Fringe Box



Opinion: Is the Election for Our Prime Minister Democratic?

Published on: 14 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 16 Jul, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

We are to have a new prime minister but only 750, or so, voters in the Guildford constituency will have a final say.

The new PM will bring a new direction on issues vital to all of us. But with Boris Johnson nearly gone after months of political trauma and paralysis, the country, as a whole, has no say in his replacement.

The six candidates (as of July 13) still in the Conservative Party leadership race, from top left: Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, and Tom Tugendhat.

Instead, we have 358 Tory MPs who commanded 30 per cent of the national vote in 2019 deciding who will go before the 200,000 Conservative party members across the UK, that’s just 0.4 per cent of us.

In Guildford, there are around 750 members. This small number, less than one per cent, will be representing the 80,000 Guildford constituency voters in one of the most important national decisions for many years.

Of course, that is what happens in our system. It’s the same in other parties. We vote for MPs, they and political party members chose their leaders, and the leader of the majority party becomes the PM.

But what about the issues, the key policies? So far, the group of eight candidates for the highest political post in our country have talked mainly about tax cuts.

Is that their most pressing priority?

No mention of climate change. If anything, they seem to be backing away from the net zero targets legislated in 2019.

No mention of energy costs, forecasted to rise to £3,350, from the £1,100 cap in early 2021.

No mention of the fact that thousands in low-paid employment have to use foodbanks.

The point is that they don’t need to worry about these issues to take the prize of PM. They only need to convince sufficient Tory MPs and then over 50 per cent of its party members.

Tax is important but it is not the national preoccupation one might think judging by the statements given by the candidates in this Conservative election.

YouGov poll July 2022 (click to enlarge)

It is not representative of the main issues of concern around the country. YouGov polling says it is the state of the economy (67 per cent) and health (37 per cent) which are most important to people followed by immigration (25 per cent) and the environment (24 per cent). Tax comes in at seventh most important to people at 15 per cent.

Of course, tax is more important to the wealthy, those who have the biggest influence over Tory policy.

But it doesn’t matter what the country thinks, the country is not getting a say.

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Responses to Opinion: Is the Election for Our Prime Minister Democratic?

  1. John Perkins Reply

    July 14, 2022 at 12:20 pm

    Hugh Coakley appears to prefer a presidential leadership despite the fact that it isn’t working well in France or the USA at the moment.

    One of the accusations aimed at Boris Johnson was that he tried to please everybody and failed to understand that the purpose of a leader is to lead, not follow.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    July 15, 2022 at 12:18 pm

    On the whole, the current system has worked. It has been rather more successful than that in most other “democracies”. France is on its 5th Republic and has a penchant for revolution every 50 years. Italy has so many parties and so many different governments even the Italians are confused. Germany’s foray into democracy (and proportional representation in the Weimar Republic) let Hitler into power – which he refused to relinquish.

    Obviously, policy is the end goal. But that is delivered by more than just one person in the form of a prime minister or party leader.

    Mr Coakley doesn’t much like any of the candidates. He may be right not to. But having a referendum to choose the leader of a political party might not provide any better result.

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