We all seem to be in a state of general confusion and shock at the way the world is run and organised today. We have such a huge influx of information since the Internet became popular that we never really know what’s true or not anymore. We all like to rant and shout about the way things are done but it seems like no one seems to be giving us any solutions. I’m not a politician, scientist, historian, anthropologist or education expert. I am a teacher, a husband, a father, writer, musician and artist. Since everyone wants to be part of the problem, me included it seems, I thought I’d offer you an answer. When an answer is offered, the initial reaction is to argue and attack. Read this as if it is the future of democracy. Then after reading you can argue, attack and ridicule. In fact please do in the comments below. This is not my life’s work or my life’s ambition. It is simply a thought experiment to stimulate debate.
This is my solution for taking greed, popularism and manipulation out of our political system and offer something I believe is as democratic as possible.
No More Parties
My problem with parties is to do with brand loyalty, emotional blackmail and lack of opportunity to have a voice. It is impossible for one party to share exactly the same values, whether on immigration, education, taxation or what have you. We all have complex views on different aspects of life and joining a party means you are automatically put into a box of which only a certain percentage you may be happy with. Each party has a brand in the same way that soft drinks, phones, cigarettes,fast food and clothing lines do. Once you join that brand it seems difficult to break the habit; I smoked Malboro Red for more than 10 years, to smoke anything else felt like betrayal of my brand. Are you Lambourgini or Ferrari? Coke or Pepsi? Nike or Adidas? Apple or Samsung? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with going for these brands because on the grand scheme of things they don’t have much bearing on your life nor hinders another’s. A political party however, does. Are you Labour or Conservative? The two parties people feel are their only choice if they actually want to make a difference. But are you a socialist? Then Labour is full of centre left “Blairites”. Go to the Green Party? With one MP and be labelled a tree hugging so and so? Are you centre left? Then Labour’s leader is seen to be a far left socialist. Are you a pro Europe conservative? Then the Tories are not for you anymore so where can you go? The Liberal Democrats? Well, maybe but then they aren’t very right wing and they also only have 9 MPs at time of writing so it feels a bit hopeless.
Split parties can be manipulated by preying on vulnerable members. As people, animals, survivors we naturally feel more comfortable and safer being part of a big group. This is why we have nationalism, religion, sports team affiliation and so on. These things keep us safe but can also create big problems for those who aren’t a part of the clique. But a religion maintains the same beliefs, the nationalists still live in that nation, the football team remains the representation of that town. Political parties change yet you still hear proud members claim they have been a member for decades. How? Your opinions and direction have changed exactly in the same way the party has? The main parties have gone through many changes in my short life. The Conservatives have become more and more centred on appeasing the rich. Labour has gone from being a workers union party to centre left to a mix of both. The Liberal Democrats have become more central and now have a tarnished reputation since the coalition and the Greens have broadened their views to not just appeal to the Eco warriors. In fact the only party who seems consistent in their views are UKIP. Maybe this is why more and more members flock to them each year. It’s just a shame their views are seemingly narrow minded and only cater to those who wish to shut out the rest of the world.
My Malboro cigarettes, my iPhone, my DC shoes make me feel like I have crafted my identity when really all I did was choose a brand a long time ago and never changed to a different brand. A political party shouldn’t be like this. The party I am a member of even has many policies I don’t agree with and am even a little embarrassed to divulge which party it is due to the stigma attached. I do feel, however that they are the closest party to my views. When a general election comes around we feel forced to vote in a certain way. In my constituency at the last election there was a debate of the 5 candidates. One was the Tory who was already in office, a Labour lady who ran in the previous election who was thoroughly uncharismatic (to be as polite as I possibly can be), a UKIP bloke who started going on about how he’s much richer than anyone else in the room, a Green lady who was so stricken with stage fright she could hardly get her arguments out and then there was a young Liberal Democrats candidate who was so well spoken, so charming and had great policies and ideas. Now, the Tory MP is a good speaker and is very personable so I can completely understand why he was voted in in the first place and why he was re-elected.
As a member of the Green Party (I wasn’t going to say but it helps for the argument and you would’ve worked it out anyway) I felt I should have voted for their candidate. But why would I vote for someone who can’t even speak to a room full of people? It doesn’t set a great precedent. I could never vote for the Conservatives based on the fact they promote selfishness and greed nor the UKipper on the grounds that everything about him and his party make me sick. So that leaves me with the Lib Dem or the Labour lady. So I voted for the Labour lady based on the fact that the Lib Dems were incredibly unpopular and I could see no way my vote would count for anything. The best shot of getting the Tory out (solely for the fact he’s a Tory and not based on his performance as a debater) was to vote for a Labour candidate who could’ve possibly been terrible for my local area because she was useless. Seriously, I met her before the vote and she was so dismissive after talking to me for a minute, even after declaring I was an undecided voter. I still voted for her, because of her party though, not her. How is that a good system? I was so dismayed on voting day. I completely felt like the party system had screwed two good men out of a vote, made me feel bad that I didn’t vote for my party and made me feel even worse that I’d voted for someone who I didn’t believe deserved it. At least the UKIP prick acted like a prick. They really are the truest party in that sense. Still pricks though.
2. Independent MPs
The crux of my vision is all to do with independent MPs, not working for a party, a brand, a company, an image but representing themselves and their area. One MP for every 100,000. In Britain we have 65million people, so that would mean 650 MPs. Every five years when an election is called, whoever wants to run can run, provided they get a number of signatures from local constituents (say 500 – 1000 signatures). When they declare their candidacy, they are given a campaigning budget and anything spent outside that budget will carry a heavy penalty or exclusion from the race or both. This is a way of getting people interested in local politics, and there are many ways to do this. A simple government promoted website/app that uses your location to tell you all the goings on in your area and everything you need to know about the candidates would do. Candidates would also be encouraged to knock on doors and actively campaign in their areas to appeal to individual voters.
There is a catch though; any unsuccessful candidates must commit to a period of time as advisor to the winning MP with the option to extend this period up to the next general election. This would serve to make sure that whoever runs is still making a commitment to local government and not just taking an opportunistic stab at the position. If they are unsuccessful then they still represent the people who voted for them by putting pressure on the victor who may have views not shared by all constituents. This would ensure that everyone in society has some kind of voice.
When electioneering each candidate would have a standardised profile on the official website/app. A passport photo, experience (clearly stating previous employers), personal statement and so on. They would have to declare which sitting MPs they most identify with or admire. They would also need to give a response to their views and vision on a wide range of consistent common issues; health, education, environment, taxation and so on. These views will give the candidates a mandate on how they will vote in the future. The passport photo is shown to not give the personality of the candidate. A photo can be manipulated as they do in advertising to make the person look cooler, sexier, more intelligent and so on. A passport photo gives the basic appearance and then constituents would have to attend local debates, or watch the filmed debates through the official website to gauge the candidates’ personalities. Everything clear, everything scrutinised and standardised. Any other measures put in place to detract misdirection or misinformation would be welcomed.
Voting is compulsory for all age 16 or over. Postal votes are allowed. If an area gets more or less than 100,000 inhabitants then the boundaries are changed. This will happen every time there is a census. Voting must be compulsory and carry a fine if a vote is not cast. A member of the electorate can spoil their paper but this at least shows they have given an opinion. With the ease of the website or the televised local debates there would be no excuse for anyone to claim they don’t know what’s going on. Even if they show no interest at all in the proceedings then they will still be obliged to vote so would ask for the opinion of their family and peers, the people who would share their views anyway. No one would feel they haven’t contributed to the proceedings, nor could anyone blame another for not being involved.
Elections for the head of parliament ( for sake of ease they will be referred to as President) would be a separate election held shortly after the general election. Running for this position would be similar to how we choose our local representatives. Let’s say 50 MPs need to recommend a candidate for the position but the candidate must have been a standing MP for at least ten years and also must have recently been reelected in their area. This shows experience of the running of Parliament and also would show local trust and popularity since they would have been reelected at least twice. Again, all candidates are given a campaigning budget and over spending would result in a cancelled bid. Presidential elections would work in two rounds. The two top candidates of the first round would go head to head. A standardised profile would be created for both members and televised debating would be compulsory.
The elected president and their previously declared allies would propose their cabinet. There would be strict guidelines as to who can take which jobs in the cabinet however. Members would only be allowed to be hired adhering to the strict criteria; The secretary for a certain position may or may not be an elected MP. They must however have strong qualifications and experience in the field of their job (as with any other job in life). The secretary of health must have a PhD in a health based subject and must also have had 20 years working in hospitals or hospital management. The education secretary must have a PhD in an education based field and must have worked in the school system for twenty years, and so on. It is absolutely baffling to me that someone with no experience of working in schools could ever be considered for education secretary (Michael Gove, Nicky Morgan). The president conducts the interview, he offers his choice to the house, if the house have problems with the choice then they vote against the appointment.
Debate is greatly encouraged in all areas of government. There are no parties so an MP would never feel compelled to always agree with a side. There would be no whips as each MP would be representing their constituency and no one else. Alliances are bound to happen but because of the rigid system of declaring views on certain issues, flip flopping would have to be explained and instances of back scratching would have to be exposed.
A local MP can voice their approval or concern for another MP’s behaviour and also encourage their constituents to vote for the next president. Opinions and well crafted debate should be the backbone of our democracy.
What is absolutely not allowed is any kind of financial support from an external business. The government is a device for the people and of the people. Businesses can join the debate and encourage the public to vote for certain members but must be done under the banner of their business to show there is a reason why they encourage a candidate. Transparency is the aim of the game.
Legislation could come from different sources. The president or a member should be allowed to propose legislation to the house and if he has the backing of a number (50-100) of MPs then the debate can be had and the vote can be cast. It must be obligatory for an MP (or representative of the MP in mitigating circumstances) to be present for each debate as this is the main role of their job.
The public will be encouraged to petition as they are now and if a petition gains a number of votes it must be allowed to be debated and voted on also providing it also has the backing of 50 -100 MPs.
A system of scrutiny as we have now such as with the House of Lords could still exist but lords must be selected in a different way. Only retired MPs (not ex – MPs due to lost elections) can sit in the House of Lords, for example. Or maybe Lords will be nominated and voted for by the commons. No hereditary entries and no entries without the backing of the commons.
Referendums are absolutely forbidden as some issues are too complex to open up to the population. This is why you vote for an MP based on policy. If you don’t think your MP is representing your views then in 5 years time you will have an opportunity to vote them out. Working people don’t have the time or effort to invest in every single issue that may be up for referendum. If every issue is not up for a public vote, no issue should be.
6. Fact checking
A government based fact checking committee would need to be set up. The committee would be made up of 11 MPs randomly selected each year. The number is an odd number so there can always be a majority decision. The committe would respond to requests for pieces of information to be scrutinised. This would work in a similar way to the Snopes website which gives you the background of a fact and the sources to back it up. Commonly known misinformation would also be debunked through this site. No one MP would be in charge of this department and would be a huge task of the MPs selected. However this task would be only for one year before 11 more MPs and would also come with a higher salary than the basic MP salary. Any MP in the cabinet would be excuse from this role for the period they are cabinet ministers.
7. Equal pay
Each MP, President and member of the cabinet would be paid handsomely and equally. All persons occupying the same job would carry the same salary. The salary would be large and any other income would be strictly forbidden. This is to avoid any chance or temptation of conflict of interest. Any MP found guilty of alliance with outside sources which could contribute to their overall wealth would be ejected from office permanently and a by-election called.
A strict outline of expenses allocation must also be put in place.
It seems the political system we have now in the UK is very much geared towards big business and tribalism. Whichever politician is backed by the richest people is bound to have an advantage when electioneering. To have the media behind you is a big influencer. Why does the Green Party, with one MP, only get a fraction of the exposure that UKIP has, with only one MP also? Also if you can rally a group, through your media, you can cause great divides across the country leaving the ones at the top to reap the benefits.
The aim of my system is to create transparency, to persuade the public to be more involved in policy rather than group mentality and to have MPs represent their constituents and not their party or other interests.