Do we elect a dictator?
Part 3 of series looking at
In a society where all men are regarded as being created equal in respect of their rights, and this equality is underpinned by laws, even exceptional men may not flout these agreed basic rules. Who is to guard the guardians? In a modern democracy Juvenal’s question is answered: All of us. In a mature democracy no one, not even the leader, may ignore the law of the land. Acknowledging this, if the crime is sufficiently grave, it must be possible to remove a leader if he has broken the law.
application of this principle is impeachment.
still, in 1998, president
The procedure of
impeachment originated in
The more powerful the individual, the more necessary it is that he act within the law. If British democracy is to be brought nearer to the ideal, impeachment will be a necessary tool in holding leaders to account if they are suspected of a grave breach of the law. Instead of being regarded as an ancient legal resort, once useful when parliament was struggling against the arbitrary power of the king, on the contrary impeachment of a leader or any of his deputies ought to be taken automatically, whenever even one member can bring forward solid grounds for believing that there is a case to answer. A report produced for Adam Price M P A Case to Answer outlining the case for ‘impeachment of the Prime Minister for High Crimes and Misdemeanours in relation to the invasion of Iraq’ may be downloaded by visiting www.impeachblair.org Impeachment leads to a parliamentary debate, and is only the first step towards possible removal, though a prime minister could hardly survive an adverse vote.
debate over the prime minister’s decision to go to war in
Thirdly, the precedent of a modern impeachment would surely cause future leaders to be more careful, share out responsibility and to put more trust in their colleagues. Serious matters of foreign policy will be more readily referred for a frank discussion in the whole House before decisions are taken. This will assuredly render foreign policy more transparent and benign.
(Next month: Who sets the parliamentary agenda? The leader, of course.)
 This was the line taken by Peter Hain, MP, and Leader of the House, when arguing that impeachment proceedings against the then prime minister, Tony Blair, were inappropriate. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment
 These remarks apply with even greater force to the leader of the United States, where the case to answer is even plainer than in Britain, and where the procedure of impeachment has been used so recently, and on comparatively trivial grounds. The fact that not a single congressman has moved to impeach president Bush for taking the country to a war declared illegal by the UN Secretary-General is puzzling. However, we are concerned here only with Britain, and how our democracy might be upgraded.