July 13, 2016

Horse 2134 - The One Job I Hope That David Cameron Never Accepts

More than likely by the end of the day (Wednesday 13th July), David Cameron will have stepped down from the office of the Prime Minister of Her Majesty's Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Culture Secretary Teresa May will take over the premiership. My hope is that Cameron stays in the parliament and doesn't quit politics altogether.
The Palace of Westminster which is the mother of many parliaments, has a degree of pomp and circumstance that few of its children can hope to emulate. One of the oddities that it carries on is the tradition that politicians don't and can't actually resign but take on the peculiar role of the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds. This is what Tony Blair did after he walked through the doorway and closed the big black door of Number Ten Downing St for the last time.
I hate this practice.

Previous residents of Number Ten such as Jim Callaghan, Ted Heath, John Major and even the Iron Lady herself Margaret Thatcher, didn't accept the role of Bailiff of the Chilterns Hundreds but stayed on as MP for their local constituency. In Australia, we can see a similar thing going on with Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott all staying on as their local MP. In the case of John Howard, I'm sure that he would have also stayed on if it wasn't for the fact that his local electorate decided his fate for him. This last case is perhaps the most illustrative of all.

The reason why I despise the role of the Baliff of the Chitern Hundreds, even though it is in a country which I don't even live in, is that it makes a mockery of parliamentary democracy. At an election, the electorate chooses their local MP in good faith and expects that they will represent them until the next time that they decide again at the next election. I think that it should go without saying, especially to those who have been chosen to sit on the leather benches, that Westminster parliaments are not Presidential style democracies. A Westminster parliament at its core is a constituency based democracy and governments are formed by a majority of members in the chambers. As every one of those members is first and foremost a local member, their first duty is not to either the parliament, their party or even the office (such as a cabinet minister) that they happen to pick up but the constituents who put them there.
Staying on as local MP, even from the relative quiet of the back benches, respects both the chamber and the constituents who put them there, with the expectation that they should be the ones to remove them.

Maybe not in the case of Thatcher but certainly in the case of John Major and Jim Callaghan, they were able to bring tempered and sensible comments into the chamber precisely because they knew what it was like to be standing at the despatch box. In the case of Australia, although the media likes to portray the danger that people like Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott continued and continue to the Prime Minister, this betrays the fact that the role of the Prime Minister isn't even defined. There is no rule that there even has to be a Prime Minister.

I think that in all honesty, David Cameron should stay on in parliament; even if he doesn't form part of any future cabinets. Although he may have thrown the political dice and lost the gamble, as a former Prime Minister, he still has valuable experience which can and should be spoken into the chamber.
The United Kingdom faces a turbulent transition as it untangles itself from the European Union and so losing David Cameron's experience and replacing him with someone who potentially has never been in parliament before, is a net loss. Parliamentary democracy is only as good as its constituent parts and I think that wilfully abandoning both the parliament and the constituents is an act of political sabotage.

Having said all that, if I was Grand Poobah and Lord High Everything Else and I could force David Cameron to accept a role, it wouldn't be Baliff of the Chiltern Hundreds but a post on BBC Radio 4's "Just A Minute". Previous Tory MP's like Clement Freud and Giles Brandreth have gone on to be successful panellists on the show for many years but I spy another role for David Cameron, the host.
Current host Nicholas Parsons is well into his 90's and it must be said that he can't go on forever because the ceaseless feet of time steal swiftly by and stop for no-one. David Cameron has already conclusively proven that he's capable of being the ringmaster of a disparate rag tag bunch of erudite clowns and loquacious loons; so he'd be perfect for the job. Of course he'd then be in charge of people like Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, Alexei Sayle, Jenny Eclair and Giles Brandreth, so maybe it would be as messy as disentangling the UK from the EU but at least it would be more delightful.

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