May and Eagle: If Only They Cared What the Rest of Us Think

14/07/2016 15:31 | Updated 14 July 2016

It's so depressing, and the depression is heightened by the fact that it should be so exciting.

If you asked me how I should feel at the idea of a world where the leaders of both the UK Government and the official Opposition were both women - and one of them a member of the LGBT community at that - I would say that I should be ecstatic.

Just image, we live in a world where the leadership of the political world is no longer something exclusive to middle- and upper-class white men. Even as little as a decade ago, could any of us have believed that it would be possible that all the major political parties could be led by women? The Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru are there already. As are the Scottish Labour and Conservative parties. Even UKIP have women in the running as potentials leaders.

So why aren't I excited?

Because the leadership "battles" of the Labour and Conservative Parties are just so depressingly indicative of how little democracy matters to the upper echelons at Westminster.

Theresa May is now our Prime Minister. Only the second woman to hold this role. And how many of the UK population voted for her? How many of the people she now leads actually put their hand up and said "I want her to be my Prime Minister"? 199. There wasn't, in the end, even a full leadership contest within her own party. The Conservative PLP picks two MPs, one of those drops out, and our new PM is anointed. I wouldn't mind so much if she called an immediate election. And while that is, I suppose, still on the table, I doubt very much she'll risk it. Like Gordon Brown before her, she wants her guaranteed four years in power. So once more we're left with an unelected leader.

And yes, I know that technically we don't vote for the Prime Minister. But while this is true, it is also untrue. While you can argue that the Tory party has a democratically elected majority in the House of Commons and so pick the Prime Minister, it's naïve to deny that a large proportion of voters vote for the leader rather than the party.

And the thought of Angela Eagle taking over as Leader of the Opposition is little better. Yes, it's about time that the Labour Party had its first female leader. But guess what? The membership had that choice last year. Say what you like about Jeremy Corbyn, I don't think anyone seriously claims that his victory over Yvette Copper and Liz Kendal was because people refused to vote for a female leader.

But if Eagle's challenge is successful, it will always be remembered that the only reason she is there is because of her contempt for the membership of her own party. I get it, Jeremy Corbyn is not what the Labour Parliamentary Party want in a leader. This has never been a secret. But whatever you think of him, he won a democratic election within his own party. By a landslide. If he had won his victory by the skin of his teeth I'd have a little more sympathy, but he was given a mandate of 60% of the vote. That's not "we're not really sure" kind of numbers.

But the PLP decided that the party membership had made a mistake and have been waiting for the last nine months for an excuse to declare it time they corrected that mistake. Which is why there was so much talk about whether Corbyn would get on the ballot automatically or not. Those opposed to him know he is almost certain to win the new leadership challenge if the membership is given a free choice, so the only way to get the "correct" result is to remove that choice.


So while the political situation has - at least objectively - so much going for it, I only wish things had come about in a way that didn't make me so depressed about the whole thing. I love that I live in a world where almost all the major political parties are run - or potentially will be run - by women. A world where the glass ceiling has been shattered and the establishment is no longer dominated by straight white men. A world where everyone knows they can reach the top whatever their demographic. (I know we are still a *long* way from true gender equality in society, but we should still recognise how far we've come).

I just wish - without trying to sound overly dramatic - that it wasn't so heavily tainted by such contempt for their voters. Then maybe we'd have a little more positive political engagement.

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