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
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
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
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,
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.