By John Brindley - Staff Author
WHOMEVER of the ten emerges from the bear fight they call a Tory leadership contest to occupy Downing Street will continue a remarkable trend in post-democratic Britain.
For he or she will become the FOURTH, arguably even the FIFTH, candidate within the last 29 years to take the post of Prime Minister with only cursory reference to the electorate.
Now, forgive me if I got the wrong end of the stick, but am I not constantly remind that suffering suffragettes and dying soldiers gave their all for me to have a say in our free country?
I go to the ballot box to mark my X in my chosen slot and a government, led by a Prime Minister, is magically elected.
Then, when I have had enough of that particular government, I can vote again and change it.
But, increasingly, that looks more like a fairy tale as more and more Prime Ministers are neither voted in, nor out, by the people who are supposed to matter.
This interesting feature of modern day history started with the downfall of Margaret Thatcher.
The electorate had three chances to say ‘no, no, no’ to the Iron Lady and failed as she won General Elections in 1979, 1983 and 1987.
But what millions couldn’t achieve with their apparently all-powerful vote, men – and they are mostly men – in the shadows achieved in a matter of weeks.
Mrs Thatcher was thrown to the wolves by those with higher power within the Conservative Party and guess what happened next?
She was succeeded by a man much of the electorate had never heard of – John Major.
Somehow he went from zero to hero in a twinkling of an eye with members of the Conservative Party rubber stamping the fait accompli. The rest of us – the huge majority – just looked on in bewilderment.
Our next Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was endorsed by the electorate – three times.
So, yes, that was democracy in action, at least to a degree. Although those who vividly recall 1997 onwards will verify Blair was almost the only choice.
Somehow the stars all aligned in favour of Labour when the Tories were at their weakest, both in numbers and morale, in living memory. The only comparison I can make is with the Conservatives today.
So what happened to this champion of democracy? Like Thatcher, he wasn’t voted out. Blair, by this time acting more like a president than a democrat, decided he could hand the crown to Gordon Brown. Yet again, very few meaningful votes were cast.
Brown was at least voted out in 2010 but was the coalition government led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg really voted in?
The Liberal Democrats won just 57 of 650 seats – five fewer than at the previous general election – yet Clegg got the post as an ‘unelected’ Deputy Prime Minister, so that Cameron’s Tories, who didn’t have a majority, could treat the nation to austerity therapy.
But, if it remains a moot point whether Cameron was originally elected, there’s no doubting the fact he became the second Prime Minister in nine years to pass on the baton without the electorate having a say.
Despite promising he would continue in office whatever the result of the 2016 referendum, he quit within hours allowing Theresa May to walk into the post with even fewer electors involved. Her final obstacle Andrea Leadsom obligingly pulled out meaning not even party members were needed to confirm a done deal.
And now history is repeating itself yet again. Support has been withdrawn from up above forcing Theresa May to resign and a new largely unelected Prime Minister will take her place.
I think I need to change my initial assumption.
Those suffragettes and soldiers made their sacrifices to allow men in the shadows to decide on our behalf who should become Prime Minister – then take away that power if and when they so choose.
Now that’s not what I call democracy and I won’t be wasting time at a polling booth any time soon.
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