If I Were Prime Minister

IF I WERE PRIME MINISTER I would immediately announce my intention to resign, in exactly one year.  With my Party safely on side and the succession secured, I would embark on my LAME DUCK QUACKS tour.  Once every ten days I would give a speech, 36 in all, picking out key themes for discussion and debate.  My political suicide would have freed me to speak the truth: that Britain is a small place that should stop pretending it is a power, much less a super-power; that the future depends on sibling and not just neighbourly relations with Europe; that immigration is what Britain is not what Britons should fear; that the country is horribly class-conflicted with the engine of inequality being driven not by the poor but by the upper middle class with their different schools, accents, health plans and gated communities; that the ‘free press’ is merely the commercial tool of capitalists who trade of the worst instincts of the people for their own gain; that the green belt is a rust belt standing in the way of British homes; that reindustrialization is a fantasy but that the skills to cope with post-industrial Britain can only be delivered by the higher taxation needed to fund the better schools and colleges we need.

My agenda being set in this way I would turn to Parliament. Each speech I make would be accompanied by a Bill that I would table, ignoring the need for the support of colleagues.  The radicalism of these proposals would doom them all to failure, and – knowing that – I would convene parallel discussions around the country on the measures that I would be failing to secure. The public would be gradually drawn to these honest if uncomfortable sessions just as they had been to my LAME DUCK QUACKS tour.  What begins as eccentric would come to grip the country, honest expression of the difficult being quickly preferred to the deceitful verbiage with which my speeches and bills were increasingly being greeted (by political friends and foes alike).

Lengthening prime ministers questions to one hour, I would refuse to answer fatuous questions, and disdain fawning ones too.  If my answer were not being heard in silence I would stop speaking – if necessary for the full hour. The Speaker would at my suggestion seek backbenchers who were not known or used to intervening and specifically seek to draw them in.  I would only acknowledge interventions which were signaled gently by hand and would refuse to engage with hecklers or those with a record of heckling.

Questions about whether I was mad would soon come to be replaced by arguments about whether I was right. The culture would be beginning to change just as the giant tutorial it represented was winding to a close. When the final speech’s final Bill is defeated in the House of Commons (to turn private schools into civic spaces for skills-training), I would sign off on Twitter, close down my Facebook account and head back to the LSE where I used to work. Would I get my old job back? Probably not: no publications over a whole year and zero impact. Depends though on what you mean by impact….

2 thoughts on “If I Were Prime Minister”

  1. Such a long time , dear Professor… since the KCL’s Law school 1993. Here in Paris as a new Member of the Conseil economique, social et environnemental (CESE), which is meant to be the third assembly of the french republic, I do ask myself how to make a true and relevant contribution for change…. In fact I feel that all injunctions on “make a change”, “social impact” are the wrong way.. we should keep focused on civil rights at all geographical levels… Are you in touch with any academic or activist in France ? at the european level… ? What about TAFTA and negociations on Safe Harbor II ? should we stop everything and fight now to impeach the process ? Would it be a waste of time ? How to be focused on what really matters ? How to really empower civil society ?

  2. The upper middle classes are what made this country, Conor!
    We are an Anglo-American democracy, our connexion with Europe should be in trade only, and our only failure was in Ireland, which would have done much better under home rule…
    However, I like your ideas, and we are both entitled to freedom of speech… Why not a House of Lords as the equivalent of jury service, whose members are selected at random for a fixed term?
    Best wishes
    Peter V

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