“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” – attributed to Winston Churchill (but probably apocryphal)
I’m going to drop a bombshell. And the thing that really surprised me about this is that it’s going to be a bombshell to most of you.
What if I told you that we have never, ever, in the history of ever, elected a Prime Minister?
Apparently even people who think of themselves as politically aware, perhaps even savvy, don’t seem to appreciate this. So here is British parliamentary democracy 101:
When you put a cross in the little box on the ballot paper, you may have noticed that there is a person’s name next to it. That person is the person that you are voting for, out of a list of people that are volunteering to represent your views to Parliament. Your vote counts only for an election of a representative in your constituency. When all the constituencies have returned a representative to Parliament, a group of them will get together and their nominated leader will ask Her Majesty the Queen if they can form a government. You do not, and never did, get a say as to whom the leader of the political party is.
I appreciate that this probably doesn’t make you feel any better about the Tory leadership turning into a no-contest. I also appreciate that, if you’re a Labour supporter (official or not), this won’t make you feel any better about the Parliamentary Labour Party’s attempt to oust Corbyn. What I’m about to say here will not provide comfort either.
If you have used the phrase “unelected” over these last few days in relation to Mrs May possibly becoming Prime Minister, you are part of the problem. You are the reason that the parties get away with parachuting preferred candidates (i.e. the ones who have played internal politics the best) into safe seats. Constituents blindly voting for Labour without consideration of who the candidate actually is have certainly created the Labour Party’s current mess. They wanted a socialist Prime Minister, so they voted for any dickhead in a red tie in their constituency. As a Labour voter, unless your MP (or failed candidate from 2015) is an open Corbyn supporter, you personally have made this mess. The Scots got it right: Labour needed a damn good drubbing at the last election so that they could purge, reform and rethink. If the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and expecting different results, then the Parliamentary Labour Party are mad. Infighting lost them the last election, and it looks set to lose them the next one.
As a cold comfort, I can give advice for 2020: vote local. Actually look at who your preferred party’s candidate is. And if they don’t represent your views, vote for somebody else. When the division bell rings, you’re better off with a rebel from the other bench than a toady from your own. And when Parliament is full of members who truly represent their constituencies, maybe then they’ll choose the Prime Minister you would have elected.