The Debate Begins

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 …

7 Responses to The Debate Begins

  1. Darryl says:

    Well I guess I am going to provide some balance to Patrick in that I am pretty right wing and somewhat sceptical of his idea here, although I actually think it’s a good one I just don’t see it gaining much traction in the UK. I grew up in the era of the Three Day week and regular power cuts and however, detestable Thatcher’s methods (and they were very painful) I still honestly believe they were, largely, unavoidable if the country was to be saved from what went before. Enough of that.

    A few years back a colleague was involved in a local election as a campaign manager for someone running as an independent and he came away with some fascinating insights. In particular to get elected at any level you need a good local machine. There’s a reason why you have those people outside polling stations asking who you are – it’s not for that election but for the next one! All politics is local is true, but unless you can get quite a profile the National parties have the “brand” and that’s what people vote “dunno the name of the local MP but I hate them Tories so I’m voting Labour”…

    Then there’s the structural issue: spending on any individual campaign is capped but National spending doesn’t count against those limits so not being in a party heavily penalises an independent. Being part of a party probably means the deposit is safe, being alone means that’s a cost that may well have gone, that could easily deter the less well off.

    Finally you get elected to Parliament, given that parties nominate members of committees and the government is formed by a majority party the independents are going to be sitting on the backbenches with very little to do apart from shout and scream and occasionally float a no-hope private members bill. Something pretty radical about how Parliament operates will have to happen before that all changes.

    Overall: I like the idea of being able to serve my country. But, like many, I detest being thought of as a “politician”, wonder how I’d cope with the fall in income (yes I earn more than an MP) and wonder if it means I’ll miss out on four or five years of my kids growing up. Perhaps most of all I wonder if I’d actually achieve anything inside the system as opposed to joining some lobby group outside the system. So I’ll sit tight, maybe join my Institute’s council if I feel the need to “serve” and disparage the whole crew.

    Here’s an interesting comparison: I follow US politics and the party system is much looser there. It is possible to vote against one’s party without facing immediate “deselection” as each congressman has a local powerbase. I don’t think US politics needs to be imported here wholesale but in many ways it is more responsive than ours.

    Depressing but we need a radical change, and we don’t do that in this country.


    • Patrick says:

      Hi Darryl

      Thanks for your comment and I’m really happy to have someone provide an alternative perspective.

      It’s for exactly the reasons you list that I think we need to do something like this:
      – providing a local ‘machine’
      – assisting with fund-raising
      – raising profile
      – and of course, what to do if you actually get in

      I agree with you about whether I’d want to do it myself (that’s not what this is about), but what i do want to try and do is remove some obstacles for others to do it.

      I welcome further thoughts and comments from you.

  2. Sonny says:

    Firstly I would say that surely if you believe that the idea of independent MPs is a good one, whatever side of centre you sit, then it’s worth doing all that is within your power to make that idea realised? I think this is an issue bears very little relation to your political stance and is suitable for those both right and lift of centre. I can see Darryl’s point of view about Thatcher’s necessity after the winter of discontent (not that I am in anyway shape or form sticking up for Thatcher) but swing from left to right is necessary and inevitable (I think we need to swing to the left after 12 years of a right wing government dressed in red ties, but that’s another issue). The issue that does need to be addressed here though is how we as the public are represented and the transparency of that representation.

    The comment about the “brand” is very important and I was trying to convey that in my original Blog (I forgot to use the word brand). It’s what you know, what you can rely on, you pick it for the colour. So it’s abslutely right that Independent MPs will have to compete against a Brand… but to do so I think that we/they (whoever) would need to embrace the benefits of ‘brands’ and try to create a brand which allows individualism within that brand.

    It also could, hopefully, be used to address the issue about a load of back benches screaming ’til they are red in the face, while the government do as they please. Some sort of unifying umbrella that does not acclaim left/right positioning, but allows the independent MPs to have more weight behind their shouts. This would effectively work in a similar way to a major party with all the benefits, while staying completely impartial. In effect the Independent MPs are the majority party.

    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 on, 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.

    If implemented properly I would have thought it would make local government work more efficiently and effectively, and therefore in turn making central government more accurately follow the views of the public. Also with a unifying umbrella that is impartial and that allows people of all walks of like to contribute, a greater number of people can be involved in the political system, without having to go the whole hog and run as a candidate. What I mean by this is, you should have to run as a candidate to feel as though you are putting something back. lets face it there are only so many seats and only so many voices that can be heard at once. For example, Patrick’s experience in PR and the Telecommunications industry could be of great value to someone who has spent their adult life studying the finer details of Economics. Both have tools valuable to the running of the country, but alone are somewhat helpless. It must be about creating something that is greater than sum of its parts.

    It’s then upto the individual on which side of the fence they direct their efforts.

  3. […] — Patrick @ 6:17 pm Tags: Independent MPs, local, politicians The recent comment / post by Sonny raised a really interesting […]

  4. Anthony says:

    The problem with all this is who will fund it?
    There is clearly a need for a new approach but as with all things someone has to pay the bill.
    The other issues are well reflected in the problems left to Oliver Cromwell after the Putney Debates: who fills the space left by the departed?
    An Agreement of the People etc is well worth revisiting by anyone concerned with Parliamentary Democracy.
    Also, let us not foget who’s monument still stands outside of the Palace of Westminster.
    Perhaps it is time to move him back inside where he rightly deserves to be.

    So who will fund an Association of Independent Members of our Parliament?

  5. Anthony says:

    Well: what has happened to this debate?
    Probably it is dead and buried in the sands of the summer vacation.

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Anthony. I’m afraid that for me this debate has been buried under the pressures of my day job. I suspect that you’re right about summer holidays for many people as well.

      But if you’re up for more debate then I’m happy to make the effort to debate back!

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