in the short term and the long term abolition of the monarchy in their country?
Ambitious for a less ceremonial role, to begin with. Think along the lines of Augustus, not Caesar. I'm French, so I view monarchies with extreme suspicion anyway, but still. The essential characteristic of unwritten rules of conduct is that they are adaptable to changing circumstances in ways that are not easy to identify right away.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
by martingale on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 09:57:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Its not so much the unwritten rules of conduct as the realities of power ... written or unwritten, under constitutional arrangements that retain a monarch as a head of state when power is located in a parliament, in a showdown, the power would normally prevail over the figurehead.

When social institutions are breaking down, as in the Roman Republic under the weight of Imperial possessions, or in Japan as the extensive development of the urban economies under the Shogunate undermined the foundations of feudal Japan ... well, then people will push for revisions of the rules.


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 6th, 2009 at 10:10:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But if you're invoking the realities of power, then you must also accept popularity as a significant factor. In a showdown between the parliament and the monarch, if public opinion lies with the monarch and the monarch is also willing to use old dormant powers, would parliament still win?

For definiteness, imagine Charles had the charisma of Diana and intelligence to match, and that he was willing to lead on environmental causes with the full powers of the monarchy. Such a king could carve out a real (ie non-ceremonial) role in politics in a relatively short time, and a new concensus on the acceptability of (perhaps limited at first) political interference by the monarchy. It would require no new laws to make that change, just shift the unwritten rules of conduct. Would you agree, or does this sound too crazy?

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 11:28:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they were not so inbred, perhaps it would occur :)

They have a position of visibility, and if a monarch were to seize some power they could argue that it was not a formal change. Just like Bush argued that enemy combatants were not covered by conventions. But since all their lines of command would go through positions appointed by parliament or an executive appointed by parliament, chances are that they would quickly face a reaction.

Last time a swedish monarch tried anything was during world war one. Parliament quickly obstructed and teh king was forced to back down.

One might note that the risk/benefit analysis for a king to interfere is not very positive. On the risk side is abolishment of monarchy - thus of cushy very well-paid position - and going down in history as the one that failed. On the benefit side is getting real power, but unless the king actually has an agenda that might turn out to just be a lot of work.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 03:19:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When one parliament is unpopular, you get to vote for a new one. People will stop comparing the monarch to the previous unpopular parliament, and start comparing the monarch to the popular parliament that they will elect.

And, after all, its not like they have to reason this out from scratch ... this is social evolution at work. Those monarchies that survive are those that have learned the lesson that they get to survive as long as they stay above the fray.


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 Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 10:39:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In a parliamentary system the figurehead head of state proposes PM candidates for ratification by the parliament, and dissolves the parliament calling a new election if no government can be formed.

In practice, the head of state always nominates the known leader of a party or coalition having a majority of the seats or a plurality plus the acquiescence of a majority.

Like ceebs says, it's like how the Chief Justice of the SCOTUS administers the oath of office to the new president...

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 07:52:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean, he would threeaten to go suicidal and have the MPs supporting him prevent any PM candidate?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 04:46:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well in the current climate, he could go to the queen and say, I can no longer govern, then an election would be called, and four weeks down the road, a lot of people from his party would become ex-MPs

The threat of suddenly having to look for a real job is something that will keep some in line.

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 5th, 2009 at 05:02:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But there are a lot of Labour MEPs who think they can get reelected more easily if they oust Brown first so someone else leads the party to defeat in the next general election.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 5th, 2009 at 07:49:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've always enjoyed constitutional crises, they're like exciting football games for us in the chattering classes, far more exciting really as the stakes are actually worth something.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Jun 6th, 2009 at 11:19:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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