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2009-06-05 - 13:15:00 - by AlisonW - Topic: UK-Politics: Westminster |

Repeatedly one hears political commentators exclaiming that Gordon Brown has "no mandate" to be the Prime Minister given that he wasn't the leader of his party at the time of the General Election. A few moments ago William Hague said it again on a television interview on the BBC.

Every time I hear this I want to scream out that people should really learn about the form of electoral democracy we have in this country. Unlike the USA or France, for example, we do not directly elect our political leader. We have representational democracy where each constituency elects a representative to the national parliament at Westminster. It is they who appoint a Prime Minister from amongst their number; usually the leader of the largest party. If that individual resigns – like Harold Wilson – or is removed by their colleagues – like Margaret Thatcher – their replacement needs no "new mandate from the country" as they were never elected by 'the country'. The only people who elect the PM are, in one sense, the electorate of their constituency which elected them to Parliament in the first place!

Major, Callaghan, and Brown took over as PM by virtue of our political system and had every right to continue in post without 'getting permission' from anyone else, least of all a General election. And being the leader of one's party at the time of an election doesn't always mean getting the top the next day either. The former Greater London Council was a body elected in a similar manner to Westminster on the opposite side of the Thames, yet in the election on 7 May 1981 – which Labour, under the leadership of Andrew McIntosh narrowly won – saw the coming to power of Ken Livingstone as he challenged and beat McIntosh for the leadership the following day!

So, whether we like the understudy taking the top job or not, they have the right, and duty, to do that job. Our system precludes any other option.



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