By Kingsley Purdam, Dave Richards and Nick Turnbull
On both sides of the Atlantic, the New Year has offered up contrasting but related events concerning the highest office of state. First, there was President Obama’s last State of the Union address, a constitutional nicety driven by the limits placed on presidential terms in the USA. For Americans, this valedictory tour de force has a familiar and predictable pattern to it; an opportunity for the incumbent to survey the highlights and narrate their own legacy, so focusing America’s mind on the issue of succession. It is notable that elsewhere and under different circumstances, some political leaders have sought to lead indefinitely, even changing their countries’ constitutions to allow them an extended period of office. President Robert Mugabe has held power in Zimbabwe since 1987. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame has extended his right to rule until 2034. Similarly, one of the world’s longest serving leaders President Paul Biya of Cameroon has revised his country’s constitution to allow him to continue as president. President Putin served two terms and then stepped down because of Russia’s constitutional limits, only to return in 2012. During his interim, presidential terms in Russia just happened to be extended from four to six years! On this side of the Atlantic, the Prime Minister David Cameron has already, of his own apparent volition, opted to step down ahead of the 2020 General Election. Cameron mused that two terms as Prime Minister were quite enough, stressing the importance of retaining his sanity. Yet in January 2016, he suggested that in the event of a ‘Brexit’, he would seek to remain in office for a full term.
So what can we learn about politics and leadership from leaders who resign their roles when they could stay on? What is the optimum time for being a political leader?
Please note that this blog piece was originally published on the PSA Insight Blog, and is available here.
By Ben Worthy
As a newly elected Prime Minister, you wait around for one European problem then two come along at once. While David Cameron is trying to deal with his EU referendum promise, another ‘European’ problem has reared its head in the Queen’s Speech. The Conservatives promised to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and replace it with a British Bill of Rights – see this full fact analysis for background. Continue reading
By Graham Allen MP, Dave Richards and Martin Smith
Brian Barry suggested that: ‘…there has been a massive rise in the incidence of sanctimony and smugness among the successful that has nothing to do with any change in the underlying reality… It has been stimulated by politicians who have realised that it is possible to win power by recruiting the most … successful forty per cent or so of the population in a crusade to roll back the gains made by their fellow citizens in the previous forty years’. Written fifty years ago, the spirit, if not the empirical accuracy of this sentiment, still holds true. The Conservative Party have returned to power with an outright, yet slim majority. The turnout, though slightly up on previous elections at 66%, saw the Conservatives secure a 36.9% share. Read another way this means that only 24.7% of those eligible to vote did so for the new governing party. The Westminster model was, of course, always designed to deliver out right winners thanks to the machinations of the first-past-the post electoral system. In 2015, it can certainly be said to have done its job. But in an increasingly anti-political age, with a growing sense of cynicism with the ways and means of the Westminster system, it might be argued that a new government with such a precarious majority would be well served by operating with a public show of humility, not hubris. Continue reading
With a much reduced majority, what problems will David Cameron face with his backbench critics? Professor Philip Cowley of the University of Nottingham has been researching backbench dissent for 20 years and wrote this article for the Telegraph blog, looking at the problems ahead. As he shows, although the government’s majority is small, it is larger than people realise, and many Conservative MPs will not want to do anything to destabilise the government ahead of the forthcoming EU referendum.
Read more here.