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A Very British Constitutional Dilemma

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David Cameron is the Sarah Palin of British politics. He has the same cavalier attitude to what is right and wrong; he sees no problem in giving advantages to friends and family, at public expense; and he thinks about the implications — not at all.

This has got him into a bit of hot water. His close relationship with James Murdoch, the time he spends with Rebekah Brooks, the way he steered the competition commission to agree the takeover of BskyB (media power was “out of scope”) — all point to a man who will favour this newspaper mogul and his empire, regardless of right or wrong.

It’s been called the “Chipping Norton” set, and it is a bit murky.  Will the PM’s dodgy relationships be his downfall?

The rot often starts with a single bad relationship.  David Cameron is in good company. Harold Wilson had too cosy a relationship with a dodgy businessman.  Ian MacMillan fell apart from his relationship with the Cliveden set. But David Cameron has had it coming — unnumberable U-turns because he announced the policy before checking what would happen, and the wise MPs in the House of Commons took it apart before the House of Lords could; undermining his Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg; looking so shiny, he could be a waxworks and Madame Tussaud’s.  And anyway, Murdoch may be on the way out.  Shares rose in News International during the Select Committee interrogation of the Murdochs and Brooks – not because they answered well, but because they may be declared “not fit and proper” and the media empire may move into different, more profitable hands!

But if the Prime Minister is forced to resign, will the Deputy Prime Minister step up to the plate? The Deputy Prime Minister holds that title because it is he (or she) who becomes the Prime Minister, when the Prime Minister isn’t available. So if David Cameron is taken down, by rights, Nick Clegg should become Prime Minister.

I don’t see it happening. I think we are about to find out that Nick Clegg has a pretty title, but no power. If the Tory party take David Cameron out of the equation, they aren’t going to let some upstart become Prime Minister — they are simply going to overrule the constitution, and replace him with the new “leader of the Tory party”.

Can we do anything about it?

No.  We’ve got the politicians we deserve, we’ve spent so long not caring who’s in Parliament that we’ve ended up with politicians who care about themselves and not us.  We can’t sack them, because the media owns our opinions.  We can’t replace them, because they are selected — imposed even — by the central party.  It’s a tough time to be an ordinary citizen.

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About Hugo Minney

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I find all of this stuff about Cameron and the tories rather amusing from a US perspective. We would do anything to have a President or any other major political leader half as competent and responsible as Cameron here in the US. I’ll gladly give you Obama and Boehner if you’ll give us Cameron and Clegg in exchange.

    Dave

  • http://www.minney.org Hugo Minney

    Yay I’ll swap! President Obama is diplomatically astute and is really working for the future of the world as well as the future of America. It’s a shame that the “Land of the Free” doesn’t like its BLACK president. Get over it!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    I’ll side with Dave in that British political leaders (at least these two) are less prone to being drama queens than their American cousins.

    We have our unruly House of Commons as an institutional outlet for that kind of behaviour.

    Plus, we have a news media that actually does its job and asks tough questions of the government, rather than just whining or writing puff pieces. It’s much harder for a British government to gloss over incompetence or shady shenanigans and move on.

    Not to mention that we don’t have the tripartite system of government, which makes it impossible (although politicians do still try!) to blame someone else when things go wrong. Everyone knows where the buck stops.

    But no, Clegg does not get to become Prime Minister if Cameron resigns, at least not permanently. The PM is simply the leader of the party (or coalition) with the largest number of seats. As Deputy, Clegg would fill in until the Tories elected a new leader, and then that person would be the new PM.

    I suppose, conceivably, in the highly unlikely event that the Tories were unable to agree on a new leader, the Queen could ask Clegg to form a government, but he’d be forced to call an immediate election because his party wouldn’t be able to get anything done – they simply don’t have the numbers in Parliament.