Maybe it’s the constituants, not the politicians who have politics wrong?

I’ve noticed a trend.  The government proposes a new law, and the public do one of two things.  They either shrug and say “they’re all as bad as each other, what can we do about it?” or they start writing letters to their MP, believing that if enough constituents say the same thing, the MP is bound to change his or her mind.  Its lie we’ve forgotten how our parliamentary system is meant to work.

The basic principle of our parliamentary system is “we acknowledge that the majority of us are too interested in other things – like putting food on the table and who is going to win The Voice – and so we find someone to represent us.  He can do all the hard work of figuring out what is best for our needs in his own way.  Our only responsibility is to try to pick the best person for the job – out of those who want it – and we do this by judging what they say, and there past record”

So once we’ve put someone into parliament, by all means, if we think they’ve missed something, try to educate them, but don’t think there is any particular value into trying to vote them into changing their minds – unless you honestly think you can gen enough people from you’re MP’s voting base to swing the election.

You may have noticed I’m a little disillusioned.   I’m disillusioned with politics (it was so much easier when the Lib Dem’s didn’t have a hope in hell, and they could be idealistic underdog spectators:  these days they just show themselves for being inept at the politics game, and as such, pretty much unfit to represent the UK’s interests to the rest of the world).  But I’m also disillusioned with voters for letting it get this way.

Isn’t it all the fault of the media?  you ask.  No.  The media isn’t – contrary to well meaning liberal conspiracy theories – telling people what to think.  The media is just people deciding to abdicate their need to make a choice.  People read the paper which fits their views most closely – and if their views on sport, soaps, or what food will cure cancer this week are more important to them than their views on politics – well, thats what they are going to read.  It may be that someone in charge of a paper has influence – but only the same sort of influence we give the politicians when we vote them in.  In fact, papers are better, we can change what paper we read if it stops representing our views.

So is it the fault of the party system, perhaps?  No.  We’re all lazy.  We don’t want to bother knowing what a particular candidate is going to do.  Its a lot more easy if they all lie up behind a single figurehead and abdicate their responsibility to that figurehead and his cronies.  If a candidate was to come out at election time and say “My party’s political aims are totally wrong for you people in this constituency.  I’ll do something different, and I’ll try to convince others to do the same” he would be laughed out of the race.  Not by his party members.  But by us, the voters.

Does the electoral system cause this?  Well, sure its unfair, baroque and weird.  Sure there are far better systems out there.  But it gives results which are pretty good.  And it makes things easy for us.  Moreover, we’ve had a change to change it, and we – the public – chose to leave it alone.  So if it makes things bad, it because we chose to.  And we gave up our chance to make it better anytime soon.  So no.  Not the system’s fault.

Its our fault.

And yet, lots of us say they are totally disenfranchised with politics.  They prefer to vote for people who can just about sing, or who eat kangaroo testicles in the jungle.  They are thick, uncultured, uneducated.  They deserve everything they get.  Or maybe thats unfair.  Maybe some of us guardian readers ought to consider they the disenfranchised we claim to worry so much about, might actually be disenfranchised from us well meaning liberals.  Maybe they would vote for politicians if they were not all just the same; if they represented them.

The problem is, we are in a bit a rut, right about now.  its hard to move out of a rut.  Most of us don’t even know why, politically we are in a rut.  We need to make a move if we want an enfranchised public.  But do do that we need somethign first.  We need hope.

And I think there is hope.

What we need are figureheads.  We need people who can stand up and say “Not all of us politicians are the same.  I’m different.  I represent you”.  And we want people who we believe when they say that – because they are different, and because they mean it.

And we don’t want those figureheads to be in parties, because we want those figureheads to say “I stand for you.  I listen to you.  And I tell you why I do the things I do”

We need independent candidates to stand in areas where there are real local issues.  To stand as single issue candidates.  Candidates who tell us where they stand.  This is the manifesto I suggest:

 

I support you the people of your area.  I am standing because I know we have a problem, which I believe we, as a country can solve.  Here are my views on this issue.  Here is how I will vote on it, if you vote me into power.

Beyond that, I make this promise:  I will listen to my constituents.  I will listen to people who care about issues.  I will try to educate myself the best I can, and prior to any vote, I will write a blog entry to tell you how I’m going to vote and why.  And I will be as open to changing my mind as possible, if you can subsequently convince me of a good reason to do so.  In all events, I will be trying to make the best decision for the constituency, and its constituents – even if it isn’t going to be the most popular decision.

I will make sure all my expenses, votes, activities and interactions with lobbyists are documented on my site.  I will be totally transparent.

 

How do we find people who will make this commitment?  And who are right for the job?  It will take publicity.  And to get the right sort of publicity would take PR.  So first off, we need a new political party for these candidates to join.  A new type of party.  A party which makes itself clear it is there to represent the interest of the locality – not to have big national level policies.  A party united only in that they wish to do the best for their constituents.

To make a national splash, this party would have initially only target a few seats.  Seats where change is really needed.  Perhaps, for example, in South Cambs, they might decide to target Andrew Lansley, because of the NHS policies he has pushed through.

Then they need an event.  I’m suggesting a hustings.  Broadcast live on the internet, and available for download.  Get prospective candidates to stand up and answer questions.  And encourage celebrities to stand, people who would like to raise their profile.  Get them to bring eyes from all over the country to each hustings.

Finally people from the local constituency should vote for who stands, in something akin to a local primary.  I’ve thought hard about this, and I think there is a lot to be said for the caucus system.  Sure caucus seems weird – it isn’t a private vote, but it has some great characteristics.  Firstly, it is essentially single transferable vote – which is good.  Secondly, it forms a consensus, because ultimately the majority are standing together, uniting behind one candidate.  That is a powerful benefit which other primary systems lose.  Also, caucuses, done right, could look really good on TV.

Now, these won’t all be the best candidates – but hopefully some of the candidates would work with other potential candidates who lost at the caucus.  And I hope many of the people standing in the caucuses would be local leaders, people who genuinely care about fixing the community, not just running it.

There are many outstanding problems. Funding is one.  Convincing people we are sane is another.  There is a potential for hijack by extremist groups (though, if managed right, this could just lead to better PR).

It could work.

We could have a party of independent candidates all standing for local issues.

Because as these candidates get elected, gradually, they will hold the balance of power.  And they will be able to begin to lead change.  Change that we want, not just the government mandated trivial changes, bread and circuses that we are given today.

 

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