Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Some domestic political news

in the U.K. that is. ;-)

Today the Conservative Party elects its new leader. This is the guy that would be Prime Minister, but will have to wait another 4 years for an election (except in special circumstances). The Conservative Party will probably crown David Cameron as their new leader. He is young, vibrant and incredibly photogenic. He looks a lot like a young Tony Blair (still my favorite politician of the 21st century). It won't really matter. The Conservative Party is bankrupt of ideas. They have no new policy or visons for the U.K. A shame really because I think David Cameron is a very good politician, but he is going to be sunk by the lead weight of his own party.

That brings me to a larger topic that I've been meaning to address, the downside of the Parliamentary system. The parliamentary system is set up differently in each country, so not each criticism will work across the board. The biggest downside is that the voters in a parliamentary don't directly elect their head of government. Each voter in Britain votes on their local representative. The MPs (minister of parliament) of the majority party then select the head of government. In the last U.K. election, Labour voters weren't fans of Tony Blair because of his support of George Bush and the invasion of Iraq, but they liked their local MP. Voters were in a bind. They could vote against their local MP and ensure Tony Blair is put out of power, but also put their party in the minority. Or they could vote for their MP, but that means Tony Blair would be the Prime Minister. Labour got around this objection by promising that Blair would step down for Gordon Brown, a more acceptable leader to the Labour rank and file.

Also, since the parliamentary system combines the executive branch and the legislative branch, the majority party can get through whatever legislation it wants. When President Bush gives his State of the Union speech, he will request Congress to pass the legislation he wants. When the Queen gives her annual address, she is telling the public what laws WILL be passed. If America had the parliamentary system, we'd have a national health care system (under Clinton), but also privatized social security (under W. Bush). I like the deadlock that the presidential system brings. While it can cause major headaches, legislation only passes when it has strong public support (or at least no public outcry).

Finally, in parliamentary systems that allow proportional represenation a small minority of the population can become the king-makers and can hold the rest of the population hostage for their demands. Let me site a fictitious example- in the 2000 election, Ralph Nader captures Oregon with 34% of the vote. That means Bush and Gore both fall short of the needed electoral count. That means that rather than the majority of America deciding the President, it falls to the 34% of Oregonians who voted for Nader. I don't know about you, but I don't want Ralph Nader deciding who is president.

The presidential system isn't perfect, but I think it better than the parliamentary system. Of course, any political system can be thwarted by men who lust for power over public service.