Saturday, May 08, 2010

We Are Being Ruled By the De-Elected

Jim Knight, Mike O'Brien, Shahid Malik, Vera Baird, Angela Smith, Ann Keen and a whole host of others have three things in common. They were all defeated at Thursdays election and they are Labour Ministers. But what is really outrageous is that all of them will be going into their Ministerial offices on Monday morning, not to clear their desks, but to carry on as usual. That's what our bizarre system of government allows them to do. Unelected and now unaccountable, they continue to govern as usual until a new Prime Minister is appointed. I can understand re-elected Ministers doing that, but unelected? No.

And on top of that we have the unedifying sight of Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell effectively running the whole shebang from the Cabinet Office. Campbell has even boasted of being back in his old office. Quite what he is doing is anyone's guess. Unelected and unaccountable.

52 comments:

John said...

Well if The Odd Couple would put an end to the foreplay and get down to their squalid business, those ex-MPs wouldn't be required at their desks on Monday would they? The 'constitution' is a nonsense but it's all we have. The deal will be done because Camerlegg (for that is what I think I will start calling him / them) are both desperate so why can't they just get on with this.
If Brown was taking this long on coalition talks you'd be accusing him of dithering and placing the markets at risk.

Lady Finchley said...

This is outrageous. I really do curse anyone who thought a hung Parliament was a good idea and I doubly curse the ex-Conservatives who voted UKIP in the marginals. If it weren't for them we'd have a majority. This is a shambles.

Suburbian said...

That fact alone is an argument for electoral, or more particularly, political reform. Whatever peoples political views, this all just has a sense of unfairness to it; less seats, less votes but still in power. We saw more ministers from the Lords but now we're being governed without even the pretence of democratic legitimacy.
We should quieten our criticism of Zimbabwe till we've ensured this can never happen again http://suburbancentral.blogspot.com/

Tusker said...

Ridiculous how can this be... I bet the shredders are working overtime!

tonybutcher said...

You are right this is absolutely outrageous.
All the more reason for David Cameron and Nick Clegg to put a partnership together as quick as possible to oust Labour completely - and for those Lib Dems who still insist that electoral reform should be a part of the deal pls read this - http://wp.me/pRHY4-C

Jess The Dog said...

This cannot continue. Brown must stand down on Monday for the good of the country.

If not, this despicable spectacle adds petrol to the flames of outrage.

If this continues, these so-called ministers should be physically prevented from entering their offices. Their civil servants should refuse to report to them, the Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff should resign and so on downwards....any Brown or Labour government should be overthrown.

Join in the postcard campaign....

http://tvotr.blogspot.com/2010/05/brown-out-labour-out-postcard-campaign.html

Huw said...

Iain, you're totally misunderstanding the constitutional situation; those ministers will not be back in their offices on Monday because they are somehow trying to cling to power, but because they are constitutionally obliged to carry on. What's the alternative?

Furthermore, Gordon Brown has a duty to stay in 10 Downing Street until David Cameron tells him that he's ready to form a government. As Gus O'Donnell, Lord Turnbull and Lord Butler made absolutely clear in their evidence to the Justice Select Committee in February, that is his job. To do otherwise would be shameful.

Martin said...

Totally agree Ian what is the point of it all? Vera Baird was the MP in my town of Redcar and wad resoundingly voted out and refused interviews on Friday. Good riddance but surely to return when not even elected by the people is the ultimate crass joke and insult from a rottent government and system - shoddy very shoddy
Martin

Sunder Katwala said...

Iain,

If you have developed a stronger aversion to "our bizarre system of government", why not support calls for a full citizens' convention to shine a light into all of the hidden corners, debate and agree a written constitution?

It has tended to be the conservative position to defend the current constitutional arrangements and their heavy reliance on informal understandings, and to most strongly oppose ideas for greater accountability, such as putting the Royal Prerogative on a statutory basis, etc.

Your new LibDem friends would be very keen on that too.

j said...

that's our constitution- if you had a proper, principled objection it should've been voiced before (i.e. not just because people who don't like from another party happen to be involved).

Otherwise, you can encourage your own leader to hurry up with his negotiations because in the meantime we have to have a government

Dan said...

It will take a few days maybe a week or two but calm down in US it takes 3 months.

They can not introduce any change but someone has to mind the shop through the transition.

Leo said...

I didn't know that, and it feels wrong, but who else should be in charge of those departments? Couldn't have Brown appointing interim ministers.

Dan Brusca said...

So can we take it you'll be opposing anyone other than elected MPs holding posts in a future Tory-led government?

charlesbarry said...

Bit of trivia - Patrick Gordon Walker was Shadow Foreign Secretary before the 1964 election.

He lost his seat to the Tories in the general election, but Wilson appointed him Foreign Secretary anyway.

He was then lined up for a by-election to re-enter the House in Jan 1965, which he lost.

Between the general election and the by-election he was still Foreign Secretary, despite being neither an MP nor a Peer!

Iain Dale said...

Dan, only MPs or Peers should be Ministers.

Sunder, I had no idea until just now that this happened. Did you? Surely elected MPs can cover for the duties of the defeated. I support many aspects of constitutional reform. I am not ideologically opposed to a written constitution.

douglas clark said...

Iain,

Let us assume for a second that Gordon Brown has not completely lost his marbles, shall we?

What alternative do you propose?

If Cameron and Clegg can arrive at a deal then Brown will vacate 10 Downing Street and David Cameron PM will take over. Until then it is entirely moot.

I think the 24 hour news cycle is getting to you!

Bardirect said...

only matched by Clegg being unable to agree coalition or support for either party due to the LD constitution, but which somehow gives him a party mandate to say wait and see!

Cam should say : decision by 3pm Sunday or terms offered are off the table.

thepoliticalbadger said...

Outrageous, not like that lovely Andy Coulson, who was of course, democratically elected...

Benedict White said...

Iain, there has to be a government, and until there is a new one, the old one has to carry on.

That is the way hung parliaments work around the world, and is a good reason for having a system that delivers them regularly.

Fixed term parliaments are also potty as well, as this one is likely to be unstable and so will need to be short.

I have written this:
http://aconservatives.blogspot.com/2010/05/gordon-brown-squatting-in-no-10-downing.html

richardd said...

For crying out loud, Iain, check your flies,your partisanship is showing ... Exactly how big of a vacuum would you be happy exists while negotiations continue? or maybe you think the offices are trivial ? ... Normally I think you talk sense but in this instance ...

Cath said...

Can I be the only one who thinks that if there was a defeated Conservative PM squatting in Downing St, there would have been riots by now?

Terry said...

Iain,

you're right.

Just think, if Jacqui Smith had still been Foreign Secretary. Those tears of hers would've been wiped away in an instant and it would've given her husband one last chance to buy a few more dodgy porn videos at the taxpayers' expense.

Peter said...

It will not be 'business as usual' for them.

The Cabinet Secretary has made it clear to Civil Servants that 'purdah' rules on decisions, communications and appointments all remain until a new government is formed.

I would be 99% sure that none of the ministers who lost their seats (and almost all other Ministers) will be at their desks on Monday.

Departments have coped without Ministers for the last month - if any decisions NEED to be made, then they could be put to Secretaries of State. But while perhaps the great offices of state will require some of their day to day decisions, most departments will not be asking Ministers for anything.

Like your post about the No10 petitions site, this shows that most politicos don't have a clue what goes on day-to-day in government, and how the civil service works.

Fabprints.Com said...

With reference to the talks with the liberal democrats it seems to me that all talk about PR is a sideshow. Imagine for a moment the talks break down and Labour makes a pact with the Liberals.

Does anyone believe that Labour MP's believe in PR. I think I heard a few months ago that nearly half of the Labour MP's are against PR. The simple answer will be Labour rebel MP's will back or abstain on a PR vote and with the Tories with 306 MP's its a non-done deal.

Also, Have the Tories heard the latest from the BBC? Labour Ministers are ringing up Liberal Shadow Ministers and trying to turn them against the Coalition!!! Gordon Brown seems to be trying every method to stay on in power. I ask myself what has Gordon Brown got to hide.

I can just imagine Brown's accolites, ie. Campbell and Mandy working through the night at no.10 burning the incriminating files of 13 years of power ( Like the Nazis at the end of the war ).

DespairingLiberal said...

Couldn't agree more about the Ministers - what a totally ridiculous and undemocratic situation. Frankly, they ought to be bloody ashamed of themselves - I hope if it was me I would have the wherewithal to voluntarily withdraw from the office. What a four-star joke.

Libertarian said...

@Huw

You are wrong. This actually constitutionally has nothing to do with Dave C. Brown has to ask the Queen to dissolve parliament and then resign. All the while he doesn't do that he stays PM until the new house sits and passes a motion of no confidence forcing his resignation. He isn't doing that in the hope that the LibDems can't agree with tories and then he can form an alliance with the Libdems, SNP, PC and SDLP ( he needs all of them) to hang onto power.

This is totally disgraceful and shows how out of touch the political class are.

We need massive ( yet simple) electoral reform. Let's give up 18th century stuff and join the rest of the World's major democracies by having the executive directly elected. All this constituency stuff is nonsense in the context of picking a PM and government

John MacLeod said...

As you are evidently keen on Scottish electoral history, Iain, does this mean you believe Mrs Thatcher was wrong to retain Hamish Grey in his old government job(simply ennobling him after Charles Kennedy ousted him from Parliament in 1983) and likewise retain Peter Fraser, likewise en-ermined, as Solicitor-General for Scotland after Andrew Welsh seized his Angus East seat for the SNP in 1987? I appreciate your frustration, but one must be consistent.

Iain Dale said...

John, you don't have a point. They were ministers in parliament. The people I refer to are not.

Phil said...

I can still remember the egregious Campbell talking about when 'he was in government'!! FFS! At least the alcoholics and liars we usually have in government are voted for.

Meanwhile, where is the investigation into the postal voting scandals? Where is the analysis of the (9,000) PVs (for voting patterns) that Balls benefited from when he managed his 1101 majority?

Gallimaufry said...

A Minister stays a Minister until he or she hands back his or her ministerial seals of office. A non-MP Minister has the same legitimacy as a life peer Minister.

trevorsden said...

"Furthermore, Gordon Brown has a duty to stay in 10 Downing Street until David Cameron tells him that he's ready to form a government. " ---- dim witted bollocks.

Brown has the constitutional duty to resign if he CANNOT form a govt and recommend a successor. Its clear he cannot and he should resign thus putting an end to his responsibility. Cameron does not have to prove anything. Brown only has to realise that he cannot rule.

Mr Brusca you miss the point - these people are neither elected nor members of the House of Lords.

And dear john (and others of that ilk) if just calling people childish names were a requisite for cleverness then the Labour Party would be the brainiest on the planet.

Lets not forget that whoever governs next faces a howling mad and bad legacy from Brown and Labour. Thats why, given that were we are, the only solution which gives stability is a Con and LD arrangement. Any other can only offer confusion and delay and another unwanted election.

Suburbian said...

Lots of quoting of constitutional conventions going on but very selectively. By convention, ministers are chosen from members of parliament and peers. That convention doesn't lapse when those ministers have lost their seats.

Fred Blogs said...

When I were a lad, my mum always said that we needed an immediate change of Prime Minister after a General Election in case the Russians attacked us. Is Gordon's finger still on the nuke button?

Alan Douglas said...

We Are Being Ruled By the De-Elected

No !

We Are Being Ruled By the Un-Dead

Alan Douglas

Unsworth said...

@ Huw

"they are constitutionally obliged to carry on"

Garbage. Name the Statute. Where's this 'constitution'?

What do you suppose might happen if each of them, recognising the moral dilemma, chose to resign? Would the world stop turning?

John MacLeod said...

They were retained in employment for some months until ennobling, Iain - which cannot be done hastily - and in that time they were Ministers unaccountable to either house. In any event, at the centre of your curious argument is that the men you name were rejected by their own constituency electorate, as was true of Gray and Fraser. (I should stress that they were both decent, able men, and Labour criticism of the Fraser move was especially muted as they knew a future Labour government might also have to furnish a Solicitor-General - who must be an advocate at the Scottish bar - outwith the Commons; the only qualified Labour MP at the time was John Smith, then high in the Shadow Cabinet.)

I'm not being nasty here but your point does seem unduly partisan and unfair, as many have observed on other grounds.

tory boys never grow up said...

Iain

You know very well that Ministers operate under very restricted powers once an election is called and I would be amazed if that has changed or whether the civil servants would allow ministers to take any party political decisions.

And what do you think would be the situation if your logic was actually followed - Cameron would become Prime Minister and then if the talks with the LibDems broke down then presumably someone else would have to takeover - and possibly someone else if they failed to cobble together a deal. Do you realise how much such musical chairs would damage the country or do you care? But even if we were to look at it a purely partisan level, I think you would find that if Cameron were Prime Minister and depended on negotiating a deal for his survival in that position the LibDems might just have a little more negotiating leverage than they do at present.

You just haven't thought this through - fortunately the civil servants and the constitutional experts have.

Anoneumouse said...

Constitutionally..... Her Majesty and the European Union Commission is now your government.

Via the provisions of article 3 of the European Communities Act 1972

Parliament signed off the Lisbon Treaty

'Comitology' rules OK

tory boys never grow up said...

Can I take it that my invitation to join the Government has already been withdrawn and the Tories are breaking manifesto promises even before they come to power?

DespairingLiberal said...

@toryboys - it is sometimes true that the people in Whitehall know best, but I can't see how your argument can be sustained for those who are NOT EVEN MPs any more! Surely not.

MikeyP said...

Simple answer. Tanks in Parliament Square!

Tom Harris said...

Have you checked the accuracy of this Iain? I must admit, I had also assumed this would happen, but a colleague has informed me that only parliamentarians - from either Commons or Lords - can hold office, meaning that defeated ministers lost their portfolios at the same time as their seats.

Iain Dale said...

Well, it was reported on the news earlier this evening.

Peter said...

I'm sorry Iain but you haven't thought this one through.

Let us imagine that Alistair Darling had lost his seat on Thursday, as many thought he would. And let us suppose that the crisis spreading from Greece required urgent action from the Treasury on Monday. Who would take that decision in your scenario? It couldn't be George Osborne or Vince Cable. Should it be Gordon Brown? What if he had lost his seat as well? Or should GB appoint a new Chancellor? Can you imagine the outcry if he did? You would certainly be up in arms!

In the current situation the job of ministers is to deal with routine business, handle emergencies and avoid making any policy decisions. These de-elected ministers are seriously constrained in what they can do so that their lack of accountability doesn't become an issue. But the job of government has to carry on and therefore the existing ministers remain in post until new ministers are appointed.

forsyth said...

"Cameron would become Prime Minister and then if the talks with the LibDems broke down then presumably someone else would have to takeover "

Cameron can head a minority government. There's no requirement to form a coalition to obtain an effective majority. (Cameron said as much in his initial speech.) In fact, he ought to be doing that now. Brown, however, had hopes that he could strike a deal with Clegg. (It helps if you talk nicely, Gordon: just a hint, but never mind. Sorry! Sorry!)

John MacLeod said...

Sorry, Iain, in my excitement in the second posting I made one factual error - John Smith besides, there was one qualified Scottish Labour MP, newly elected for Edinburgh Central, for the Scottish Office post of Solicitor-General. The young advocate was... Alasdair Darling. Even then, it seems, he was tipped for higher things.

Mrs Thatcher's decision nevertheless to ennoble Peter Fraser and keep him as Solicitor-General in the meantime was, in the context of an election where the Tories had taken but a quarter of the Scottish vote and lost over half their Scottish seats - putting devolution back, screaming, on the Scottish political agenda - was extraordinarily provocative and foolish, an early sign that her political judgement was starting to falter.

The Hamish Gray decision four years earlier had more emotional sense: he had lost his Ross and Cromarty seat to the boy Kennedy as a result of her government's right but implacable no-help-for-lane-ducks policy, with the closure of the British Aluminium smelter plant at Invergordon in 1981 and the loss of hundreds and hundreds of Easter Ross jobs. She felt she owed Hamish Gray, and that personal kindness is a feature of a great Prime Minister too often forgotten.

Michael J said...

And while all this is going on.....
The French and Germans have stitched together a deal that under a spurious clause in the Lisbon treaty Britain will have to lend money to Greece to help prop up the Euro.

That can't be right or in British interests.

Dan said...

Ian, they have been Ministers formally without being MP's since Parliament was dissolved back in early April, they have also been working under strict constraints of not making any Policy decisions or Press releases which could not be justified as urgent.

That position continues until there is a new Government, I would assume Clegg and Cameron will have an agreement before the end of the week, Cameron will be in Number 10 during the following week, and the new Con and Lib Ministers will be in post and unaccountable for a few days before Parliament reconvenes.

For those talking about shredders running overtime, the idea that Labour did not think they were likely to lose is a joke, anything that can be will have long since gone, anything non-political the Civil Service will not let them.

Dave H said...

One might argue that the business of government has to carry on regardless until the new structure has been worked out...

Trouble is, it's not just that I don't want to give these plonkers a moment longer to carry on ruining Britain in the same way they have for the past 13 years, I'm even more concerned they'll now into active sabotaging to make it as difficult as possible for the next administration.

You won't find more traditional Labour value than spite.

(Frankly, Iain, I wonder why on earth you wanted to get into the place: a few months of taking the blame for the painful measures necessary to fix the systemic ghastliness caused by Labour, followed by yet another GE and possible electoral defeat.

Meanwhile Brown, Prescott and all the other execrable types responsible for the mess are guaranteed a place in the Lords. It's a bloody mug's game.)

Hawkeye said...

Sunder Katwala said: "It has tended to be the conservative position to defend the current constitutional arrangements and their heavy reliance on informal understandings, and to most strongly oppose ideas for greater accountability, such as putting the Royal Prerogative on a statutory basis, etc."

The reason for that Mr Katwala is that up until this point we had people in govt. who had a shred of self respect. PMs who, whilst they wanted power, where decent men and women working for the good of the country.

What we currently have is a bunch of power crazed, bottom feeding, pond dwellers who should be barred from ever holding public office again.

And yes - you are right. We DO need a mandatory expulsion in our constitution in case (God forbid) the Labour Party ever return to power.

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

Iain is right is raising this interesting situation but there are far more worrying matters for the state of British democracy.
Gordon Brown has brought global shame on Britain by how his government has conducted this election.
You only have to look at the many stories on Google and where the voter fraud stories have been reported.
The election does not seem 'free and fair', the country of the Mother of Parliaments has a prime minister who has delivered the Mother of Election Frauds.
I read about the registration of 50 people in London flats, of inquiries or complaints into postal ballot fraud in at least 50 seats and then we have the people who were turned away at the polling stations.
I read of armed forces being denied their vote, and British citizens living in New Zealand (from where I write this) did not get to vote either.
Then we have those Commonwealth observers, and when Kenyans warn about Britiains electoral system being so corruptible, it must surely be embarassing for a British government to be lectured like this.
Regardless of what deal Nick Clegg strikes with whoever, if the Lib-Dems truly beleive in a fairer voting system, the abuses we have seen in this election must surely stop.
But it all just sums up the incompetence and corruption of the ZanuLiarbore years.
I have said as much over at Fairfactsmedia.com.

Shamik said...

If you live by tradition and the old system...

But seriously, change to the electoral system could actually benefit the Tories; just one seat in Scotland (out of 59, 1.7% of the vote) in return for 16.7% of the vote does seem a tad unfair.