Knight’s Days: the reporting back from Westminster column with Sir Greg Knight MP

Our likely new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a confident upbeat vision.
Our likely new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a confident upbeat vision.

There are many uncertainties in politics but one thing that looks guaranteed is that this month Britain will have a new Prime Minister.

Some people have argued that our system is unfair because there has been no public vote on who will enter number 10 Downing Street but such comments show a lack of awareness of how our democratic system of government works.

It is true that in the USA every citizen gets to vote for a new president at an election but in Britain we do not have a presidential system and the UK Prime Minister is not our Head of State!

Our Head of State is HM The Queen and the person who holds the office of PM usually secures such office not by being directly elected but by being the leader of the Party with the most MP’s currently elected to the House of Commons.

Thus, what we are witnessing is a mid-term election for a new leader of the Conservative Party, and that is why it is only Conservative Party members who have a vote.

As currently there are more Conservative MPs than those of any other political party, it is expected that this new Party leader will, as a consequence, become our next Prime Minister.

Whether you think this is how things should work is another matter but the process has long been thus and this procedure is no different to what happened when Jim Callaghan took over from Harold Wilson mid-term under the 1970s Labour government, or when John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher under the Conservative administration in the 1990s. Gordon Brown too, took over from Prime Minister Tony Blair via a similar means.

What is unusual about the current situation is not the leadership process itself but the fact that at Westminster no one political party currently has a Parliamentary majority.

So, whilst the names at the top are changing, the difficult arithmetic will remain and this has certain consequences for the new PM.

It means there is precious little room for manoeuvre. There are currently only 312 Conservative MPs out of a total of 650, so even with the continued support of the ten Democratic Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland, in this Parliament defeat for any government, on a day to day basis, is potentially never far away.

Conservative Margaret Thatcher and Labour’s Tony Blair were both seen as strong and decisive Prime Ministers but enabling this, they both had the bolster of a huge Parliamentary majority behind them.

Our likely new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a confident upbeat vision and some new policies.

He has a fresh strategy for dealing with our exit from the European Union and with the next General Election not scheduled to take place until 2022, he potentially has time on his side to make his mark.

But no PM can govern for long or successfully without the approval of Parliament and what most MPs are now wondering is, will he have the arithmetic?