Who does an MP represent?

June 21, 2009

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it’s one of those things that rattles around inside my head with no real resolution, so I thought I’d get it down here to try and formulate my thoughts, but also to see if anyone wants to comment.

The issue is, who does an MP represent and how do they best do it? I’m talking here in quite a theoretical way. And I know the most obvious answer is “their constituents”, but I don’t think it’s necessarily as simple as that. Here are the possibilities as I see them (in a very condensed and simplistic form):

1 – They represent ALL of their constituents
In this scenario the MP tries to represent everyone in the constituency at all times as best they can. However, as there are so many different views and opinions represented there, the MP has to pick their way through them and to keep as many people happy as possible (or as few people unhappy as possible), keeps to a pretty centrist, neutral line.

2 – They represent the people who voted for them
Here there is an understanding that the first past the post system we have means there are winners and losers in every election and so the winning MP should just get on with doing whatever he/she promised in the election and therefore whatever mandate they were voted in on. The difficulty here arises when issues that weren’t discussed in the election are raised.

3 – They represent themselves
I don’t mean in a self-serving ‘Expenses scandal’ kind of way, but what I mean is that they vote on issues according their own views and conscience, safe in the knowledge that they fairly represented themselves in the election and so the electorate knows what to expect.

4 – They represent the country
In the final viewpoint MPs don’t work for local issues, but for national ones, implementing them locally as best they can. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made for the good of the country that may have a negative effect on the local constituency.

I think that it is possible to see merit in all of these different viewpoints, especially if you put yourself in the position of different people. If you didn’t vote for the winning candidate, you’d want your MP to act according to point one; but if you did vote for them, you’d want point two. I’m sure most MPs would prefer to live according to the third point of view; whereas on many occasions national politics (especially if you’re in the Government) requires option four to be the way things are done.

I’m still not sure I know the answer, but it’s an interesting question.

Who can be an Independent MP?

June 17, 2009

The recent comment / post by Sonny raised a really interesting question:

“Though for it not to be just another major party it would have to be impartial to any political view… but that would then mean that I, a socialist, would have to take support from as well as give support to an organisation that also takes/gives support from/to those with a similar view to the likes of Nick Griffin and the BNP. Now I will stand up and fight to the death for anyone to have the right to believe those things and to voice their opinion, but I would also die before giving them the financial, political, or social leverage to overcome my beliefs. They are allowed their opinion and they are allowed to voice it, but I’m not paying for or setting up the PA system to amply it.”

However in a later comment Sonny seemed to answer the dilemma himself:

“This obviously raises the issue that I made in my original post, about how do you get a far right and a far left individual working under the same umbrella. A difficult one, but I think I would prefer to have my chance to voice my opinions, make my suggestions and have a greater impact on central governmental issues whilst having someone of the opposite opinion have their say, then neither of us having any say and the government do what they will. It is really the only way to reach a compromise between both extreme views.”

And I think it is this second point of view that I agree with. I’ve said previously that my personal political affiliations are not important here – this is by no means me trying to establish my own agenda. Instead it is about trying to let regular people canvas on the views of their local constituents. I’m sure in many cases those views will clash with my own – well, so be it.

I think that anyone has the right to be an independent MP – no matter what their political views. It’s not for me (or anyone else connected to this movement) to say whether those views are valid – it’s up to the electorate. They and only they can decide whether someone should represent them in parliament.

In fact the whole point of this movement (for want of a better word) is to remove the barriers that stop people standing for election, that stop the electorate having a full choice.

Like many people, I am personally appalled at the recent election victories of the BNP – but, as long as they remain lawful, they are perfectly entitled to their views and the electorate are entitled to vote for them. If I disagree, then it is up to me to offer an alternative.

So, who would I be willing to support (not vote for, but support) as an independent MP?

Well, the answer is anyone. With, as I see it, three main caveats:

1 – They must be legally entitled to stand and not break the law with what they are canvassing on

2 – They cannot have been a member of a political party within the last 12 months – maybe a bit controversial, but this shouldn’t be about career politicians trying a different route in

3 – They must have a connection to the constituency – ideally they would be currently living or working there, but any strong connection works for. What I don’t want is people parachuting in because they think the seats winnable, like the major parties do.

Obviously one thing that this could lead to is more than one independent supported in a constituency. That’s obviously not ideal, but who am I to say who’s more deserving? So, yes that might happen and again it’s up to the electorate to decide which one to vote for.

Well, those are my thoughts – what do you think?

Esther Rantzen to run in Luton

June 17, 2009

Sky News is reporting that Esther Rantzen has decided to try and stand for election in Luton South. She’s reportedly doing it in protest at the behaviour of the current MP Margaret Moran, who claimed over £20,000 in expenses on a property that was 100 miles from her constituency and has now ‘disappeared’ from public view.

Will a ‘celebrity’ be the best replacement as MP? In recent times Ms Rantzen is best known for appearing in ‘I’m a Celebrity … Get me out of here’, but before she was a regular fixture on TV laughing at funny shaped vegetables and crusading for consumers in That’s Life.

Obviously I have nothing against Esther Rantzen personally (I’ve never met her), so we’ll just have to see how she gets on.

The Jury Team

June 16, 2009

Since I started this blog a couple of people have mentioned The Jury Team to me as an example of what I was trying to achieve. So I’ve been over to the website and had a look at what they might be about.

The first thing to notice is that they’ve got things moving very quickly – formed in March 2009 and they had candidates standing in the European Elections. That’s good going and hugely impressive.

However, from what I’ve seen I’m not convinced that the concept is the same. It seems to be more like a political party, just not an established one, than I envisage. The other thing is that they don’t seem to have updated much since the European Elections – although to be fair, the work they must have put in in advance, they deserve a good long sleep for a couple of weeks!

Anyway, I’ve got in touch with them and hope to meet up soon to see if we can join forces and work together.

A mobile app for voters

June 16, 2009

After reading the blog, Roy sent me an email with a few interesting points. Roy believes that the best thing to happen at the next election would be a hung parliament:

“The country needs more independent MPs who understand local issues and don’t need to tow a party line come the National and World issues.”

But it was his second point that made me sit up and take notice:

“What can be done … I say let’s do an App that provides the public with a guide to their local MPs, who’s standing in their region, bios, photos, name and shame those who have had their fingers in the public purse etc. A foreword could set the tone about helping the country achieve a hung Parliament and how voting Independent can help achieve this. It will be like really good PR for all the independents for free.”

As my day job is mostly spent in the mobile industry this seemed like a great idea. It would be great to get all the info of candidates and make it readily available to people in the form of a mobile app (obviously not in the Ovi Store if we want to make it readily available!) that they can check on regularly as they’re deciding who to vote for.

Very interesting …

The Debate Begins

June 16, 2009

Last night Sonny posted a very long, passionate and intelligent comment on the previous post. It was so good that it deserves a post in its own right. So here it is:

I’ve just been informed about this blog, and I read all the articles so I’m commenting on the latest, but it’s a comment that reflects on all of the articles really.

It’s interesting that this issue about Independent MPs should come up now as this is an issue that is actually very close to my heart at the moment. I’m currently a record producer and engineer and although I do like my work and think that music is important, personally I don’t feel like I’m actually doing something of use to society. I may very well be wrong, young and naive, but I feel I have the motivation, the energy, and the ability to fight for what I believe is a better place for everyone, but also the wherewithal to fight for other peoples beliefs… and I think that there would be enough people that would agree with my thoughts to back me. Hence I have seriously considered no longer making records and becoming an MP. Not a Career MP, but an MP for my local area. It’s my local area, the place I was born and raised that interests me. Nowhere else. Not because I don’t care about those places, I do, but because I think that someone else is much more qualified to govern those areas (by qualified I mean passionate and vested interests).

Though as I looked into becoming a councilor or even an MP I realised that this is a particularly long process. You need a high level of knowledge of many areas of economics, sociology, psychology etc. (or at least I think you should have). This is the bit that excites me about it. Knowing more. The bit that stops me from packing in my life in London and moving back to Calderdale to become an independent candidate is the money aspect of things. The time spent canvassing, learning, convincing, discussing, contemplating etc. is nothing compared to how do you keep a roof over your head, fee yourself (and your family if you’re fortunate enough to have one) and pay for press.

I don’t want to point out pitfalls of the idea of independent MPs, as I would love for the opportunity to become one, but there a few things that I would suggest need to be addressed.

1. Money Makes The world Go round.
However you look at it, however hippyish your views, that’s a fact. For the basic reason that money is; ‘a current medium of exchange’. I want that, you’ve got it, I’ve got this, you want it, deal done. It keeps your kids fed, your house watertight, your shoes hole free. And the more you have of it the more you can get. So the reason we have a political class is because there are a certain group of people that have enough money to be able to pay for the essentials while stilling doing whatever they wish, but not enough of it that they don’t care about how the country is run, to warrant fighting for change. So if Independent MPs are to succeed, some sort of financial infrastructure and support needs to be in place, whether locally or globally.

2. Stick with what you know.
Human nature is to go with what you know. Choose the one you think you can rely on. That’s why BT can out do people like Telecoms Plus, British Gas get more custom than Gas’R’Us etc. That’s why I buy Apple Computers, we’re all susceptible to it. I know I can rely on Apple. If it has the Apple symbol I’ve got a good idea it’s gonna be useful. This is how the major parties attract so many votes. They have lots of people in these clubs, would appear to all be fighting for the same things (so obviously that many people can’t be wrong) thought probably no more than any two other people; they have nice logos that evoke certain thoughts and feeling in us, they have more money and can shout louder because they shout in unison. I would say that most people who vote, vote for the party because that’s the one they’ve heard most about. Their friends said they’d vote for them, there are a few more poster up that any other party, they’ve seen the party political broadcast… and ‘hey he looks like a nice fella… I’ll vote for him’. Maybe hard to believe but I bet it’s quite true… and that’s only the people who do vote.

I’m pointing these out not to say ‘what’s the point then’, but more ‘if we can get over these then jobs a good ‘en’. The problem that we would have as Independent MPs is that we do not have a unifying manifesto. Each person would be fighting individually. This is in many ways a good thing… the good idea that started this blog, it means that my arguments in Calderdale or even smaller area, are specific to my constituency and I represent them as accurately as possible, not generalising. Thought it also means that capital support is thinned out and that the number of votes per candidate is reduced, meaning one candidate may have the highest number of votes, but with only 10% of the constituency. This is then multiplied over each constituency and you’re left with a less representational vote than the current one.

This very scenario is what has happened to the industry I work in due to the advent of the internet and computer recording. Anyone is able to make music on their own, in their spare time and to a higher standard (but still not as high a standard as the professionals). They are also able to distribute their music to a wider audience as it’s now more simple and cheaper to upload music onto iTunes, Rhapsody, Reverbnation etc. as well as market it using blogs like this one, make their own sites on wordpress or squarespaces and using social networking such as twitter, facebook, 12seconds and even perform gigs via Ustream. This all sounds amazing at first. For a small price of what it used to cost I can effectively producer and distribute my music to a much larger audience. Fantastic. The problem lies in that everyone is doing the same thing. So now, rather than people being introduced to music via the top 10, they are bombarded by thousands of bands, all with their own ‘unique’ genre or sub genre, which means the consumer is confused by the choice, finds it much harder to search for something they want, because everything is categorized so differently leaving them not knowing what to choose. Therefore the wealth is then spread so thinly that it no longer becomes a financially viable option to be a working musician. Everyone becomes a Jack of all trades and you have no Masters.

If Independent MPs is to work it has to overcome this problem in a much more effective way than the Music Industry has/hasn’t. We could do this by creating an Independent MPs alliance. A single point of contact where an independent MP can get the information, support and help to raise funds they need to become an MP. Though for it not to be just another major party it would have to be impartial to any political view… but that would then mean that I, a socialist, would have to take support from as well as give support to an organisation that also takes/gives support from/to those with a similar view to the likes of Nick Griffin and the BNP. Now I will stand up and fight to the death for anyone to have the right to believe those things and to voice their opinion, but I would also die before giving them the financial, political, or social leverage to overcome my beliefs. They are allowed their opinion and they are allowed to voice it, but I’m not paying for or setting up the PA system to amply it.

Some questions that I don’t know the answer to (yet) but I would like to work towards answering them and maybe we can get to point where you don’t have to have money to govern the country and that intellect and passion rule and are the measuring stick to success. I shall be adding more… like it or not 🙂

I don’t know the answers either, but this blog is a way to hopefully find out …

“Only one of the candidates lived in the constituency”

June 15, 2009

I heard that comment on the radio this morning as I caught about five minutes of a 5Live show asking people why they voted for the BNP in the recent European Elections.

The thing that surprised me the most about it all was the fact that people were phoning the station to admit voting for the BNP. Of the two or three people I heard before I had to turn the radio off, the mood was one of, ‘we’re not proud of it, but it was a protest vote. And I’m not racist, but maybe they’ve got a point that immigration has gone a bit too far’.

And then I heard this quote from a guy in Wales – “Only one of the candidates lived in the constituency”.

I think he was describing the last general election and not the European Elections, but it was used as a way to explain how traditional party politics has lost its way representing ordinary folk. He didn’t know who to vote for as they were all career politicians from outside the area who knew nothing of the issues facing local people. And he has a point.

It’s still a poor excuse to vote for the BNP …

How to fix MPs’ image

June 13, 2009

The BBC recently had a nice little segment involving two very well-known and respected marketing experts, asking them how the image of MPs could be fixed.

One of the main things that came through the piece was that there needs to be a clean slate – ie the worst of the MPs need to leave and we need new, fresh, untainted MPs in their place who we can start to trust again.

Worth a watch, you can watch it here.

More about me

June 5, 2009

I realised that as I was writing this blog it was probably only fair that I told you a bit more about me. I’m not going to tell you my favourite colour or the name of my first cat or anything like that, but stuff that’s within the context of this blog and this discussion. So here’s a bit more about my politics.

I’ve always been interested in politics: the nature of ‘serving’; trying to do what’s best for whoever voted for you (and those that didn’t); the negotiation and debate; trying to rationalise which issues can be discarded to gain a greater good and which have to remain. I’ve also always been interested in the politics involved in so-called everyday situations: the office; buying a car; discussions amongst couples etc. However, I’ve never been particularly interested in political parties.

Traditionally I’ve been a Labour supporter – I remember watching the 1997 elections results from the US and being aware that history was being made and I was so far away. The benefit though, was that I could watch it until the result was obvious and then go out for dinner to celebrate. As a teenager I grew up under the Thatcher Government and detested that whole era. I detested the individualism and the class wars that Thatcher seemed to promote. Yet at the same time over the last few years I have become equally disillusioned with New Labour, especially over the dodgy dossier and the Iraq War.

So that’s a very brief history of my political affiliations … for what it’s worth.

PS – But of course this is nothing to do with my political views – I’m not going to be standing. It’s all about trying to allow other people to have their political views heard … and be represented by real people not parties.

Well, there’s at least two of us

June 4, 2009

I had a good meeting this afternoon with Lloyd Davis (twitter @LloydDavis and hashtag #lloyddavis4mp), who was one of the inspirations for this blog (and potentially this movement) with his post To run or not to run from last week.

It was good to meet and to talk about what this means and where it might go (neither of us know the answer to that right now) and perhaps more importantly how we might do it.

Although we don’t know the exact answer to the final question either, it does seem easier to address initially. And in effect the first part of the answer is to just get it out there and to see what happens. I detect a mood from people about a desire to have politicians that more closely represent the man or woman on the street, so if that desire is really out there then let me know, make a comment, follow me on Twitter (@independent_mps) and join the debate. I’d love to know what you think about this and how you think we should do it.