The talk is of assassins, coups, bloodbaths and extinction. Surprisingly though, no one has been hurt. But political reporters do so love their hyperbole and there is no doubt that the crisis shaking the British Government is severe and will probably proof terminal at the general election due within a year. We are assured that the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will cling to power with all his might. But actually this is not true. Within a year, the British people can throw him out of 10 Downing Street and there is not a thing he can do about it. That’s the wonder of democratic politics. Unlike a dictator, Brown is toast (there goes another colourful metaphor) but no one will have to kill him. That’s not something we should take for granted, even as voter turnout continues to decline.
I clearly remember in 1992 watching the most powerful man in the world, a victor in war, being turfed out on the say-so of American voters. But the older President Bush spoke then, if I recall, of “the great mystery of democracy.” No one had to shoot him to force him out of office.
So, as we watch the histrionics of Westminster, we can rest assured that compared to the method of removing leaders followed through most of human history, it’s all a bit of fun (as Peter Snow would say).
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