Saturday, February 03, 2007

"I do know but one/ That unassailable holds on his rank"

posted by k

The Ides of March are still more than a month away but the conspirators are getting ready. I don't suppose Brown, Milliband, Hain, Harman et al. are sharpening real daggers. I don't suppose Margaret Beckett will greet Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Question Time with a petition calling for the resintatement of Clare Short, nor that the Cabinet will fall on Blair, stabbing him frenziedly, until, with the last blow from Ruth Kelly, he gives way and utters his final words below a photo of John Major (or Robin Cook).

But how does anyone get rid of a Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister exercises a great deal of independent power. In theory a vote of no confidence could dethrone him, but that's convention rather than law. Constitutionally, the Queen could dismiss him, but she's unlikely to do so. She's been trained to prevent a conflict between her role as Head of State and the elected representatives in the Commons. The Labour Party could presumably call a conference and vote in a new Labour leader, but that wouldn't stop Blair remaining Prime Minister.

So the conspirators spin and hope and release anonymous briefings to the press. Meanwhile, voters experience a familiar combination of anger and cynicism. I hope it won't end with the death of the poet laureate at the hands of an angry mob, shouting, "Let's tear him for his bad verses" nor with rabble-rousing speeches and civil war.

But what's happening now is not what I would call democracy.

How do we get rid of a Prime Minister?


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