Wednesday, July 10, 2013

No pre-selection or pledge & the Rudd factor

I have been slow to post because I am bogged down in writing.

In my last post (Saturday Morning Musings - the Rudd electoral factor) I wondered about the benefits of incumbency in the rather unusual Rudd context. Now that seems to be flowing through - see Abbott under pressure as the game changes as an example.

Meantime, the recent post I wrote on representative democracy, The importance of representative democracy, retains relevance. The importance of Parliament was central to that post.

At one level, Mr Rudd's proposal that the Labor leader should be elected by a mixture of Parliamentarians and the Party membership seems democratic. But is it? How does it fit with the ideal of Parliamentary democracy and the power of Parliament? Equally, and as the Australian Democrats found, election of party leaders by party members can be very messy.

Mr Abbot's response that Mr Rudd is wrong, that the people elect the PM, is worse for it is a clear breach of representative democracy. The people don't elect the PM, nor can or should they in our system. That's not their role.

And the heading in this post? It's a political slogan from the past. I will explain tomorrow.  


Winton Bates said...

I hope I am not repeating myself, but it seems to me that the constitutional position is not in dispute.Voters elect representatives rather than party leaders.
However, most voters pay a lot more attention to party leadership and party policies than to the qualities of potential representatives when they cast their votes. I think it is a good thing that voters take that approach because it helps make governments accountable for what they do.
If you have a parliament full of independent representatives, each seeking to advance the interests of their own electorates at the expense of everyone else, who has an incentive to exercise restraint on total government spending?

Jim Belshaw said...

No, you are not repeating yourself, Winton.

It's not clear to me that parties are actually a restraint on total Government spending. They, too, trade, but in bigger dollars. Think marginal seats approach.

Parties are an effective mechanism for marshaling support on the floor of Parliament and in that way can contribute to the effective running of a Parliamentary system.

I don't know that I agree with you on the accountability point. I have been complaining for several years about what I call the supermarket approach to politics. It's become very pronounced. Add to that the concept of mandate, you must do and sometimes only do what you have promised, and you have rigidity.

Maybe I'm strange. I generally don't vote for a party representative because of their policies, although I will vote against them for that reason. I vote based on my feeling about the government they are likely to bring over a term of Parliament including responding to unknowns. I accept a government's right to change policies, I generally find the talk about broken mandates a misleading distraction, knowing that if I disagree enough I can change my vote.

Winton Bates said...

I take your point about the marginal seat approach, but the more a party goes down that path the more vulnerable it becomes if the other party decides to take the high moral ground.

I think Kevin Rudd won a lot of support in 2007, when he said that the reckless spending must stop. Unfortunately, it turned out to be just a sound grab.

Jim Belshaw said...

Not sure on that, Winton, but its certainly arguable.