Voting once is such fun, they’re voting twice: How Britain chooses a prime minister

It’s already strange that 160,000 (give or take we don’t know how many) members of a single party will choose Britain’s prime minister without the rest of the country getting a say, but the strangeness doesn’t end there. The election of the Conservative Party’s next leader is run by rules the party makes for itself, and the winner gets to lead the country because the Conservatives have–.

Okay, this is awkward. They don’t have a majority in the House of Commons. They have more MPs than anyone else and they borrowed several from a Northern Ireland unionist party to make a thin majority. But hey, everyone else is such a mess that it looks like a commanding position right now.

So what do they do? Having narrowed their leadership candidates down to Boris Johnson and Not Boris Johnson, they sent out ballot papers so all their members could choose between them. And to some they sent two ballot papers.

The BBC reports that ” the Conservative Party and the independent body hired to scrutinise the running of the leadership election were both unable to say how many ballot papers had been sent in error.” But the Conservative Party says it’s all going to be fine because the ballots say you mustn’t vote twice, so of course no one will.

“I know that they won’t vote twice, however tempting it might be,” Not Boris Johnson, who’s behind in the polls, said. “I’m asking them not to because we want this to be an absolutely fair election”

He also said, “Of course I’m going to trust the result.”

The two candidates have been trying to out-Brexit each other, out fight-crime each other, and out-depress the rest of us.

The vote closes on July 22 and the results will be announced on the 23rd. And now excuse me while I go see if ice cream really does cure depression.

81 thoughts on “Voting once is such fun, they’re voting twice: How Britain chooses a prime minister

    • Historically, it was the Democratic Party that built machines and had the dead voting. These days, the Republicans are taking the opposite approach and wiping people they think are likely to vote Democratic off the voting lists.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I am a Washingtonian believer, old George felt that the creation of a party system would lead to the eventual end of the representative republic that they created. I think we are near that point.

        In the state that I live in the governor (a Democrat) has refused to sign off on new voting machines because they eliminate the ability to vote straight party. His reasoning – it would confuse the electorate and lead to longer voting times. I would have gone one step further and eliminated notation of a candidates party from the ballot, if you don’t know whom you are voting for then you have no business voting. The process takes long enough (the 2020 runs have already begun) that if you don’t know whom you want to vote for after a year of candidating then I don’t want you in there voting for someone just because they are in your party. That’s how we got Obama and Trump.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Interesting argument. I’m not sure I agree, or where the absence of parties would take us. The American focus on personalities is, I think, a distraction and draws us further and further down the road of elections as celebrity island contests. I remember people voting for Bush Jr. because he seemed like the kind of guy they’d like to have a beer with. The British system leans more heavily in the direction of parties. In theory, they’re unified around certain issues and with a majority can actually get something done. At times, that’s been true. At the moment, that’s come completely unglued–neither of the main parties agrees internally about any of the hot-button issues. The third party, the Liberal Democrats, agrees about Brexit but it’s not clear what they stand for on any other issues.

          Excuse me, that ice cream’s calling.

          Liked by 2 people

  1. It’s good that they’re not wasting the extension (second one) that the EU gave them with an appeal not to waste it, isn’t it? Not to mention once they’ve sorted this leader thing out, there’s the summer recess, then party conferences season, then a whole three weeks to not negotiate and not doing a no deal exit either because there’s no bloody way they’ll be ready and nobody anywhere has the guts to say… “Enough! We give in, it can’t be done and it was a crap idea anyway.”

    Apart from that, should be a nice summer.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Vanilla with fudge sauce and toasted almonds. It’s a general cure all. So is peach. So is lemon with a nice slice of gingerbread. I may have to go out again and get some myself. Good grief with Johnson and Trump, I may gain untold pounds.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What will they do if more ballots come back than the number of MPs are eligible to vote. Don’t we have a simple arithmetic problem here. Please let us know how that works out.

    In Georgia one year in an election for governor in one county the last. 218 people to sign to vote signed in alphabetical order, using the same pen, in the same handwriting. They were also all dead and buried in the same cemetery. Their urge to vote was apparently do strong even dealt could not stop them. Such patriotism is astounding. You can read about it by looking up the Georgia election of 1948. Three men were claiming to be governor until the state Supreme Court ruled. Very interesting story.

    The bright side of the current UK problem is that s majority of parliament will chose the PM. That is how it is supposed to work. No system is free from imperfections. Some are just less worse that others. Our electoral college is certainly not any better and has never served as a model that any other country has copied. Nobody here is happy with it. Except of course the current winner, snd the winner back is 2000 as I recall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s the party’s members, not the MPs, who get to vote. The MPs narrowed the field down to two–and MPs, at least, make up a manageable number. Even I, with my gift for making a mess of numbers, could keep them straight.

      Great story about Georgia. Thanks for tossing that one in. It is heart-warming, how the dead can vote. And write! Who knew we had that to look forward to?


    • Very true, and thanks for pitching that into the discussion because I should have worded it differently than I did. It was my American thinking controlling my brain again. But I’ve lived here for 13 years now and never seen the country as a whole more sidelined from the process. In elections, people know who’s leading the party and (supposedly) what they stand for. So in that sense they do choose the prime minister. They don’t vote directly for him or her, but they do vote for a party and know who it would put in if it got the chance.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I looked up Boris Johnson since I knew nothing about him, or he non Boris either. My comments are how do you pronounce Pfeffel and would someone lend him a comb or a brush. Even Bernie Sanders has started brushing his hair since he started tuning for president.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1. Haven’t a clue. I’d suggest piffle, but that’s more along the lines of editorial comment than accurate information.

      2. He can’t have mine. Sorry. He’s got more than enough money to buy his own.


  5. My father,in the intér war period, was an expert in the vote early, vote often, programme, where the dead would rise from their graves.
    You had to have someone capable of combing the electoral register and combining that with the gen on whose grannie had died ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Um, yeah, it’s one of those crazy things that you find in the small print of the system. Each party sets its own internal rules and runs by them. For the most part, no one outside of party activists pays much attention until a moment like this when you realize how few people will have a say in the next prime minister, who will have a great deal of power at a crucial time in history. And then the party in power mucks up the election and doesn’t even follow its own procedures.

      My observation of them in power is that they’ve been stunningly incompetent in endless ways–not just in this one.

      Liked by 1 person

              • We haven’t gone as crazy as the U.S. yet, but when you look at what’s happening in Italy, in Hungary, the ultra-right in France, although they’re not in power, mercifuuly, but the list goes on. My sense is that the worldwide economy’s falling apart (although not officially–watch this space) and international corporations are more powerful than the governments that, in theory, could keep them in check. The system doesn’t work and people are turning to the quick, easy solutions. Which will make things worse. It scares me.

                Liked by 1 person

              • It scares me as well. Trump has undermined faith in our free press, our rule of law, our intelligence agencies and our voting system. He’s made half of America embrace their baser natures and given legitimacy to a culture of hatred and exclusion. Policy is announced on Twitter (from the toilet) and diplomacy is dead. “Make America Great Again”? He’s personally eradicating everything ideal it was built on.

                Liked by 1 person

  6. Trump, I think we can survive, at least if someone can convince him that glyphosate may be making him sick too. Johnson, I hope youall can survive–shouldn’t be long anyway; in all pictures I’ve seen he looked as if he was ready to retire several years ago. Bolsonaro the mad firebug, otoh…he’s not even a WINGnut. Burning national forests is from the underside of the TAIL end of the bird!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you. I have never understood how they choose the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much the way I thought it was. Roughly speaking, it would be like Mitch McConnell and his buddies choosing our President. A truly scary thought

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a pretty fair parallel. On the positive side, it means that the party in government, if it’s even moderately competent, can get things done. On the negative side, it means that if the party in government has fangs and claws and swastikas, it can still get things done. And as the Brexit standoff has shown us, gridlock is still possible.

      Liked by 1 person

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