Leadership questions

October 11, 2005 ,

BACK to Parliament this week and the question of leadership is in the air.

How political parties chose their leaders has always been a tricky topic.

The Labour Party leader was chosen by Labour MPs only until the 1980s, but now is picked by an electoral college.

MPs get a third of the vote, as do individual party members, and individual trade union members who pay the political levy.

This is the system which elected Tony Blair, and which will elect the next leader of the Labour Party if there is more than one candidate.

As things stand, Gordon Brown would probably win all three sections easily against any opponent, although in theory Labour could elect a leader with only the support of a minority of Labour MPs.

That is exactly what the Conservatives did when they chose Iain Duncan Smith.
Their rules mean that two names are chosen by their MPs, which are then voted on by Party members.

To the amazement of all of us they picked IDS over Ken Clarke, the one man many thought capable of landing telling blows on Tony Blair.

It wouldn’t have mattered had IDS been more effective, but performance in the House of Commons affects MPs’ morale, and it wasn’t long before the mutterings began which got rid of him for Michael Howard.

Mr Howard tried to get the rules changed back to MPs deciding, but once you give party members power they want to keep it.

So next Tuesday Conservative MPs will decide which two names to put forward to their members.

They all seem to be enjoying the plotting and scheming this week as they huddle together in the corridors of the Commons, but politics is really about being in power and taking the tough decisions the country needs.

Not so much fun, but much more important than the joys of opposition.