Sorry, not this government. The idea of proportional representation seems to be fluttering about, but you don’t even need to go that far. There’s a much simpler solution which doesn’t rely on changing the electoral system. Even better, all you have to do is lean into existing political expectations. And, well, it’s not so much one simple way to fix the government. First comes the political party, which then becomes the government.
Put party appointments, candidates, and occupants of elected positions under the direct and total command of the party leader. Yes. Run the party like a company, military unit, the mafia, etc. whatever comparison works for you. In other words, like any group organised to actually achieve a common purpose in the face of external pressures.
But what about party members?
Shouldn’t the members have a say? No. At least not the way they do now. It’s better that way. They’ll come around when their party wins.
Party members don’t really have much, if any, of a say in party matters as it is. Whether it’s council, parliamentary, or leadership candidates, there’s quite a lot of filtering which goes on before they are presented to members. At the lower level, staggeringly few party members vote on internal party association positions, or even council candidates, so there’s no real loss there. At the higher levels, in the Conservative Party, for example, Kemi Badenoch was the most popular choice for leadership this time around, among the members, before MPs filtered her out and narrowed the field to Truss and Sunak. Now it looks like the party isn’t even really getting Truss. (A lot of that is her fault to be fair).
As a party member, what exactly are you losing by not getting a say? Even after all that, you were almost certainly going to vote for the party anyway, so what are you even complaining about? Isn’t it more important to get behind those who reflect your principles, or back who you think is the best shot, etc. rather than “having a say” exactly?
The reason you want a say isn’t that you want power, exactly, it’s that you want to feel like you matter. Trying to get thousands of cooks to meddle in the broth isn’t the way to matter. When you identify the leader and plan that you want to back, fall in line, and follow their lead. As part of the masses, you have a very small amount of individual energy. If you want it to do anything, it needs to be focused like a laser. Let yourself be focused.
Success happens when there’s a plan and everyone sticks to it. It doesn’t happen when everyone starts fighting over their own ideas. Make the party leader ultimately responsible not just for their plan but for all the resources and people they will need to execute it. That means party members do not get a say. Party members must be rewarded in other ways, but that’s a topic for another piece.
There is one aspect of party candidate selection which is worth keeping: loyalty. The selection process today selects for loyalty above all else, to the party, and to nebulous groups of insiders within the party itself.
Loyalty is important. You need everyone to act as one, working to the same goal, with the same ethos, presenting a strong, united front. The leader at the top should have a plan and will need loyal people to get it done. Make it obvious where that loyalty is going to – to the leader – rather than vaguely to the party, which really means planless, disorganised, venal, behind-the-sceners.
Members don’t really have a say as it is. When it comes to it, most don’t seem to mind and vote for the party in elections anyway. Activists keep knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, donating, etc. Lean into that political reality, clear up the leadership structure, and, even better, make it much more honest by showing plainly where that loyalty really goes.
Just in that regard, putting everyone under the direct and total responsibility of the party leader would make everything better for the candidates, party activists, and the party as a whole.
For candidates, they don’t need to waste time with the chaos and pettiness of the local party and activists. They don’t need to waste untold hours doing pointless tasks to prove their loyalty. If they owe their position entirely to the party leader, that’s where you get the loyalty. Remove some big obstacles to getting the best candidates 1) the time they have to spend doing politics instead of whatever highly demanding civilian job they have, and 2) the risk of not getting selected even after all the loyalty-proving they have to go through.
Do you want better politicians? Make it easier for the better ones to put themselves forward.
For the party leader, the benefits are obvious. He squashes the potential for distraction and dissent, potential rivals from within his own camp, and gets to act much more pragmatically.
This all increases the chances of winning. You like winning, don’t you?
What If It All Goes Wrong?
If the leader turns out not to be a winner, at least it’s totally clear where the problem is – the leader. If the party can only go where the leader does, and the party fails, you know what to do. This makes it much easier to cut your losses, move on, and try again with someone else in a new party.
This criticism is more or less a criticism of the status quo anyway. When party leaders don’t work out, the leaders change. Often the party as a whole changes, merely the branding stays familiar. How many of you have asked whether the Conservative or Labour Parties are really Conservative or really Labour?
What’s the difference, practically, between junking an entire party with its leader and starting again fresh, and more honestly?
If you were reading closely enough, you noticed that the solution included total responsibility over those in elected positions.
Let’s face it, people don’t really elect the individual MP. They vote by party or leader. Lean into that political expectation. Use it to clear up and prevent parliament becoming whatever it is now. Stuffed full of has-beens, inadequates, and failures, many occupying “safe seats”.
The party leader should be able to fire and hire as they see fit to the parliamentary seats they/their party has already won. Accepting this should be a condition of candidacy in the first place. It could even be the first law the party passes.
The ability to replace bad MPs might keep them good for longer and allow for a proper cycle of “tested and done” out for “promising and new”. For example; what is the point of Matt Hancock? He’s just blocking someone potentially useful, or at least someone who is not a net negative. Let’s be real, nobody voted for Matt Hancock. Come on. Why wait around? Fire him and get someone else.
Spent losers hanging on is one of the reasons the Conservative Party today is having so much trouble. It happened to the Labour Party too in the dying days of the Gordon Brown government too. Too many MPs hanging around long past their usefulness. It diminishes the pool of potential ministers.
Before you know it, we’re all pretending that Dehenna Davison is a minister who actually does any governing.
The Party Leader
Command over all party appointments, candidates, etc. would include the party leader himself.
No party leadership elections. Most people vote by party or for a party leader, presidential style. Lean into that. Spare everyone the mixed and mashed chaos of whatever normally goes on in the background of party politics. Spare everyone the same mixed and mashed chaos of what goes on in the foreground of party politics!
But isn’t it a problem if you can’t remove a leader from the party? No. Just back the leader you want in a new party. It doesn’t really matter if someone can’t be removed as leader in a party if everyone leaves to do something different. Just look at UKIP/Nigel Farage/the Brexit Party. And now Reform UK or whatever the Brexit Party rebranded as.
The solution for fixing the government
In summary: there’s a leader, a plan, their team, who they will hire and fire to get the job done, and do you want it or not? If yes, you have a structure which might actually be able to get something done. If not, don’t vote for it, and from your perspective, nothing is lost. Simple.