Sunday, March 7, 2010

Constitutional Showbiz

Lately I've been waking up to headlines such as “Gordon Brown on course to win the election” or “Brown narrows poll lead” and I must admit something of a surprise. Don't get me wrong, I'm not surprised that the gap in the polls is decreasing, I've been expecting that for months, I'm surprised that as someone who follows politics so closely I could have missed the drastic change in constitution which makes this possible.

When, in the eyes of the media, did this country pick up an officially Presidential Government?

This goes further than a few poorly worded headlines. The Leaders Debate we were once promised has silently been transformed into a 'Prime Ministerial Debate'. What's so wrong with this, after all only three men will have a chance of forming the next Government? The problem is we're not having a 'Prime Ministerial' election, we are electing a Parliament (well, half of one anyway). As such a clear cut between who should and should not be represented cannot be drawn.

A debate between the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems is entirely worthless in Scotland where the Tories are little more than a fringe party. Likewise in Wales Plaid are more deserving of representation than the Lib Dems. If the media has determined that three sides is the most which can exist in a debate (the US media has little difficulty inviting every candidate to the Republican and Democratic Primary debates) then surely separate debates should be arranged for each Home Country?

Over the last century or so the office of Prime Minister has accumulated so much power that we now in many ways can be said to have abandoned Cabinet Government for the de-facto Presidential variety. The difference is our 'president' has the power to command the legislature, and isn't directly elected. It seems in many ways we have all the disadvantages of a Presidential system with none of the perks.

With the media so obsessed with personalities before policies and presidential figures, is it even possible to return to a non-Presidential system? It certainly seems desirable to do so, but can it be done? Perhaps we should take the other option, face facts, make it official and actually elect a President?

There are serious problems with the media forcing this kind of Presidentialism on British politics. What if people vote for President Cameron, he doesn't seem quite such a bad chap? We'll end up with a Tory Government, a Tory Government in which Cameron can be ousted and a hard-core jingoist, racist and anti-science Tory becomes Prime Minister.

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