Monday, February 06, 2012

History of parliamentary accountability

"Don't shoot, I'll go quietly"?
Word is, MPs of the governing Labour Party in Australia may be about to remove and replace their leader (and Prime Minister of Australia), Julia Gillard.

Caucus members have been back in their electorates for two months and they have had plenty of time to soak up voters' feelings. Now that they are returning to Canberra this weekend before the resumption of Parliament next Tuesday, some are admitting, away from the microphones and the cameras, that they cannot see how they can continue to support Gillard as their leader.  (Source: Brisbane Times)
It's a nice illustration of how parliamentary accountability works in functioning parliamentary systems. The MPs have been back in their constituencies and have heard that Ms Gillard is massively unpopular.  If they do not do something about her, the MPs know, their own constituencies will blame them at the next election.  (H/T Fruits and Votes, the remarkable blog about electoral systems and fruit trees.)

Last Friday, National Post columnist Chris Selley, arguing that a little more dissent within our major parties would be a good thing, observed that in the British House of Commons
the parties have shown that it is entirely possible to live with their internal disagreements and hash them out in public.
True, and anytime a Canadian journo grasps that, he/she should be celebrated.  But Selley buys into the thickheaded Ottawa consensus that this is a question of "free" votes. He seems oblivious to the fact that MPs express their own opinions in Canberra and Westminster because their leaders are accountable to them.  By disagreeing with the leader, blocs of MPs are not only debating policy, they are also sending the message: "Keep ignoring us, and we'll need to consider exercising our authority to replace you."
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