Liberal Conspiracy

Liberal Conspiracy
Liberal Conspiracy
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So The Observer really rained on New Labour's parade, deflecting attention away from Saturday's policy launch and onto whether Gordon Brown is a dominating, paranoid, near-psychopathic bully.

Let's assume - on the grounds that Andrew Rawnsley is a serious journalist and The Obs continues to keep up the pretence of being a serious newspaper - that the allegations are broadly true.

I don't disagree that there's cynical political maneuvering gone on here. Nor that there are partisan interests at play. But nonetheless, it seems that if these allegations are true then now had to be the right time to bring them out.

This is because a significant difference exists between the office of the Prime Minister and ordinary bosses. Namely, a normal supervisor or manager can be sacked for their unacceptable bullying of staff, or an employer taken to court over a lengthy period on harassment charges. Often the process isn't ideal, but it's there.

The situation is significantly different with the Prime Minister. We elect our governments, and the PM is the leader of the majority party. It is simply unfeasible and highly undesirable to have extra-party mechanisms for removing Prime Ministers on the grounds that they are, well, horrible bastards.

If the Party wants to sack its PM on the grounds that she or he is a liability and judged unfit to run the country, then the party may do that. But for other agents - civil servants individually, "independent" bodies, opposition parties and so forth - to be vested with the power to remove sitting Prime Ministers on the basis that they are "unsuitable" is a recipe for disaster and an invitation to an anti-democratic coup-fest.

In a representative democracy, the only acceptable way for a healthy, functioning PM to be removed on the grounds that he or she is unsuitable is for the electorate to vote them out.

If Brown is the short-fused megalomaniac Rawnsley's accusations say he is, then the electorate needs to know, and it needed to know now. Telling the electorate a year ago would have allowed the Labour spin machine to initiate damage control and ensure that the impact of the accusations was downplayed to the maximum. But that would not have been in the interests of the people of this country. When going to the polls, it's right that voters are immediately aware of whether or not the present PM is unfit for the job.

I don't want to be naive and say that Rawnsley and The Obs editorial board acted out of a pure patriotic duty and love for democracy. Self-interest no doubt played its role. But sometimes bad intentions yield just consequences.

It pains me to say this, of course. I am, all other things being equal, opposed to anything that makes a Cameron government more likely. But in this case, all other things are not equal.

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