This week’s Sunday Telegraph includes an interview given by prime minister David Cameron to political columnist Matt D’Ancona. The piece says the pm’s expressed determination to serve until 2020 has ‘quashed’ the idea that in the event of a Tory win in 2015 there would be a Tory leadership contest well before the following election.
Hopefully, proper political columnists will pipe up about how much bollocks that idea is. But until they get their chance in due course, here’s a couple of thoughts.
First, here’s what Ladbrokes is saying – i.e. Labour will win in 2015. But let’s imagine the Tories did win. What then for Cameron’s future? He says he’d stay until 2020. Really? He’d step down and expect a new leader to take over just a few weeks before an election? What kind of chance would that give his party and successor? Of course, it’s a ridiculous proposal.
No, he’d have to go early enough for an ‘unelected’ successor to work to acquire public credibilty, as far as that might be possible, but not so early as to renege on his responsibility following a general election victory. So, that’s sometime during 2018, I suppose.
It’s true that it’s technically possible that David Cameron could serve on well beyond 2020, but the technicalities have nothing to do with it, really. The new ‘fixed-term’ parliaments, from 2015, might effectively make it impossible for a prime minister to serve more than two terms – a pm’s time in office will be circumscribed by political inertia and party dynamics. UK prime ministers have never been tolerated for more than the equivalent of two fixed terms by either the public or their own ambitious colleagues.
With an effective limit of two terms, the fixed term rule would likely see ‘short’ premierships and ‘long’ ones become a feature of UK politics. Cameron’s, were he to win in 2015 and serving from his own general election win, would be a ‘long’ premiership. His successor from 2018 would be a ‘short’ one, whether he or she lost in 2020 or had to stand down in 2023 by the same logic as Cameron standing down in 2018.
Funny old thing, this, but I’m guessing that George Osborne and a number of his colleagues are gagging to be the very type of ‘unelected’ prime minister they slagged Gordon Brown for being.