Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government

Monty Python famously demonstrated that Arthurian legend does not provide a sustainable model for electing a leader.

But the UK’s current system may actually be worse.

A few minutes ago, Liz Truss was announced as the winner of the race to become the UK’s new Prime Minister. She was elected by members of the Conservative Party. This process has been criticised as unrepresentative, undemocratic and unreliable. It is tempting to characterise these 160.000 odd people as the classic aged, wealthy, white, out of touch golf club types from Tory central casting. I suspect the true nature of things may be even grimmer. I should know. I’m one of them.

There’s little data on the profile of Tory members, even from the party themselves, and the electoral commission raised some serious doubts around the security of the party’s election mechanics. Just to spice it up a bit, Tortoise Media managed to register family pets, underage relatives and foreign nationals as members of the party. Should these people (and animals), they asked, be responsible for choosing the UK’s leader?

For me, this whole debacle has shown another wrinkle in our creaking political system too.

A little while ago, during the respective scandals enveloping the two main parties, ‘Partygate’ and ‘Beergate’, it looked as though both Labour and/or Conservatives might be electing a new leader very soon.  The natural thing to do therefore was, it seems to me, to join both parties ASAP to be eligible to vote in the likely forthcoming leadership polls.  I’m really not sure why more people haven’t done this.  It costs about twenty five quid and we’re forever hearing about how hopelessly unrepresentative it is.  It’s hardly an original idea.  Isn’t that what led to Jeremy Corbyn’s win and the near-death of the Labour Party which ensued?

So I went online, and joining the Tories was the definition of simplicity.  It took about ten minutes from start to finish, they took my money and within a day or so I was receiving invitations to events, updates on campaigns and explanations of policy.  Quite impressive, I thought, a little grudgingly.

My Labour Party application was more problematic.  I tried to join online but the site wouldn’t accept my card payment, so I sent an email explaining my situation.  About a fortnight later, I received a response telling me I could join online (as I had tried to do) or on the phone or by post.  I picked up the phone and spoke to someone at Labour HQ who explained that they couldn’t currently sign me up on the phone, but they would send me the forms by email to sign up by post.  Nothing arrived.  I left it another fortnight and called again.  same response.  I waited.  After another few weeks I called again but the whole team was in training and there isn’t even anyone to answer the phone (they claim to be available between 11 AM and 3 PM though this hasn’t been my experience.  I tried again a week later and got the same response – no-one here to answer the phone as we’re all in training. And on it goes. Eventually i received a postal form which i sent off about a month ago. No news since then.

Fast forward a few months and I got to vote for the next PM through the Tory Party.  But my Labour membership application is still not confirmed.  Labour HQ gives every impression of being staffed by a volunteer in his garage with an answering machine and no access to a computer.

And sadly, my friends, that is one more reason why we won’t be seeing a Labour government again in my lifetime.  Because if they can’t get this right, then what hope is there for them?  Or indeed for any of us?


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