Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When did autocracy cease to be 'conservative'?

Over at my old haunt Political Betting, Mike Smithson is off on one again, implying that it is in some way self-evident that Labour's procedure for electing the Shadow Cabinet in opposition is an anachronism.  Noting that the Labour parliamentary party soundly rejected an opportunity to change the system (ie. by allowing the leader a free choice) just two weeks ago, he suggests that "there is nothing as conservative as a Labour MP".  Ironically, that would of course have been a very shrewd observation had he illustrated it with a thousand other examples, but not this one.  An unwillingness to concentrate yet more powers in the hands of the elective dictatorship that is the Labour party leadership is not so much 'conservative' as...well, faintly democratic.  It's a nod to what the Americans would call "checks and balances" - and there's been precious few of those in the sixteen years since the Labour rank-and-file last had some kind of meaningful say over their own party's destiny.

Indeed, an authentic modernisation would have been to transfer the power to select the Shadow Cabinet from the limited electorate of Labour MPs to the broader party membership.

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