Thursday, June 04, 2009

Reviewing the leader

In response to my recent comments about Denis Smith's Ignatieff's World Updated, the author sent a friendly note ending with the question:
You're certainly right that the parliamentary system must harness the ambitions of prime ministers if anyone is going to do it. But how do we get there from here?
Like this, Denis.

The Guardian treats the decision of the Labor Party parliamentary caucus on Gordon Brown's future as party leader as a normal and appropriate (though undoubtedly dramatic) aspect of parliamentary politics. This is how Westminster systems work; when a party leader loses the confidence of the party caucus, it removes him and names his successor.

It is striking how Canadian coverage of the British struggle, as here in The Globe & Mail, speaks of betrayal ("a sudden avalanche of betrayal"). In Canada we still believe that Members of Parliament, the elected representatives of the Canadian people, are not allowed to hold their leaders accountable -- when in fact it is virtually the only important role MP have.

And we still complain about out-of-control prime ministers. We get what we deserve.

Addendum: It's worth noting that British Labor has moved a fair way in the Canadian direction in recent years, empowering extra-parliamentary forces to circumvent the will of caucus.
Labour rules mean that challenging a sitting leader is extremely difficult, requiring both the signatures of 71 MPs backing a single challenger and the endorsement of delegates at a party conference.
Note that what The Telegraph calls "extremely difficult" is nothing like the Canadian norm, where a party leader can ignore the will of 100% of MPs if he chooses.
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