Unelected Prime Ministers

Over the last few days, there’s been a lot of nonsense talked about “unelected Prime Ministers”. It started off as scaremongering by the Murdoch press, but it soon started to be repeated by Tory supporters like Iain Dale. I’ve even heard people like Michael Gove and William Hague use the phrase in interviews.

Of course all of these people understand how the British Parliamentary system works. They know that we never have an elected Prime Minister. Anyone repeating this nonsense is deliberately lying to the electorate and shouldn’t be trusted to give any kind of political commentary.
David Cameron isn’t an “elected Prime Minister” any more than Gordon Brown was. Only 34,000 people voted for him. That’s a tiny proportion of the electorate.
But the phrase “unelected Prime Minister” got me thinking. What if we did elect our Prime Minister? What if, instead of the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons, the tradition was that the candidate with the most constituency votes was invited to form a government. How would that change things?
Of course, the wonderful people over at the Guardian Datablog have the answers to these questions. They have a spreadsheet containing details of the votes cast for every candidate in every constituency last Thursday.
Unfortunately, there are two potential ways to interpret the data. You can find the person with the highest percentage of the vote in a constituency or you can find the person with the highest number of votes. The two versions give different answers.
The person with the highest percentage of the vote was Steve Rotheram the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton. He got 71.96% of the vote. In second place, with 71.08% of the vote, is Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams in Belfast West.
The person with the highest number of votes was Stephen Timms the Labour MP for East Ham. He got 35,471 votes. Just behind him was David Cameron in Witney, who got 33.973 votes.
So the next time you hear someone spout the tired old Tory nonsense about an “unelected PM”, suggest Steve Rotheram or Stephen Timms as the best candidates for an “elected PM”.

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