The democratic answer is NO.

British politics have taken us through a natural experiment. A Prime Minster (Boris Johnson) was forced out by his Parliamentary group because of political mismanagement. In a situation of extreme stress, politically and economically, the final decision on his replacement was put to a vote of party members. The members elected a political fantasist (Liz Truss) whose brief government plunged the country yet further into economic, political and moral crisis. She and party members had been warned that the policies she promised would have the consequences that followed, but the members nevertheless voted her into office. She had, however, not persuaded a majority the party’s MPs. Had the decision been left to them, the political fantasist would not have been chosen.

This all is in confirmation of basic principles of representative democracy. Citizens (or party members) elect representatives to be in charge of governing and decision-making. We “ordinary people” know, or should know, that we are ourselves not competent for complex decision-making. We therefore elect those among us who are competent to act as our representatives. That is done in competitive nominations and elections whereby (usually) those most persuasive prevail and (usually) cranks fall by the wayside. Those who succeed form assemblies of collective decision-making in which they must defend their positions in open debate and face having them challenged. We citizens (or party members) not only have no tested competence, we also do not have the benefit of the support system of assembly decision-making. It is in our interest that we leave difficult decisions to our representatives (as long as they are democratically elected representatives).

If this sounds idealistic, bear in mind that it is exactly as things have recently unfolded. Party members allowed themselves to be duped by a candidate who promised what they wanted to hear, such as tax cuts, however impossible. Party MPs, collectively, recognised “fairy-tale economics” and would have prevented the calamity that was unleashed.

The experiment then continued to further confirm the logic of representative democracy. Once it was clear that Truss’s policies were destructive, her Parliamentary group forced her out, as they had forced out her predecessor, in both cases rightly so. The possibility then arose for the disgraced Mr. Johnson to make a comeback, which he tried. Survey evidence suggest that had the replacement decision again gone to a vote of party members, it is likely that he would have been re-elected. That was prevented by the party MPs, who denied him the support he would have needed for political leadership. Representatives protected members from the misfortune they would have brought on themselves – and their country.

A note of caution: Competitive nominations and election do not ensure that we always get wise leaders, far from it as we know. Assembly decision-making does not always look pretty and does not necessarily produce sound decisions, again far from it. But the recent British stress test nevertheless shows that representative democracy is more than abstract theory, it actually works in real-life practical politics.

On the “unexpected smartness of representative democracy,” see How Democracies Live.