6 months. Its been 6 months since I last published some thoughts on here. Too long. That’s not to say my brain froze up, or my passion died. Rather life decided I needed to focus my attention elsewhere.
Now I can write again.
As many of you will know it could be said we live in interesting times. For the UK our economy is all over the place, with many hunkered down and hoping to ride out the storm. We have one military action, Libya, taking over from another, Afghanistan, in some sort of perverse global conflict relay. Now we have the News of the World (NotW) and News International (NI) crisis. No link needed, this is everywhere.
To be honest I am dancing a jig over this one. I am really hoping the Americans get involved as I have little confidence in our judiciary and political stamina to do what is right here. While I know that there will be many innocent casualties in this episode, not least some of the NotW staff who recently lost their jobs, for me I am hoping for a political and corporate blood bath over this.
For too long the press in the UK, and especially the tabloids but not exclusively, have stopped informing the British public and have sought to do its thinking and make its decisions. Here is a real chance for the British public and especially its electorate to wake up and take control again of our political future. There is a real danger though that short-term political points scoring and blind ideological thinking will prevent this. I sometimes post on the Guardian”Comment is Free” pages and for me it can reflect the sorry state in which our political debating has gotten into. I know there will be fanatics on each side, but I am sure the Daily Mail is the same, if not worse. NI needs to become a symbol of how the British public can think and act for itself. And our MPs need to know this as well.
Now I am not a political person. Ask anyone who has worked with me. When it comes to understanding politics I am as delicate as a bull in a china shop, wearing a blindfold, clown boots and listening to Pantera on an Ipod. While 20 years in various lower levelled retail management can give you a stoney capitalist carapace, deep down I lean slightly to the left I suppose. Yet I haven’t voted yet, other than to spoil papers. Simple reason is I haven’t seen any benefit in any political manifesto since I was 18. And I firmly believe once the buggers get into power they are all as mad as the last lot. The British political system has lost its love/fear relationship with the British electorate it seems to me. I think it needs it back. So I wrote a letter to David Cameron. I didn’t expect an answer and I didn’t get one. Got a nice card though. This is what I suggested.
The first thing was to make voting compulsory. There was a caveat whereby there should be an option for a “No Vote” and the incoming government would be legally obliged to have an independent enquiry into why if the “No Vote” option reached a certain level. They then should be legally obliged to take steps to ensure those issues are resolved. As you can see from this graph, the numbers voting have been dropping steadily and as such we can have a coalition government where the dominant party is on around 35% of the electorate voting. No problems with this if everyone had voted but they hadn’t. That cannot be democratic.
The second was that every MP should have a job description, as should the roles they have within government. These should be freely available on an easy to access website. In addition this needs to be taught at schools in Citizenship lessons; who is your MP, what he does, how you contact him and how you know if he is doing his job and why that is important. There is a rise in “career politicians”, professional politicians, people who have done little else and are looking for staying in it for a long time, or for the big corporate pay out at the end. I haven’t got a problem with that. I haven’t got a problem with the new political class getting professional about it. I just think that, as their employers, we should know what they do and how they are doing. At least some of that job description needs to be defined by the political party, but it shouldn’t be the majority of it.
Finally the Right of Recall and the Right of Performance Evaluation. We, the electorate, should have a system in place where we can recall our MP if we feel they are not representing our interests, fulfilling their job description or anything else related to their job. We are their employers after all. So we need a mechanism where an MP can be forced to resit a bye election. In addition, there needs to be a mechanism where an MP can be called to task by the electorate without forcing a bye election. Performance Management and Disciplinary Procedures for those managers of you out there. You couldn’t recall Michael Gove for being a crap Secretary of State for Education, but you could for not holding constituency clinics. Imagine if something like 10-25% of an MPs pay or their pay rise was awarded on a yearly evaluation of their work via a constituency committee formed similar to a jury? Why not, Governors have to do similar for Schools.
There are of course some loopholes here, but I am not a professional. I would expect legal types to sow this up tighter than Scrooge’s wallet on the 23rd December. The hope is to not only re-engage the British public in the system, and therefore encourage them to pay attention to their politics, but to hold our MPs to account and make us their first priority. Maybe then we would have serious debates in the House of Commons and not just the stupid school ground shouting, ping-pong politics we now get.
I am all for democracy. I have a friend, Mik Parkin, who would probably organise the storming of Tory Party HQ if he could get a decent backing song list for it on his Ipod. I want a spread of opinion. I want there to be Left, Right and Centre. But I want the buggers coming after me and my vote, not just saying “This is what Mr Murdoch wants, pick the version you hate least”. I want to be enthralled and attentive at election time. And I want to see my MP full stop. I want to see him addressing the issues and concerns of his electorate. I want him working for me. And you.
I leave you with this song. Don’t know the band or anything important like that, but this track has been putting a smile on my face for the past couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy it.