Since the Brownite attempt to oust the Prime Minister last year, which led to that extraordinary ‘farewell to the Party’ speech by Blair at the last full Labour conference, the government of the UK has become the material of novels.
Facing the electorate is the nightmare experience for any sitting MP; so much so that the rules governing the holding of an office of profit under the Crown were altered to preserve those accepting ministerial appointment from having to refight their seat. For most MPs an election is the bottom line to be evaded at all and any cost, but few considerations of the political settlement after the last war, that watershed of modern UK politics, take this into account.
The steady growth of party grip on elected members also has been a feature of the advance of the Labour party and the decline of the Liberals for even longer.
Unlike the Conservatives and the Liberals, Labour requires its candidates to be members of an affiliated organisation - principally a trade union or the co-operative movement, plus some others, or to have the specific nulla osta of the NEC where such formalized allegiance is lacking. Effectively Labour MPs are mandated in a way that those of other parties are not. This federation of mandated interests that demands, and controls party discipline within Labour and its constituent organisations and funders, does not co-exist easily with our single-member, geographically located, first past the post election system where once elected, an MP at least notionally answers to, and represents, the interests of all within his constituency, supporters, electors, or simply constituents.
Labour has much more in common with the notion of representation used in continental systems of party lists and proportional representation, even while it is forced to conform to UK practice. The conflict between the party structure and its discipline, and continuation in the enjoyment of a seat is particularly sharp for Labour MPs.
If the electorate are seen as spoilers of MPs’ enjoyment of seats, and consultation of the electorate the thing to be avoided at all costs, then the threat of the sitting prime minister’s power of dissolution could take us back to before Labour-style party- controlled politics, - to Trollopeland.
Blair, consummate politician and empathizer that he is, has got this in one; Brown, crude Party controller, and unaware of non-rule bound nuance, freak that he is, has not.
Since the last Labour party conference Blair has been Prime Minister without the encumbrance of the Labour party, except for a Parliamentary Labour Party desperate not to be exposed to an unnecessary general election, particularly one where any number could well lose their seats. All Blair has to threaten is to call one if he is not allowed to run his full term; Brown's levels of voter-put-off , despite his control of the Party delivering the leadership to him, may well provide Labour MPs with the determination to support Blair in his anachronistic adventure.
A careful reading of Blair’s speeches and interview words, coupled with an attempt to grapple with the ill drafted and ambiguous Labour Party Rule Book, the placing of the UK constitution above that Rule Book in importance and relevance to a correct interpretation of what can be done, and bearing in mind that the Labour party is a superseded organisation in everyone’s view but their own, leads to the same conclusion.
Guido thinks Blair might not be going either. If he is going, he has outstanding power to negotiate his departure on his own, and any, terms.
1 hour ago