Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Should we try something a little different?

It has not been easy deciding what to post here. In the last two weeks there have been some big stories in the global press, and I have untypically been out of touch with the news (small matter of getting married abroad). However, I am back and determined to have a crack at getting some regular posts up and seeing if I can get some comments going on the board.

So, I will start with something at home and closer to heart, rather than commentary on some of the more pressing news of the last fortnight. I see today that a poll has been released stating that the Conservative Party are only one point ahead in the polls of the Labour Party. I should go on record as saying that I have not yet decided who I will vote for in the next General Election, as I shall be looking at the candidates running in my ward. However, I can’t help feeling that despite the fact that I am personally undecided, I definitely do not want to see a continuation of government run by the Labour Party. It is time for a change (past due actually), but I am not enamoured with the alternatives and as such I may take my vote and place it in the box for something different.

I do think the Conservative will probably win the next election, and I suspect that if there was an Election was called tomorrow there would a lot more than 1% between Labour and Conservatives.

What of the alternatives? I will be keen to blog on the merits and controversies of the Lib/Lab/Con bunch so perhaps for the purpose of conciseness in this case, let me move past these as “alternatives” and look at something else.

I will not vote BNP. I want to see laws made based on the merit of argument, and rationale of circumstance. Other motivations for laws and decision-making (such as hate towards others) is increasingly behind more and more political & legal decisions all around the world and very much so in Europe. My vote needs to go to a Party or Individual who is capable of fulfilling this criterion.

I think it is safe to assume that the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the DUP will not be standing in my particular ward in the South of England.

So party wise I am left with UKIP, and if there is a candidate possibly the English Democrats, and maybe the old Liberal Party (anyone who want to make the case… feel free). I won’t rule out voting for UKIP – but I feel they would be twice the party if they dropped the word “Independence” from their name and could get into some debates in the media that don’t centre around the EU.

And then there are Independents. Let me start by saying that Independents are fantastic. They may not get much press, even locally, but they are often the best stories (and candidates) when looking back on elections. I may be a big softy but I find it exceptionally noble that a neighbour would want to put their life on hold and put themselves to at least some financial loss so that they can stand up and say to those other individuals wanting to stand that if you want to run here you will have to speak about my issues too. I would love to see more independents in Parliament, so that we could move away from political consensus and in a direction of more debate. Some thoughts have been mulling around in my head for some time.

It must be difficult to be anything other than a little fish, or plucky activist. If you have financial backing, surely the perception then becomes that you are in someone else’s pocket. If you have no funding you either cannot get heard, or have to spend a lot of personal money to get heard. If you are rich it might be easy to be dismissed as having nothing better to do. Single issue independents need a pretty big issue to get heard.

Part of the reason why Lib/Lab/Con are generally unpopular, is because people feel they need to vote for them, for their individual vote to matter. The tri-party system, as it is now, allows for politicians to largely ignore their constituents. Lib/Lab/Con do not need to solicit donation door-to-door anymore, they have millionaire backers. It is a lot harder to ignore someone if you need their money to get elected.

I have something approaching 2 ideas. They are in fact unlikely to get entertained, and at first sound a little kooky. But we need Independents to be less Independent. There I said it. The saying sometimes goes that if “X” did not exist, someone would need to invent it. So here goes…

What if, in idea 1, there was instead of a “Party” system, as adopted by Lib/Lab/Con – there were a much looser association of elected individuals? If, instead of standing as an “Independent” you stood as, er, well I don’t have a name yet – let’s just say for now “New Independent” and instead of standing with a Lib/Lab/Con manifesto, you stood with a manifesto that you write yourself, and you can put into it absolutely anything that you like – as long as you let your proposed constituents see it, understand it and debate it. If you (and other “New Independents”) are then duly elected to Parliament agree that for all issues debated by parliament you will vote as a bloc; and decide how that bloc will vote by way of a majority vote within this new looser association. The exception being, except where the personal Manifesto contradicts (so you would still vote for the bloc decision, but can vote independently if the bloc vote contradicts your personal manifesto). There are of course a few problems with this idea, not least, having a system for tied votes, and enforcement of bloc votes without a party whip.

Or how about Idea 2, whereby once again a personal manifesto is published. But for all other decisions the decision is taken by a majority vote, following debate at a weekly surgery in the home constituency.

You may think me something of a fool for even contemplating such matters (let alone publishing them on the Internet) – but I am a glass half full kind of person. The preservation and enhancement of democracy and greater accountability to those elected to represent – so that they may better serve is my motive – if there is a problem in the system we should be prepared to ask if we need a new system. If encouragement towards independants as something of a counter-balance to the Party System is not a step in the right direction, then what is?

We need an active Parliament debating issues and hearing radical proposals not just party political back and forth.

Nb. I should just clarify; I am not personally intending to run for Parliament. I might like to later in life after I have had a career and raised a family – point being, this post is not intended as my own personal manifesto.

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