David Cameron: A replacement PM means an election within 6 months

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    Comment at end

    24th April 2010

    This is fun… and intriguing.

    David Cameron hates Gordon Brown with a fervour that matches his ardour for Tony Blair. Dave’s big nightmare to the voters until recently (but it might all change this week) has been –

    “What? Voting Labour/Lib Dem? You want a hung parliament? Another five years of Brown?”

    He believes that that prospect hits the spot. And he’s largely right, if polls are to be believed. This is, on the surface, to stymie those in Labour who have leadership plans afoot, if there is a hung Labour/Lib Dem coalition. It is meant to flag up the illegitimacy of that train of thought or action. Labour will not be permitted to remove Brown and replace him with A N Other – for instance Miliband or Mandelson, or dare I suggest Blair.

    But something tells me he’s not thinking of Blair or even Brown with this –

    Unelected PMs must call poll within 6 months – Cameron

    Asked if this should have applied to John Major, who took over from Thatcher, he says “I’m not talking about the past, I’m talking about the future” (video clip.)

    Excerpt –

    David Cameron has proposed that anyone who takes over as prime minister mid-way through a Parliament would have to hold an election within six months.

    The Conservative leader has been a critic of the way Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair and spent three years as PM without an election.

    John Major and Jim Callaghan also both took over as PM outside of elections.

    On the video clip David Cameron also says: “The politicians would love” a hung parliament.

    BBC report here.

    I suppose Dave has been thinking through ‘this election within six months’ business. Not that he’s wrong. In fact I think he’s right. No matter what we are told about people voting for parties and not prime ministers, we all know that it is the leader who seeks to impress, and who informs our opinions of his party and his ability to lead it and the country. Blair’s unseemly removal from office was my reason for starting this blog.

    But it’s not just that such a law would have meant that Brown would have been out of everyone’s hair some time ago, but the Labour party also might well have been.  On the other hand, with such a law, Tony Blair would never have stood down, and Brown could not have pushed him to do so. Does Dave really think he’d have done better up against Blair?

    But of course it is highly unlikely that Mr Blair, if still PM, would have even considered taking part in tripartite TV debates, despite being the best “performer” of the lot.

    He would have realised that doing so would have given the third party a unique platform. Unexpectedly, this platform has turned this from the most boring election campaign pre-TV debates to the most interesting for years.

    Tony Blair would never have fallen for it.

    Unlike Brown and Cameron, Mr Blair understood.

    But this exemplifies only a tiny part of the complexities around the who’s on whose side and why stuff that’s going on behind party HQs right now.


    This is mainly a shot across the bows of his own Tory party. He’s saying, behind his hands – “if we and that yellow crowd are in an unbalanced parliament, you lot can forget lurching to the right with another leader, and booting me out.”


    1. Martin Kettle pours cold water on Dave’s big ‘daft’ idea with this persuasive argument:

    “A general election chooses a parliament, not a prime minister, as the vote on 6 May may well remind us in the most graphic way. A prime minister is a party leader who can command a parliamentary majority. As long as he can do that, he does not need to call a general election.

    Suppose that Tony Blair had died in the summer of 1997, just after Labour’s huge general election victory in May of that year. Presumably, Brown would have succeeded him, quite probably without a contest. Under the Lex Cameron, Brown would have been compelled to call a second general election in late 1997 in order to continue in office. Presumably the underlying argument of Cameron’s idea is that a PM who has not won an election is in some sense illegitimate. But in what conceivable way would Brown’s premiership in this hypothetical 1997 example not have had the most complete and comprehensive legitimacy imaginable?

    You may not like Gordon Brown’s record. You may not think he is a good prime minister. You may think Labour made a terrible choice when they made him their leader. You may wish they had held a party election with a proper contest. I’d probably agree with most of that. But Brown is a 100 per cent properly chosen prime minister all the same, just as Major, Callaghan, Home, Eden, Churchill, Chamberlain, Macdonald and many others also were.

    By all means propose that Britain should have an elected prime minister the way some other countries do. By all means propose that we have an executive president. Those ideas are worth discussing, whether you agree with them or not. Cameron’s idea, though, is simply incompatible with the parliamentary system that — unless I’ve not been paying attention — remains the way we conduct our politics. There are lots of things that need radical change in the British political system. The way that we change our prime ministers in mid-parliament is not one of them.”

    Persuasive, yes. In part. However, it would not be difficult in principle to write in exclusion lists to such a rule, for instance on the death or incapacity of a PM. In those cases the parites could replace their leader/prime minister. Mr Cameron’s aim seems to be shooting-down political machinations within parties – which as we know, were the reasons Mr Blair left early. In that case Dave has my backing. Even now people still say Mr Blair reneged on his promise to “serve a full third term”. True, he did, but the knives in his back were persuasive.

    I DO think we vote for a Presidential type Prime Minister these days, whether we are supposed to or not.

    And I am not sure if Mr Kettle has considered that Dave’s idea may have less to do with Brown (or Blair) than it has to do with Cameron. We don’t really want a ‘hung PM’ like Cameron (+ LDs) being removed by other Tories for ‘political’ reasons, do we? The press would have a field-day, dismissing them (ALL) as unprincipled, untrustworthy so and sos. And then we’d be back in the position BOTH main parties find themselves today.

    The politically aligned press on both sides has done the business, OVERdone it. The business has rebounded on them. And, of course, on us. The winner, so far? The other lot.

    2. Polls still point to a hung parliament

    Love’s Lost Labours/Lib Dems/Tories

    Body language instructions: "Whatever you do don't look the other guys in the eye"

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    One Response to “David Cameron: A replacement PM means an election within 6 months”

    1. celia walters Says:

      Eden Churchill and Chamberlain weren’t even voted in by their own party just as Brown so Cameron should be careful Churchill was in power 5 years before an election and chsmberlain 3 yrs before that swo that we had 2 pm’s following each other that weren’t elected

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