Friday, May 11

Collective Responsibility.

There is much discussion in the media today regarding Mr Blair's responsibility for taking the UK into war with Iraq.
There is a case to be made for the ruling executive having the authority to declare war without prior permission from Parliament. In our system, the accountability is ex-post facto in that it is open to the Parliament to table a motion of confidence and thus force the government to resign. By this means, in theory at least, Parliament is thus the supreme power. However, since a successful motion of (no) confidence would precipitate a general election, and depose some (or many) sitting members from their seats, the duty to hold the government to account is somewhat tempered by the greater imperative job security. We thus have an interesting situation where, in some cases, doing your job is a vote for self-unemployment.

The simple fact is that Parliament had within its power to bring Mr Blair to heel (and a duty to do so if it thought that Blair was acting against the national interest). For whatever reasons, it decided not to use that power. Ultimate responsibility, therefore, has to lie with Parliament - even if it is fashionable, in the current vogue for personality politics, to blame the individual.
Interestingly, in his speech yesterday at Trimdon Labour Club Tony Blair said that he could not have achieved anything without the Labour Party allowing him to lead it. Well indeed so that is the truth. His Party may have disagreed with him over Iraq and other things, but not so much that it was prepared to surrender power.
Of course, after the Iraqi invasion - even after things had started to go belly-up - there was a general election ... and Labour was (once again) re-elected. Clearly there is an element of collective responsibility, involving the British voters here, but it is not fashionable to say so.


John Lester said...

This is the problem with career politicians. They are in it for the money and what they can get out of it for themselves. I tend to think that most of them, especially on the Labour side were probably not very good at the jobs they trained for. I wonder how good a QC Jack Straw and Tony Blair were. How good a teacher the Minister of Education was.

Peter Troy said...

Actually Tony Blair qualified as a Barrister but did not practice law long enough, unlike his wife, to to qualify For concideration as as a QC. I do not think that Jack Straw is a QC either.