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UK LEADERSHIP BATTLE HIGHLIGHTS THE PARTY SYSTEM

Outstanding Performance 18 Jul, 2022 Follow News

UK LEADERSHIP BATTLE HIGHLIGHTS THE PARTY SYSTEM

The world, including Cayman, is riveted on what some commentators have referred to as the political psychodrama taking place in the UK.

The ruling Conservative Party is locked in a battle of candidates vying to replace the party’s leader - the UK’s and ultimately our -  outgoing and disgraced prime minister Boris Johnson.

In the ongoing spectacle, former members of Mr Johnson’s government are now engaged in attritional warfare for his job, including ripping apart policies which up until recently they were championing, including speaking in support of their former leader.

That it could have been worse speaks volumes for the political party system, which to a large degree is constraining the leadership hopefuls, although allowing free rein to outline their policy agenda and challenge their inhouse opponents.

Whoever is ultimately selected to replace Mr Johnson as prime minister will be chosen, not out of self-interested political horse-trading, but through an internal democratic system within the Conservative Party -  as it would be for any other UK political party.

Under the party’s constitution, the leadership election is a two-stage process: Stage 1 – Conservative MPs choose candidates to advance to stage two by a system of elimination. At Stage 2 paid-up party members - said to number around 200,000 - are balloted by postal vote and the candidate with the most votes wins.

To select a new leader, the party machinery at both the parliamentary and broader membership level kicks into high gear.

This is different from a general election where opposing parties and independent candidates battle it out to form a majority in Parliament with the prime minister already pre-determined as he/she would have already been at the helm of their party.

It’s a tried and proven system that has stood the test of time and has embedded the democracy of the political party system;  a critical aspect of what’s known and practiced in many democracies.

Cayman is one of the few where the party system has not taken a lasting hold, despite efforts.

Although the systems are in place here to accommodate political parties in what is a successfully functioning democracy, an indefinable hesitancy to embrace and sustain them remains.

That has arguably limited our politics to a trade-off of loose political accommodations.

This dominance of independent candidates, unique to Cayman in this part of the world, brings to mind the situation of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific which for years decades attempted to limit the influence of independents in forming governments.

It was not until 2014 that the parliament successfully passed a Political Parties Integrity Act (PPIA) in 201 with a stated aim of limiting the influence of independent MPs and prescribing how political parties are to be administered. Interestingly according to a review by one political scientist,  most MPs who debated and passed the PPIA went on and contested as independent candidates.

It is widely agreed that political parties are critical pillars underpinning any democratic country’s aspirations to political maturity.

In Cayman’s case, an unwillingness or inability to establish, and more importantly, sustain political parties remains a conundrum, despite many theories advanced for their demise.

It’s only in quite recent times that party politics have taken some semblance of root here, but sowing the seeds of the very ethos of party politics still seems to be falling on barren ground.

Time…or the next election…will tell.


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