Sunday, May 09, 2010
The Amount Of Ignorance Within British Journalism
To make things clear; in the British democracy, a Prime Minister may not vacate his position after election without a new Prime Minister at hand to take over. To achieve this, under the ‘First Past The Post’ (FPTP) system of election, a single party has to win the absolute majority for that party’s leader to move in as the (new) Prime Minister. Where this party is the (already) governing party, the incumbent Prime Minister continues; where not so, the winning party’s leader moves in as the governing party’s leader moves out. With this system, it means that Britain may only remain without a Prime Minister for just
under 6 hours.
The in-coming Prime Minister goes to the monarch’s to present him/herself and request the monarch’s authority to form a (new) government. [Usually] Granted, this winning party’s leader then goes back to No 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s office and residence to take over. As tradition has always had it, this new-comer or returnee makes a speech at the door of No 10 on his arrival from the palace before going in to start a government.
With a smooth and straight-forward result from an election, all this happens within 6 hours of the completed result. But as in the case of 1974 and 2010 general elections, there has been no outright winner in the election; so what happens?
The sitting Prime Minister will not leave his office regardless of coming last, second or third in the polling result. This is because there is no party with an overall majority from the result. An overall majority is usually calculated by a party winning (or returning) a number of Member of Parliaments (MPs) equal to half the number of seats in the parliament plus 1. Where no party met this requirement, the sitting Prime Minister remains in office until coalitions or agreements are reached by possible winners.
The coalition arithmetic is usually reached by parties coming together to reach the majority number specified above (half the number of seats in parliament plus 1). This may be reached by 2 or more parties so long as they agree together to do this. The negotiation to reach this is guided by the involved parties’ compromise and deals based on their policies.
Until that is established, the sitting Prime Minister remains in office. The position of a Prime Minister at this point is like the job of a soldier guiding a gate. He may not leave until his replacement arrives right where he is supposed to be. For a soldier, even if he/she can see the replacement, may still not leave his post until that replacement surely arrives and takes over. This is for security reasons and the dignity of the post to the entire barracks.
So a Prime Minister will not go until a replacement is ready for him. However, he may chose to resign, but in the special scenario of no replacement being available, the monarch may also not accept the resignation. Thus, again the Prime Minister remains. Otherwise, the monarch may accept and appoint a new Prime Minister as may be suitable. It could be a senior civil servant, senior member of the Privy Council, a high ranking minister from the incumbent government or also the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the most recent election. Such scenario may also lead to a minority government being formed but as with British constitutional monarchy, the monarch may not take any such steps as may disturb the polity or cast the monarch in a partisan position. Hence the monarch is best right to reject the sitting Prime Minister’s resignation until a coalition is reached/formed. All this puts a sitting Prime Minister in a very tight corner especially in a case where that Prime Minister appears or have lost the election.
For the 2010 general election, Mr. Gordon Brown has remained the Prime Minister 3 days after his party, the Labour party or any other parties failed to secure the required number of seats. Although this is a common occurrence in most mainland European countries, its rarity in British politics makes it an extremely delicate issue to handle. So Mr. Brown would have to remain in place while he awaits a replacement to come forward [through the coalition negotiation].
Although the Labour party having the second largest vote could approach other parties to negotiate a coalition, Mr. Brown has not towed this line but has said he wishes to wait for the Conservatives who has the largest vote/seats to negotiate a coalition with the Liberal Democrats who came third with both votes and seats.
It is therefore funny, foolish and ignorant of some British journalists to write articles as idiotic as saying that Mr. Brown has refused to go or that he is squatting in No 10. I think such journalists and commentators should hang their heads in shame. Also the YouGov poll asking if Gordon Brown should accept defeat and go explores the even huge ignorance of people on this issue.
The media; journalists, commentators, pollsters and all others involved in providing information should be people of high understanding and knowledgeable about constitutional, policy and general issues. This will help them report truth regardless of whose side they take. Such reporting may not hinder them from expressing their position but in such situations, should keep their opinion apart from the truth of the procedures.
It is misleading to insinuate that the sitting Prime Minister has refused to go when in practice, he is right not to go and should not until a replacement is found. Had there been a clear winner, then such insinuations may be right and where the Prime Minister has not vacated for the new one to step on/in.
The media should provide clear, true and indifferent information to the population and express their personal opinion separate. Those whom we trust to know better should not behave like idiots or below their expected knowledge. It makes no sense that we can trust them because such can lead to a chaotic society with uncalled-for demonstrations or protests.
The Prime Minister will be deceiving the British people if he is to come out and declare that the Conservatives have won the election when they clearly have not or that they should form a government when he has no such right to do so. Only the monarch have to right to invite someone or a party to form a government in line with the wish of the people based on the election result. And had the Conservatives won, surely they will not sit and accept Gordon Brown staying put without declaring their victory and demanding to be in charge of the government. But this is not so and hence the Conservatives are trying to reach an agreement to going forward with a suggestion to form a government.
This present state of affair from the 2010 election has shown that there are more foolish and selfish journalists among British press that one would have expected. It surely leaves the people in completely jeopardised state of shame and disappointment.