…..which it will be, especially when one’s career is at stake when a new overlord has manoeuvred his/her way to the top of the cesspool.
Yesterday began quietly, but with Leadsom’s announcement at about 12:15 one could say that ‘all hell broke loose’ and the force which galvanized behind May reminds one of the lyrics to 76 trombones, with Conservative MP after Conservative MP all seeking to catch her eye for a job in her administration, each adding to the growing cacophany. By late afternoon, when Cameron had endorsed his successor and set out a timetable for the handing over of power, an act which has no place in democracy, per se, had taken place.
Yet again we are to have a new ‘dictator’ who will impose on us their vision of the society in which we are to live and who we, the people, will have not elected, who has not provided any manifesto; and thus leaving us with no concrete idea of what may be in store for us. The ‘May coronation’ is not new, witness that of Major and Brown.
The appointment of a new party political leader can be termed a constitutional convention, in that it is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the political institutions of a state. The term ‘constitutional convention’ was, to my knowledge, first used by AV Dicey in his 1883 book, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (10th edition, pp. 23-24):
……..set of rules consist of conventions, understandings, habits, or practices that—though they may regulate the conduct of the several members of the sovereign power, the Ministry, or other officials—are not really laws, since they are not enforced by the courts. This portion of constitutional law may, for the sake of distinction, be termed the “conventions of the constitution”, or constitutional morality (emphasis mine) – or possibility constitutional immorality, but then perhaps I digress…….
Nearly a century later Peter Hogg, a leading authority on Canadian constitutional law, wrote:
Conventions are rules of the constitution which are not enforced by the law courts. Because they are not enforced by the law courts they are best regarded as non-legal rules, but because they do in fact regulate the working of the constitution they are an important concern of the constitutional lawyer. What conventions do is to prescribe the way in which legal powers shall be exercised. Some conventions have the effect of transferring effective power from the legal holder to another official or institution. Other conventions limit an apparently broad power, or even prescribe that a legal power shall not be exercised at all. (Constitutional Law of Canada, p. 7) (emphasis mine).
It is also worth noting the words of Prime Minister H. Asquith, who in 1928, wrote in his memoirs:
In this country we live … under an unwritten Constitution. It is true that we have on the Statute-book great instruments like Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, and the Bill of Rights which define and secure many of our rights and privileges; but the great bulk of our constitutional liberties and … our constitutional practices do not derive their validity and sanction from any Bill which has received the formal assent of the King, Lords and Commons. They rest on usage, custom, convention, often of slow growth in their early stages, not always uniform, but which in the course of time received universal observance and respect (emphasis mine).
As far as I am aware the mechanism for transferring the office of Prime Minister, or the leader of a political party, in the UK has come from what may be termed ‘internal party rules’ governing their ‘election’, a process in which the electorate, per se, has no participation whatsoever.
As an aside it is worth noting that since World War II there have been almost as many changes of PM from within the same party as there have as a result of a general election; and yesterday’s events are mirrored by those of 1990 when John Major failed to win an outright majority in the second round of voting, at which point the other candidates withdrew.
It is a constant source of amusement to me when I hear our politicians talk about ‘our democracy’, or ‘democracy’, yet then pontificate on the process by which we accept the appointment of a new prime minister or political leader; a process no better than that by which the dictator of a ‘banana republic’ achieves office.
In her speech yesterday morning, in Birmingham, May said: In the coming weeks, I will set out my plans to take our economy through this period of uncertainty, to get the economy growing strongly across all parts of the country, to deal with Britain’s longstanding productivity problem, to create more well-paid jobs, to negotiate the best terms for Britain’s departure from the European Union – and to forge a new role for ourselves in the world. Later, once her coronation was complete, she said: …we are going to give people more control of their lives…..
It is noted that Brexit is fourth on what appears to be her list of priorities, yet the first three depend on the outcome of Brexit. One can make of that what one will. In respect of the last statement, one can be forgiven for thinking that the control over our lives will continue to be with one that entails the final approval of central government – think recall of MPs where the final decision is one for politicians. In any event, as always, we must wait and see what our politicians have in store for us.
Currently whether it be how our prime ministers are chosen or the system of democracy under which we are forced to live, we are in the hands of our politicians; although where the latter point is concerned people pressure/power could change that. That it will have to be people pressure/power that brings that about is, to quote AV Dicey writing in the Introduction to Law of the Constitution, 8th ed (London: Macmillan 1915 p.c.) obvious:
It is certain that no man who is really satisfied with the working of our party system will ever look with favour on an institution which aims at correcting the vices of party government.
Until such time as it is possible to achieve direct democracy in this country – a system whereby the people are able to control the actions of politicians rather than the current system whereby politicians are able to control us – why is it I continually remember the words of Leo Marks:
The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have is yours.
The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours