Right now, the mainstream press supports the Conservatives, with the exception of the Guardian, Independent and Mirror. Alongside talk radio and TV, there’s much talk of the scandal of having an unelected Prime Minister in power. Even since Gordon Brown moved into Number 10 in 2007, this has been a common refrain.
It’s an even bigger issue now that Brown has offered to step aside. the argument runs something like this:
- Gordon Brown was unelected in 2007, which questions the legitimacy of this leadership.
- We’ve just had an election – Gordon Brown lost and should go in favour of David Cameron.
- Anything less than a Cameron government would be a coup.
- Gordon Brown has offered to stand down to allow a deal to happen: If there were a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition, then it would be led by an unelected Prime Minister.
To which the counterarguments are:
- That’s the system we’ve got – within the rules of the system, there’s no problem with his legitimacy.
- We’ve just had a parliamentary election. We’ve elected MPs to Parliament to form a government. This was not a presidential election. David Cameron hasn’t won a mandate either.
- Cameron does not have a mandate to govern on his own. He has 36% of the popular vote. He doesn’t have enough seats. Somebody has to make a deal and form a government within the rules of the system. The horse-trading going on is within the rules of our system.
- Unelected Prime Ministers are nothing new. There’s quite a history of them:
- 2007 Gordon Brown Labour
- 1990 John Major Conservative
- 1976 James Callaghan Labour
- 1963 Sir Alec Douglas-Home Conservative
- 1957 Harold Macmillan Conservative
- 1955 Sir Anthony Eden Conservative
- 1940 Winston Churchill Conservative
- 1937 Neville Chamberlain Conservative
- 1923 Stanley Baldwin Conservative
- 1916 David Lloyd George Liberal
- 1908 Herbert H. Asquith Liberal
- 1905 Henry Campbell-Bannerman Liberal
- 1902 Arthur Balfour Conservative
Everyone is playing by the rules of the system. Personally speaking, I’m more than happy to see this happen because it now looks as though we’ll get electoral reform whatever happens. Perhaps sooner or later we’ll reform the system and it will be fairer.