JOHN RENTOUL: Jack Straw said that he thought that the Prime Minister had too much power in the British constitutional system, and I was hoping you would respond to that.Quite so. The Prime Minister does have too much power because they are only accountable to a small number of people - their constituents and to party members who elect them as party leaders. Naturally this means that MPs of the ruling party, when elected, owe their job and career to the Prime Minister – indirectly if not directly.
Thus proper scrutiny of government cannot take place when there is a conflict of interest between service to one’s constituents and loyalty to one’s government. This is a conflict that Witterings from Witney knows only too well – Cameron in effect has to scrutinise himself. An MP for Witney but also the Prime Minister.
One of Harrogate’s six demands deals with this conundrum by making the Prime Minister directly elected by the people. In essence, and as a consquence, we separate out the executive from the lawmakers (MPs).
Despite some criticisms that it leads to an American Presidential type of system, in truth not a lot changes yet a lot changes. The Prime Minister still appoints a cabinet - the same is done now - but crucially those appointments do not come from those within Parliament. So at a stroke it removes the conflict of interest.
The Prime Minister does not become head of state unlike a President so in that sense all remains the same.
And by having the Prime Minster directly elected removes the current system where they are effectively elected by proxy. How many people vote for a local MP because of a good job they do or because they like, or do not like, the potential Prime Minister of a certain party?
This is a very unsatisfactory position which not only was illustrated most clearly by the party leader debates during the 2010 elections but the oft criticism of Gordon Brown that he was not "elected".
Another intriguing part of Blair's interview was this:
... I think there is a general problem in politics, not just in our system but in Western democracy – I mean, it’s a far bigger topic this. But, I do think it’s really important.See what he did there, he is arguing that being in politics - being an MP - means being special. To be an MP means having to "qualify" in other aspects of life.
I advise any young person who wants to go into politics today: go and spend some time out of politics. Go and work for a community organisation, a business, start your own business; do anything that isn’t politics for at least several years. And then, when you come back into politics, you will find you are so much better able to see the world and how it functions properly.
Essentially it's putting MPs on a pedestal, at 18 you can own property, run a company, raise a family but you can't become an MP...unless you "qualify".
This sentiment ironically from the man who was Prime Minister at a time when the Labour Government lowered the age for standing for Parliament from 21 to 18 in 2006 via the Electoral Administration Act 2006.
Being able to vote at 18 and not being to stand until 21 always caused me a great deal of consternation. Society essentially said you're fit, responsible and adult enough to vote for a criminal, adulterous and lying tosspot like Chris Huhne, but said you're not fit, responsible and adult enough to be able to vote for yourself.
There should be no previous qualification on standing for Parliament – implied or otherwise – and if our democracy worked properly it would not be needed. The people would vote for whom ever they thought appropriate, regardless of age. If you're old enough to vote, you're old enough to stand.
Thus Tony Blair’s words are merely confirmation that it’s all gone wrong.