Friday, June 29, 2007
The constitutional convention in the UK is that Ministers of the Crown (however junior) have to be Members of Parliament, either of the Commons or the Lords. In the past when outsiders have been parachuted into government they were given peerages to regularise their positions.
This means that ministers have a certain connection to Party, and a political position separate from their ministerial office. They are also questionable by their own house.
In presidential systems (in the USA and in the French Hybrid) the Presidents are at liberty to appoint people to any post of any persuasion they chose – within the constraints of the power balance. In the USA it is almost conventional for a President of one party to appoint at least one cabinet minister affiliated to the other party.
In the flood of appointments to Team Gordon a number of non-parliamentarians have been tagged with posts entitled ‘Minister’ and so far nothing mentioned about entering the Lords or fighting by-elections. There has however been talk of alternative fora for accountability.
In many ways Blair ran a Presidency rather than a Premiership, and was only really constrained by the internal dynamics of Browns treasury kingdom. Brown will of course make sure that nothing so effective will challenge him in the Labour ministerial tribe. What are the constraints on him emphasising the Presidential trend in UK politics?
In all this ‘talent show’ recruitment are we seeing the final demise of Parliament in day to day politics ( rather on the lines of the London assembly in relation to the Mayor) or will there be a development of effective scrutiny over non-parliamentary ministers?
I think we need to keep very careful watch over this development.