I WILL rule Britannia, thanks very much.
May 4, 2010 5:59 PM   Subscribe

UK Politick Filter: I want to be a candidate for Prime Minister in the next election. How do I do it?

Just say I wanted to be prime minister at the next General Election in 4/5 years' time. I am assuming this is possible because, as we all know, anything is.

How do I do it?

If this is too wide a question, can you tell me where I would start, what the half-dozen things are which I will definitely need, or what I should do to make it happen?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There is no publicly elected position of Prime Minister. the Prime Minister comes from the support of the party that takes the Treasury benches.

Are you from the UK? If you are, it's sad that you don't know that. There's a reason Gordon Brown isn't on your voting slip (unless you're in his electorate).

But keeping the thought experiment up, if you were elected as an independent, and there was a minority government, you could give them your support in exchange for the Prime Ministership. Chance of this happening? Absolutely zero.

or you could be elected as a member of an established party, that wins the election, and through sheer brilliance and force of will, rise to the top of the party, and get elected by the party room as PM. chance of this happening? Same as before.
posted by wilful at 6:09 PM on May 4, 2010

Oh, and it's the Queen that rules Britannia.

Chance of becoming a member of the British Royal Family and succeeding to the throne? Probably as good as becoming PM.
posted by wilful at 6:11 PM on May 4, 2010

Well, since we don't elect prime ministers, the key is to get yourself to a point when you are the one Her Maj invites to form a government. For a good century and more this has involved leading the political party that holds the most seats after a general election. These days, if you want to lead a political party with a chance of government your best bet is to be an ex-public school boy (women still don't get much of a look in), quite possibly involved in student politics at university where you come to attention of political machines and are taken under the wing of their dark masters, then follow up with a few years putting in time as a lobbyist, PR flack or making up the numbers at some bullshit think tank before getting parachuted into a safe seat where the locals would vote for a monkey as long as it had the right colour rosette come polling day. Whatever you do, don't have a normal family or proper job.
posted by Abiezer at 6:16 PM on May 4, 2010 [8 favorites]

not being familiar with UK politics, and not a politician:
1. get involved in local politics. hold an office. do well.
2. get elected to a succession of higher offices. maybe serve in the military for a few years.
3. continue for ~25yrs
5. get elected prime minister based on your record of excellence

you don't need an office to have a following and make change. Seconding that your lack of knowledge and sense of what is likely suggests that you have zero chance of becoming prime minister.
posted by sninctown at 6:20 PM on May 4, 2010

sninctown, military service doesn't have nearly the kudos in the UK (or Australia) as it does in the US. Not a hindrance per se, but you're better off being a numbers man and working the party backrooms rather than running around shouting a lot.
posted by wilful at 6:25 PM on May 4, 2010

There's a world of difference between running to be PM and actually becoming PM. The former isn't too hard. The latter, pretty well impossible, naturally.

To run you need only be the leader of a party and be on the ballot. As the head of a party you're implicitly running to be Prime Minister.

To be the head of a party you need to create one to lead. The process of registering a political party seems shockingly easy.

So, create a party, install yourself as head, and get on the ballot and you're off to the races.

I could be missing something, but as far as I understand it this is how it works.
posted by fso at 6:28 PM on May 4, 2010

You should run as a councillor and then gradually move up the political ladder.
posted by asharchist at 6:45 PM on May 4, 2010

You will need to join a Party. Within the next 4-5 years, unless there's a radically unexpected result in the general election, the only two with any possibility of putting forward Prime Ministers are Labour and the Conservatives. Sign up.

You will need a political support base within that Party. Are you a member of a trade union or a professional association? Are you a frequently published author on politics, economics or current affairs? Are you strongly passionate about a particular set of values, or one specific policy area? Perhaps you should be. You've got to add value to some subset of Labour or Conservative politics.

You'll need to be familiar with the concerns of the electorate you're hoping to run for. Ideally you'll have grown up there, preferably you'll have lived and worked there for a period of some years, at a pinch, you'll be willing to work extremely hard at familiarising yourself with the area, its communities and their concerns. Run for Council, or if you're in Wales or Scotland, the devolved Parliaments.

Realistically, you've got no chance of developing these things in 4-5 years. You do have a very realistic chance of running for election, however, if you care to put the work in. As fso's linked to, the Electoral Commission has a remarkably good site about how to nominate for election.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:55 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

fso: I think the poster would also need his party to run candidates in enough ridings so that, in theory, it could win the election. To be safe, that would have to be 50%+1 (to avoid the chance of other parties forming a coalition). [assuming the UK's electoral system works like Canada's]
posted by Emanuel at 6:58 PM on May 4, 2010

You have to be interested in the political system to begin with. Which would suggest knowing about it's basic conventions.
posted by wilful at 6:59 PM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you want to be "Prime Minister at the next general election in 4/5 years' time" you need to be the prime minister who basically calls that election. You have no hope. If you want to be the Prime Minister who is elected following the next general election in 4/5 years time (or whenever that election may be called) you should start working on getting elected...oh I'd say about 10 years ago....as some (but a worrying few) of the above answers have pointed out.

You're not Nick Clegg, are you?
posted by Nick Verstayne at 7:37 PM on May 4, 2010 [6 favorites]

Parliamentary systems only seem simple to those who grew up with them - generally speaking you will need to climb two ladders simultaneously - you will have to successfully gain elected office, and second rise to a leadership position within a large political party. Of the two, the second is much more difficult. There are many methods of achieving both of these goals, like Abiezer's rather dour assessment of the process. Note that 6 of the last 13 Prime Ministers (PM) were not elected into that position, but were selected upon the retirement of the sitting Prime Minister. Also note that three of those retirements were Prime Ministers who were forced out of office by their own party. Fundamentally the power of who is PM is in the hands of the particular political party with the dominant share of votes in the lower House of Commons (you can safely ignore their senate - it doesn't even rate capitalization). Who gets to vote in a Labor leadership race is rather complicated, (they borrowed the electoral college system, of all things!)

For example, the current PM, Gordon Brown, was selected as leader of the Labour Party when the previous PM, Tony Blair stepped down and in the resulting party leadership contest Blair nominated Brown as his successor. No opponent could get enough support to even campaign against Brown, and so Brown won by default. Once leader of the party, the formal step of becoming PM was when the Queen "asked" him if he was up for the job. Brown wasn't just someone off the street mind you, he was the shadow Chancellor, which can be a powerful financial position. Brown is also notable for being one of the five PM's who didn't graduate from either Oxford or Cambridge. There's been 91 of em, so your plans should include joining the vast majority (like 95% or 86 of em) of the PM's by attending Oxford or Cambridge.

For those keeping track of the election that is happening on May 6, Brown, the current Liberal PM, is up against David Cameron who is a REAL conservative, who is out of Oxford, while Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat, is out of Cambridge.
posted by zenon at 10:25 PM on May 4, 2010

England doesn't have a senate, it has a House of Lords.

Gordon Brown was not "shadow Chancellor" - that's an opposition position. He had been Chancellor of the Exchequer under Blair.
posted by zadcat at 10:58 PM on May 4, 2010

Brown is NOT "the current Liberal PM", he is the current "Labour" PM, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. The last Liberal prime minister was David Lloyd George.(note vast difference in the meaning of Liberal in the UK and the US.)

(plus all this talk about you can be elected PM in less than a decade of involvement in the UK political process just reflects how entirely "presidential" in emphasis the media coverage of our parlimentary elections has shamefully become)
posted by runincircles at 12:21 AM on May 5, 2010

arg. mea culpa- late nite writing does me no favors. runincircles is correct he's LABOUR, not liberal. And zadcat, I should have been clearer that the upper chamber is called the house of lords, which is the UK equivalent (of sorts) to the US senate, but the point was that relative to the US Senate, the UK unit is not very powerful. I guessed that the OP was an American, which I should have stated. Brown was the shadow Chancellor in 1992, and I see I didn't make that clear. Given my rather rudimentary understanding of UK leadership dynamics (woo books!) major shadow positions considered are relatively powerful party positions and I had surmised it was a significant indicator prior to his rise to PM after Blair. For example, if you wanted to list all potential PM's, I think including those who have recently held major shadow positions would be a pretty good shortlist. Of course, explaining what a shadow government is and does is a whole other issue, and I could be entirely misguided in assuming it is a key factor.
posted by zenon at 5:13 PM on May 5, 2010

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