Tuesday 25 October 2022

Let it be: why we don't need a general election right now.

Politics is a subject supposedly best avoided in polite conversation, and I tend to avoid it on social media. However angry we are about people, events and decisions, it serves little useful purpose to vent about it online, not least as most ordinary people live in social media echo chambers where we mainly see posts by people with whom we agree.

However, although blogging has gone out of fashion, I still enjoy reading others’ thoughts when expressed on the often more considered and restrained platform of a blog, and I also enjoy forming the thoughts that swirl in my head into a coherent whole, so I am committing some strongly-held views which have come to my mind over this week for this new post. As always in matters political, there will be some who agree, and some who don't.

So here we go - on the day that our third Prime Minister in two months takes office - October 25th, 2022…..Why we don’t need an election right now.

I am not, and never have been, a Conservative voter or supporter. I nevertheless prefer to keep my political opinions and comments for the ears of family and closest friends only, but sometimes there are exceptions, and right now is one of those times.

Like many like-minded people, I have despaired over the past five years at some of the individuals and policies that have been inflicted upon this nation by successive Tory governments which are hostage to right-wing English nationalist factions and which bear no resemblance to the traditions of Conservatives at their best.

It is easy to react to the recent chaos with angry calls for the peoples' voice to be heard, and to elect a Labour Government at this point might seem like an attractive solution. However, it would do the Labour Party no favours were they to gain power thanks to the weakness of their opponents rather than because of their own strengths.  They remain a work in progress after some years of misguided folly, and a strong opposition which is a believable alternative is an essential part of a well-functioning government. Labour may soon be just that, but not right now, not least as they would face exactly the same economic mess that is facing the present government.

In the end, a period in the political wilderness is good for either of the main parties, giving it time for the inevitable recriminations before eventually coming to their senses. The past forty years have seen both major parties spend years in opposition because they have reacted to electoral setbacks by lurching to their own extremes: Labour has done it twice, in the Michael Foot years and then the Jeremy Corbyn years, wasting golden opportunities to shape the country for the better in so doing. Labour’s disastrous spell under Corbyn was a classic case, and is in many ways directly responsible for inflicting this present government upon us. It was patently obvious that Corbyn was unelectable against the background that led to the 2017 and 2019 elections, and a more inclusive Labour Party led by one of its “lost leaders” - (Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Alan Johnson, the other Miliband, Andy Burnham, or even Keir Starmer) could have defeated the Tories in either of those elections before the car crash of a hard Brexit became the disastrous long-term consequence of Cameron’s decision in 2016 to try to solve his party's problems by asking the electorate to vote in a referendum on an irreversible policy.

The Tories have, since 2015, done serious and in some cases irreparable damage to the country which I love, and part of me wants to see the Tories out of office until, like all parties eventually do, they come to their senses and return to the centre ground which is where the overwhelming majority of Britons stand.

However, I do NOT want a General Election right now.

Firstly, because, like millions of others, I just want some political and financial calm and stability. I want some peace and quiet. After the chaos of recent times, with the lazy amoral leadership of Johnson followed by the astonishingly inept non-leadership of Truss, we now have as Prime Minister a young British Asian man who has the look and sound of a serious, capable and hard-working leader. His speech on taking office today was characteristically measured and serious: realistic yet reassuring.

Whether we admit it or not, we already owe Mr Sunak a debt of gratitude for instigating the long overdue departure of Johnson, not to mention for his shrewd management of government finances through most of the pandemic. I have no idea whether he will make a good PM, but at the very least he appears to behave like a grown-up leader, not an opportunistic clown (Johnson) or an incompetent zealot promoted way beyond her ability by the votes of a few thousand deluded party members (Truss). I really don’t care that Mr Sunak is a millionaire, or that his wife is, as long as he can steer the country clear of its present financial perils. Being a millionaire does not necessarily make you uncaring about those less fortunate than you are.

Secondly, because to demand an election now is futile. The Tories have a large majority - a mandate for a party and a set of policies, not an individual, and their MPs would not in the near future dream of voting down their leader in a confidence vote. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

Thirdly, and in many ways most importantly, because to demand an election represents a fundamental misunderstanding of our parliamentary democracy. At a General Election, we vote in constituencies for representative delegates, most of whom belong to a party, and the party which achieves a majority of seats wins the election. We do not vote for the party’s leader, even though of course our choice is heavily influenced by the personality and policies of the leaders, but the Prime Minister is not a President. He or she is the person whom the majority party chooses as its leader, by its own choice of system, be it right or wrong. And the party with a parliamentary majority can change leader as often as it wishes to, as has been the case more times than many would care to admit.

Believe it or not, no British Prime Minister has arrived and left office through a General Election since Ted Heath (1970 - 74). That’s a remarkable statistic. Of the subsequent PMs, seven have resigned whilst still in office (Wilson, Thatcher, Blair, Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss) and seven have taken up office without an initial public electoral mandate (Callaghan, Major, Brown, May, Johnson, Truss, Sunak).

The gradual elevation of the position of Prime Minister to a quasi-Presidential status is, in my opinion, one of the most regrettable features of British politics in recent years, and is a process undoubtedly fanned by mass media and by both opponents and supporters of incumbent PMs. Of course we cannot and must not deny the primacy of the office and the importance of a good leader, and in the mass media age it is inevitable that TV debates have replaced local hustings and soapbox speeches as the main source of our views on potential leaders.

However, to assign every government decision to an individual is just plain wrong, and risks giving the individual more importance than the office deserves. Johnson played up to this, and people lapped it up in a manner that I found cringe worthy. Those who love him and those who loathe him constantly refer to him as “Boris”, thereby creating a personality cult which plays into the hands of a man who relies for his appeal on a carefully crafted persona of some kind of lovable buffoon, when in fact he is a lazy, amoral opportunist with no sense of duty. I have always pointedly referred to him as Johnson, because he doesn’t even deserve the respect of a title like “Mr”. The new PM is Mr Sunak, not “Rishi”. Politics is, as he himself has said, a serious and professional business. Surnames, please.

So yes, in two years’ time, the people can, and will pass judgement on this Conservative government, and they may well decide that after what will by then be 14 years in power, their time is up. But in the meantime, the opposition would be well advised to get on with fine-tuning their policies and making themselves look like a government-in-waiting, and the government should be left to attempt to clear up the mess left by a pandemic, a war and its own idiotic decisions, under what I truly hope will be Mr Sunak’s shrewd, assiduous and serious-minded leadership. Give the man a chance.

So no election yet, please. Let's leave things as they stand, give King Charles time to get to know his second Prime Minister and let Mr Sunak have a chance to prove that he can indeed unite the country by deeds as well as words. And give the rest of us a break from politics, politicians and political correspondents.

Those who know my blog posts will be aware that I always give them a title from a song, so I leave this one with a title from the words of wisdom of the Beatles, or rather of Paul McCartney’s mother Mary: Let it Be. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello Blogger,

    Indeed Mr Sunak is of the best leader... This post is very inspirational for many of us and also powerful inspirational quotes by famous people are important to us,where we look forward and do the best.


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