Monday 5 September 2022
Clearly, Britain does have a Presidential Election. Only one with a far more limited franchise than in, say, Russia or Iran. You cannot defend a system whereby 80,000 people, who have paid for the privilege and who are representative of no one but themselves, can impose a Prime Minister on a nation of at least 67 million, which is undoubtedly still one of the 10 largest economies in the world, and which is a nuclear-armed Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council. Don't bother trying, because you just can't. And you know it.
So, Richard Holden, why do you want Liz Truss to be Prime Minister? You don't, and we all know that you don't, because you have repeatedly said so, in no uncertain terms. You have gone well beyond merely campaigning for Rishi Sunak. You and most of your colleagues have this afternoon, this evening, tonight, and the early part of tomorrow morning, in which to tell the Queen that Truss would not command an overall majority in the House of Commons, so that chaos would ensue if she ever attempted to present it with a legislative programme.
The men in grey suits marked Boris Johnson's card during the Prorogation Crisis. From then on, they were looking for an excuse to get rid of him. In the end, he provided them with one. He has not been the worst Prime Minister of all time, or the worst in living memory, or the worst of this century so far. He ate a cake. He did not start a war.
But he had already shown that he did not believe in Parliament, and that he had been more prepared than any of his predecessors to use the Crown's vast powers to govern without it, which the tides of history had vested in a Prime Minister who was in fact purely the monarch's appointee on, if anything, the nomination of the outgoing one, and not in any sense the formal choice of Parliament, of which he did not even need to be a member. During the present reign, there has been a period when the Prime Minister was a member of neither House.
The thing is that such direct rule by the Crown, meaning the Prime Minister, would be all well and good if you could cope with the riots and the bombs. If at all possible, however, riots and bombs ought to be avoided in the first place. That is why we have a Parliament as well, and why power within it has come to be transferred to the House of Commons, which has itself come to be elected by universal suffrage. Johnson probably thought that he would be all right because he was ostensibly acting in the popular cause of Brexit. He may have pulled that one off. But he had shown his tendencies, so he had to go. If Covid-19 had never happened, then he would have gone a lot sooner.
We are now beyond even that, since we are on the eve of a Premiership that the House of Commons has frankly never wanted, and which it openly has every intention of thwarting. The only way of avoiding that would be for Truss to abandon everything that she had told her party members, in favour of measures that its MPs might conceivably approve. It would be far better that she never took office, although that would entail retaining the services of the present Prime Minister until further notice. Uncharacteristically, he may have learned his lesson.
What an unpopularity contest the next General Election is shaping up to be. Either most Conservative MPs will not want Truss to remain Prime Minister, or, because of what she would have had to have done in order to buy off the MPs, most party members will no longer want her. If most Labour Party members did want Keir Starmer, then that would be only because almost everyone else had left the party, and it is probably already true that most MPs no longer wanted him. He may be right-wing, but he is still rubbish.
Here at North West Durham, the Conservative incumbent will be seeking reelection in opposition to his own Leader, the Prime Minister, while the Labour candidate, should such a person ever materialise, will either want a Starmer Premiership, or will be standing for Labour while not wanting one, and either of those would be a gift to me. I am indeed standing again. Watch this space.