Michael Fabricant today opposed a 10 Minute Rule Bill introduced by a Labour
MP, Graham Allen, which would have created an elected Head of Government, a
President Blair. Michael Fabricant says: "This Bill was a
thought-provoking piece of legislation, but ultimately terrifying! It would
have weakened Parliament still further, given still more power to Tony
Blair, and put the future of the monarchy in doubt. I don’t think it would
have enhanced the quality of life in Britain one jot".
Graham Allen’s Bill would have provided for the Prime Minister to be elected
directly by the population rather than by his – or her – own political
party. "On the face of it, this would seem an extension of democracy", says
Michael Fabricant "but, in practice, would be unworkable. A Prime Minister
must enjoy the full support of all his MPs. We can all think of
circumstances when this doesn’t happen and the chaos that ensues. A Prime
Minister cannot be imposed on a political party. And the possibility of the
delivery of better hospitals, extra policing, higher pensions, and the
avoidance of military conflict would not be improved by the direct election
of the Prime Minister".
The Bill was then formally opposed by Michael Fabricant. Graham Allen then
did not press it to a full vote so the Bill fell. "I suspect that Graham
Allen might well have felt that many Labour MPs would have trooped through
the lobby and voted against their own Prime Minister" says Michael
Fabricant. "And that would have been just too embarrassing for them".
The text of the speech presented this afternoon (Tuesday 11th May) in the
House of Commons is below:-
The honourable Gentleman, the Member for Nottingham North (Graham Allen),
is to be congratulated in introducing this thought-provoking, but ultimately
For if it were to become law, at last the current Prime Minister will have
achieved his final objective: to become President Blair. And with it, we
shall no doubt see Blair Force One replacing the Queen’s Flight and a
Presidential Coat of Arms flying over 10 Downing Street. Or maybe even
Buckingham Palace. Who knows?
Presidential decree will replace Cabinet Government – but then what’s new?
We already know that the decision to hold a referendum on the European
Constitution was made without any reference to the Cabinet.
But the Honourable Gentleman knows all this. Back in November 2001, he
published "The Last Prime Minister: Being Honest about the UK Presidency."
And in it he says that a Presidency has arrived in our nation in all but
But I oppose the principle of an elected Prime Minister. This would give
additional legitimacy to the confused state of affairs we suffer under
today. And this would sit uneasily and uncomfortably with the Parliamentary
democracy which we enjoy and which, in itself, forms part of a
Our Parliamentary system is not compatible with a nationally elected Head of
Firstly, with the principle of primus inter pares, the prime minister, any
prime minister, must enjoy the confidence of his or her own parliamentary
party. Without that, no British political leader in Government and, yes, in
Opposition too, can or ought to survive. The appointment of a leader who
does not enjoy the overwhelming support of his or her Parliamentary party is
doomed to failure. And in that connection, I would dearly have loved to
be a fly on the wall of recent meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
So the question arises: do we wish to change the nature of our
parliamentary democracy to become some sort of hybrid between a
parliamentary and presidential system? I would argue ‘no’. Such a change,
like the botched half changes in the Lords, would simply be for change’s
sake. And the Lords now, packed with cronies, is a less effective and – I
would argue – less democratic place than it even was before.
Will powers be vested in this new Prime Minister to veto legislation of
which he does not approve as he can do in France and in the United States?
For the Prime Minister, under this scheme, would have an authority all of
his own. Where will that sit with the primacy of Parliament?
And what if a charismatic Prime Minister were elected of a Party different
of the majority party in Parliament? Could ‘co-habitation’, as the French
call it, work?
The Assemblé Nationale in Paris has no powers except those that the
President is pleased to grant it. The President of the United States enjoys
similar powers of veto enjoyed by British monarchs up to the mid 17th
But there is a clear difference: both the French and US Presidents are not
only Heads of Government, but also Heads of State. But our Head of State is
Her Majesty the Queen and long may she continue to reign over us.
Mr Speaker: the consequence of this Bill would be to weaken Parliamentary
institutions already weakened by this Government as power continues to drift
to Downing Street. It would weaken the role of the Monarch as ultimate
protector of our people. And worst of all, until recently, it would have
meant – if the polls are to be believed – that all this power would have
been vested in the present Prime Minister. How comfortable would the
present Labour Party – let alone the rest of the nation – find that?
Particularly after the elections on June 10th.
An elected Prime Minister would weaken democracy not strengthen it. It
would weaken the Commons Chamber, not strengthen it. The beneficiaries will
not be our people and its legislature, but the Executive in Whitehall and
its Chief Executive and Head of State, the newly elected Prime Minister.
Our own President Blair. Or can you imagine: even a possible President
Either way, and for that reason, I oppose this motion.