Friday, August 08, 2008

Getting rid of Gordon

... is not actually going to be that easy. The early-1990s rule changes saw to that, but I'd forgotten the exact details. Paul hasn't.

There was a time when it was worth understanding the party's standing orders. Every now and then, a politial anorak could pull the odd stroke and upset a few carelessly-laid plans.

These days, it's simple. If the party leadership don't want you to do it, you can't. Reading the rules is, under these circumstances, fairly pointless.

The Virtual Stoa covered this here a few days ago:
"One of the reasons quite so much happens in smoke-filled rooms, unattributable briefings, behind-the-scenes shenanigans these days is that the Party rules make it quite so difficult to mount a formal leadership challenge to an incumbent Prime Minister. When the leadership is obviously hopeless, therefore, backstairs channels are often the only ones available. I’ve just been re-reading Machiavelli’s Discourses, and one of the points he makes very early on is that you want your political institutions to be such that formal public challenges to authority are very easy, precisely in order to discourage what he calls calunnia, “calumnies”, or doing everything in semi-private unattributable ways through insinuation and rumour.

Both parties (sorry Lib Dems, you still don’t count) have tightened up their rules over the last fifteen years or so, in order to make challenges to the leadership harder, but the not-especially-unpredictable result of all of this is that we’re likely to get more rather than fewer episodes like Duncan Smith (2003), Blair (2006-7) and Brown (2008) over time than we would otherwise, and it’s at these moments that party democracy gets sidelined in favour of the demi-semi-public machinations of political elites."

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