You ain’t going nowhere

Have finally cracked open the (18 month old) West Wing box set, although had to resort to watching in on my (very small) laptop because the DVD player refused to cooperate. (And yes, I do think it’s personal. Technology has a grudge against me, which manifests itself at every given opportunity. I don’t know why, but it does. The only reason I’m blogging now is because the TV has also decided to stop working too, so I can’t watch the news which I hope is about the Tories, not us).
The fleeting possibility that just maybe there’s someone out there at this very moment being lined up to replace Damian McBride in the Downing Street press corps who looks exactly like Sam Seaborn is the only thing that has kept me from jumping off the balcony this weekend, which has of course been profoundly depressing on all fronts. Although I would settle for Josh Lynam.
Also on the subject of American politics, did you see Obama do his comedy routine in front of the press corps? Nailed it. Naturally. Doesn’t he always? He said his first 100 days had been such a success that they were going to complete the next 100 days in 72. And on the 73rd day, he would rest. And there was a joke about Hilary and swine flu, but more about that in a moment.
All this has got me thinking. In the USA the President is the President is the President. Nothing short of impeachment or death can stop him being President until his term of office is over. OK, there’s a theoretical possibility as he approaches the end of his first term that his party could dump him for someone more popular, but it’s a remote one. Which means – or at least it seems to me from where I’m sitting – that you remove at one stroke all the endless speculation about leadership and challenges and rivalries that is such an obsession of the British political chattering classes.
Take the joke Obama made about Hilary Clinton last night. He said that although they’d been rivals during the primaries, they’d grown a lot closer; she’d given him a great big hug when she got back from Mexico and said that he should pay it a visit too. Now imagine what the press reaction would have been if Gordon Brown had made the same joke about David Miliband…
What impact would it have on British politics if we had fixed term parliaments, a maximum two terms in office for a Prime Minister, and a rule that the party in Government could not change its leader except at election time? Which I appreciate would rule out the Blair/ Brown handover in 2006, although it would almost certainly have meant a Blair/ Brown handover in 2005 and a clear mandate for Gordon from the electorate.
I’m not actually an advocate of fixed parliaments, as I can’t see what would happen if no one party got a majority – would you have to limp on for four years trying to hold a coalition together? But still…. I’d give an awful lot to get away from the endless sniping and speculation and gossip – most of it totally uninformed and inaccurate, but damaging nonetheless – about leadership ambitions and potential coups and backbench plotting that we have at the moment.
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