Discussion: Vote of No Confidence.

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Discussion: Vote of No Confidence.

Discussion: Vote of No Confidence.

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Discussion: Vote of No Confidence..

(Hint: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Is it true? Winston Churchill is often cited as the source of this comment. Assuming he said it, was he celebrating or denigrating democracy?)

In the United States, elections are held at regular intervals that never change; voters always know exactly when the next election will be held. Not so in the British system. Parliament is required to stand for election every five years, but the prime minister can call for elections earlier if it looks as though the mood of the electorate momentarily favors the ruling party. By the same token, Parliament can force the government to resign by a vote of “no confidence.” In this event, either a new government is formed under new leadership or the queen dissolves Parliament and calls new elections.

The authority to decide when to call new elections can be a big advantage for the party in power. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made particularly shrewd use of this authority in 1983, for example. After serving only four years, the “Iron Lady” (as she was often called) capitalized on a surge of British patriotism, spurred by a war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, to renew the Conservative Party’s mandate to rule for another five years.

In 1987, Thatcher again called for an election four years into her term and won. Three years later, Thatcher’s popularity fell as a result of her support for a poll tax that many Britons considered regressive and unfair. Under attack within her own Conservative Party, she resigned, turning over the reins of government to her successor, John Major. But by then she had already held the United Kingdom’s highest office for more than a decade—a twentieth-century record.

But Hollywood alone can’t satisfy the public’s appetite for stories about presidents. The West Wing, a political drama mainly set in the White House, is one of the most popular TV series in recent years. Martin Sheen, Stockard Channing, and Alan Alda play leading roles.

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