Deliverance Day minus 21. The things that marked out yesterdays TV debate between the three party Leaders were the things that we have come to associate with US Presidential Elections. In the USA debates the candidates come head to head before the public for the first time. They are unlikely to have debated against each other in a public legislative forum as party leaders. True, both McCain and Obama were Senators and must have argued against each other in the US Senate, but they were not then leaders. In the UK the party leaders cross swords every Wednesday at Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons. The TV debate therefore did not have that uniqueness or importance about it that the US debates have. It also had the feeling of being phony and not British. An audience that was not allowed to applaud or express any reaction begged the question, why were they there at all? The audience was just window dressing as a consequence of the rules governing the conduct of the debate. So many rules that the parties’ manifestoes were dwarfed.
Much better to have invited the three party leaders to a special edition of Question Time with David Dimbleby and full public participation. This is much more British and suited to the British temperament. The only reservation is that the BBC vet and carefully select the audience and basically tell the audience which questions to ask; if you do not suggest the questions that they want aired, you do not get picked out. The audience is also ‘balanced’, rather like a Conservative short-list for candidate selection. Believe us, we have inside knowledge. To be effective the audience would have to be normal – that is no party members; and the questions would have to be selected by ballot. Even with this typically British format, do we really want to go down this route? We are not electing a President.
These TV debates are really a demand from the media and are therefore more X-factor and entertainment than a legitimate part of the democratic process. They will fill up air-time and give endless opportunity for the political critics and pundits to dissect and opinionate. They want to fill the twenty-four news channels and on-line newspapers, which requires a flood of material. When facts are in short supply the gap is filled with speculation and fabrication. The attention being given to the party leader’s wives has no place in our democracy. Any political opinion that they have is irrelevant. Their fashion sense is of no consequence, but then neither is the fashion style of their husbands. It is also very important that they come across as being traditional. Despite the liberal tendency they must be married with children, otherwise the conservative British voters would think that they were not up to the job. Yes, Ted Heath was a bachelor, but he did not last long. Could you ever imagine Peter Madelson facing the voters with his partner Gonzalez, or whatever his current house-mate’s name is?
We are drifting in to a presidential system of government. The Chilcott Enquiry has confirmed that Tony Blair ran a cosy sofa cabinet of close confidents, who were unelected, from his lounge in Number 10. His own Oval Office. This was to the detriment of the Cabinet where issues were not discussed and certain ministers excluded. If this is the way that the professional politicians believe the Country should be governed, then they should get a mandate from the voters. It is being introduced by stealth. None of the parties are proposing anything like a presidential system in their manifestoes. Labour has become enthusiastic about referenda again and is offering a referendum on the relatively insignificant matter of the alternative vote system. This is not credible after reneging on the manifesto commitment for a referendum on the European Constitution, which was exceedingly important. Get the picture, the voters can decide on little issues but on the big issues they are not to be trusted.
Ask any voter entering the polling station who he/she is going to vote for and the reply will be the name of a political party. The law says that they are voting for an individual to be their constituency representative in Parliament. This dichotomy is resolved by the practices that have grown up over the years, but they are not enshrined in legislation. It is part of the black constitution that does not allow for public participation. Resurgence is proposing to rectify that and ensure that the people have the power and are able to exercise control in a meaningful way. This will be done by constitutional and electoral reform, which ensures that every vote counts. It will also be a uniquely British system of government with historical roots. What we are proposing goes beyond radical, it is revolutionary.