Selecting Prime Minister

Minor suggestion for reform in the UK parliament: the Prime Minister should be voted on by MPs, rather than just paid-up party members, as occurred in 2022, or through back-room deals as at the end of the New Labour government.


The convention that the leader of the party(s) commanding a majority in the House of Commons is Prime Minister (strictly speaking, offers their services to the king). This makes sense immediately following an election, but after the resignations during 2022, this lead to a few thousand Tory Party members wielding considerable power with no democratic mandate at all.

What do

First, remove the assumption that the PM is always the leader of the largest party—though this may continue to be the usual case.

Second, immediately after an election, or after the Prime Minister announces they have or will resign, etc., MPs gather in the debating chamber and hold a debate on who should represent Parliament as Prime Minister, and vote at the end.

At the start of the debate a list of candidates is drawn up. To prevent total free-for-all, candidates must be members and be nominated and seconded by members, or some minimum number of members. (Resigning or ousted PMs are barred from being nominated for seven years.)

After an election the expectation would be that the candidate list would comprise the party leaders, the debate would be quite short, and the majority party or coalition would vote for their leader, and they would be PM. The result would be the same as the present system.

Immediately following a resignation, however, there may be multiple candidates from the former PM’s party. The majority coalition will still have the most influence, but the other parties may end up influencing which of their candidates gets to visit the king.


Option A. Secret voting, with ranked preferences on paper ballots. Fairly sensible but MPs usually vote by walking through the division lobbies so this may seem too untraditional.

Option B. Approval vote using the parliamentary division lobbies:

  1. For each candidate on the list, a division is held on whether that candidate can form a government;

  2. Members can vote Aye for as many of the candidates as they see fit; and

  3. After all the divisions have been tabulated, the candidate with the most Aye votes is sent to the palace to see the monarch.


I feel the debate should be required to be scheduled as soon as possible after the announcement (even if the announcement is that the PM will resign at some future date), with no campaigning period and no hustings (beyond the scheduled debate itself). There should be no need for any: MPs should know enough about each others’ reputation to make decisions already. We saw in 2022 how extended campaigning leads to increasingly foolish policy statements as the candidates attempt to make themselves memorable, whereas a change of PM should not be taken as a mandate for big changes to government policy.

Drama potential

This would have made it harder for Blair and Brown to simply agree to switch jobs, or a least the parliamentary party would have to go along with the idea (and the whips instruct MPs how to vote during the electoral debate).

If we have a situation where the largest party needs one of the small parties to get it a majority of seats the small party might indulge in drama to try to make them switch PM candidates. I don’t think this gives them effective power that they did not already have: they could just as easily create drama over the debate over the King’s Speech.


The Prime Minister should be seen to be dependent on the will of Parliament, not some outside body. Resignations should normally be rare, but the next Prime Minister should still be chosen democratically, by the people with an actual democratic mandate: the MPs.