Party leadership selection? July 12, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
There’s a point in the Observer editorial from this weekend that I tend to disagree with. Complaining, correctly in my view, about Andrea Leadsom, it goes a step too far in the following:
Leadsom’s socially illiberal views, including on gay marriage and maternity rights, are clearly out of step with the country she seeks to lead. That alone should be enough to disqualify her as prime minister. Yet she is not required to seek a mandate from the British people: she only needs to convince a majority of Conservative members to vote for her. As the current predicament of the Labour party shows, party memberships are far from representative of the voters who back them. It is fundamentally undemocratic to have national political leaders, who represent millions, selected by party memberships numbering the hundreds of thousands. It represents an uncomfortable attempt at a halfway house between parliamentary representative democracy and the American primary system. It delivers the worst of both worlds.
I cannot genuinely see how it is fundamentally undemocratic to have party leaderships elected by party members. It certainly is no more undemocratic than party leaderships elected by party representatives.
And even were one to go an essentially presidential route, with ‘national’ leaders elected by all voters, those leaders would still be filtered by the parties themselves. How could it be otherwise? And why should voters with no affinity or attachment to a party select the leader of a party?
Of course it is not perfectly democratic, but then all political structures are contingent.
Indeed a moments thought suggests that there’s no way of squaring this circle in bourgeois politics, and perhaps not outside it either short of consensus, which rarely seems to me to be actual consensus.
There is a slightly different issue as to legitimisation of the Prime Minister once elected by the party membership. Gordon Brown faced this and appears to have resiled from an early election that quite likely he would have won handily, perhaps Enda Kenny will too. May has ruled it out. We’ll see. I would go so far as to suggest that at some point relatively soon after a change in leadership that results in a change in PM or Taoiseach that should be validated by a broader vote – most obviously an election.
But that is different from leaving the process of selection to general voters. And one cannot help feeling reading this that none of this was a problem until someone decided it was a problem – both in relation to the Tories and Labour.