Democracy, UK style…

About 160,000 fee-paying members – half aged over 60, 97% white and skewing male from southern England – will have the chance to vote next month to decide who will become prime minister in early September.

Indeed so, but then UK politics isn’t about democracy, but rather about maintaining ‘The Party’ in power at all costs.

Two choices for me - removal of PM triggers a general election or the deputy PM automatically takes over like Gerald Ford did when Nixon resigned.

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hardly significant to UK politics though Tim is it. The VP was elected as such by the people and was not appointed by the principal office holder.

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No country that doesn’t have a one person one vote majority for its government, is a democracy. UK has never been a democracy, this is just one more proof of that.

Morning Tim

Problem is we have a, so called, parliamentary democracy.

We vote for the parties not the leaders, so a change of leader, for good or bad, does not generate the need for an election.


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not quite… we vote for a Parliamentary representative - someone to represent the constituency in Parliament no matter what the constituents’ political leaning :wink:

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And yet it was okay for Raab to takeover when Johnson had Covid and Labour etc suggested he also take charge when Johnson resigned.

If this isn’t acceptable then a GE is the only viable option if people aren’t happy with the current situation.

Raab was appointed First Minister by the PM (as is his gift) and that function is in his job description… just as William Hague stepped in for Cameron during his absences from the UK. There is no official post of Deputy Prime Minister, just that the PM is deputised by the First Minister of State.

There’s frankly bugger all the electorate can do about it until a GE occurs. With the repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, that now becomes less certain.


Good point, well made.


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semantics perhaps but the subtlety is often misunderstood.
Witness the number of people who say (of Brexshit) “we voted for Boris” when in fact, the only people who could “vote for Boris” were his constituents in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. His majority at the last GE was 7k against an electorate of 70k with a 68% turnout. Given the current mood of the country towards Brexshit, Partygate, Tory sleaze et al, if he is given a suspension from the House by the priviledges committe for lying to Parliament, he could be recalled and could well lose his seat.

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My American political history isn’t great but what makes what you’ve both said interesting is that I had always understood Ford was very much a one off never happened before and never to be repeated and hadn’t actually been voted as either role. Nixon used the 25th Amendment to make him VP when Agnew resigned in disgrace, both houses voted but before it could be ratified Nixon resigned so he was just switched to the POTUS, again using the powers of the 25th Amendment. Again I’m not a scholar in these matters but I don’t actually know whether he was ever legally VP since it was never actually ratified or whether the vote was enough. But certainly none of it was normal practice and Ford’s rise from VP to POTUS certainly wasn’t automatic, both houses have to agree and I assume given the current state of the Republican Party for example there’s a real possibility that they’d attempt to put a spanner in the works of a Harris takeover if it were needed.

Not that this is entirely relevant to the discussion :see_no_evil:


OTOH LBJ was sworn in as President when Kennedy was assassinated. He was JFKs VP.
There is no suggestion that I can see that the current VP Harris should not automatically succeed the Presidency in the event that Biden falls of his perch (unless the succession rules have changed since).
Like you @kirsteastevenson I am no expert on US State politics (nor do I aspire to be).

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The USA have a clearly defined “order of precedence” as to who takes over if a President dies, resigns, is impeached, or just temporarily incapacitated:

Vice President
Speaker of the House of Representatives
President pro tempore of the Senate
Secretary of State
Secretary of the Treasury
Secretary of Defense
Attorney General
Secretary of the Interior…
and then 10 other Secretaries down to the Secretary of Homeland Security!

The UK has no such formal system (and of course no written constitution) - the Prime Minister is technically whoever the Queen invites to form a Government, which by convention is the leader of whichever party commands a majority in Parliament. So it is down to the Tories to sort out a new leader and in the meantime Boris stays as PM (because he was the last person “invited by the Queen”), despite his lack of political authority.

I agree that having a formal system where a designated Minister takes over might be better, but I suppose that would require an Act of Parliament to set up.

Incidentally, even though having 165,000 Tory party members pick the new PM seems undemocratic, it used to be worse - the first time a Tory leader was actually elected was 1965 (Alec Douglas-Home) - before that the party leader “emerged” after “consultations” in the famous “smoke-filled back rooms”…

We largely *do* have a written constitution, it’s just that it isn’t all written down in one place.

There’s lots of academic research on this in many ‘western democracies’, and it generally agrees that they are not very democratic at all - eg. (on the US)

“analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence" (Professor Martin Gilens, Princeton, and Professor Benjamin Page, Northwestern University)

In the UK surveys of public attitudes find…

  • 60 % of respondents back public ownership of the railways
  • a majority of people are in favour of nationalising Royal Mail, water companies and energy companies
  • 67% of respondents (including 65% of Tory voters) support capping private housing rents, with 69% supporting “increasing the percentage of new builds required to be set aside for affordable housing.”
  • 61% of the public supports a wealth tax for people with assets over £750,000.
  • And most importantly, a 2021 Demos and WWF survey of 22,000 British people — the “biggest analysis of [climate] policy preferences ever published” according to the Guardian - found overwhelming support for such policies as carbon tax (94%), food campaigns that promote plant-based diets and reduced meat and dairy consumption (93%) and raising flying costs for frequent fliers (89%).

But none of these policies are supported by either Tory or Labour parties. The Democratic Audit research unit at LSE has concluded:

“There are very firm grounds to suggest that the power which large corporations and wealthy individuals now wield on the UK political system is unprecedented,… Evidence is presented throughout our Audit of ways in which policy-making appears to have shifted from the democratic arena to a far less transparent set of arrangements in which politics and business interests have become increasingly interwoven.”

In researched years, investigations have found, for example, the City of London providing over 50% of funding for the Conservative Party, an additional £92.8m (with 800 staff working full-time) on lobbying government, and private firms including health, arms and technology giants providing £13 million for all-party parliamentary groups, and other groups of MPs.

And it goes without saying, of course, that 75% of UK newspaper readership is in the hands of 3 companies, largely controlled from abroad.


Fair point, but that’s what I meant - it’s not a a single document (plus Amendments!) like the Americans have…

However there’s still some stuff that isn’t in any actual legislation:

"Much of parliamentary procedure has developed through continued use over the centuries and is not written in the Standing Orders. This is sometimes known as ‘custom and practice.’

The practice of bills being ‘read’ three times in both Houses is not in the Standing Orders for example. Other procedures have developed through precedents such as rulings made by the Speaker and resolutions of the House."

Were you similarly outraged when fee-paying members of the Labour Party voted for who they wanted to lead the party?

Which is the wrong way to apply such a tax, it should be on income not assets.


Why? It’s perfectly possible to acquire huge wealth illegally or by inheritance or some other lucky break and escape almost all tax. Land tax, in particular, could be very progressive - and very hard to avoid since you can’t (for example) move a mansion or country estate out to a tax haven.

True, some large home-owners with little income might be forced to let rooms or even downsize - but that’s still much fairer than - for example - the ‘bedroom tax’ on people on disability benefits, etc…