Will Hawkeye be the next US President?

August 23, 2009

People that know me will already be aware that I’m a massive fan of The West Wing – the US TV series with Martin Sheen playing President Josiah Bartlett. Well I’m now onto the final series of the box set I treated myself to at Christmas (I’m really proud of myself that I’ve managed to spread it out this long – there was a danger I’d watch them all within about 2 weeks).

In this final series we are concentrating a lot on the race to succeed President Bartlett. The Democratic nomination was won by Congressman Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits), while it’s Senator Arnold Vinick who is the Republican candidate (played by Alan Alda).

And what’s interesting about this is that I’ve had a real soft spot for Alan Alda ever since he played one of my favourite TV characters of all time – Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H.

So even though all the main characters from the show are Democrats, even though Santos is meant to be ‘our guy’, even though I naturally lean to the Democrats anyway – part of me wants Hawkeye to win.

And that got me thinking about politics. Is it really as simple as having a great public image (and I use the term ‘simple’ partly in jest as I know that it can be very difficult to ‘create’ a great public image)? My local MP is Ken Clarke and while I’m not particularly a fan of his politics, from what I’ve seen I quite like the man – so I’m not unhappy to have him representing me.

So is that what’s it’s about to get elected?

Maybe it is and actually maybe that is where a lot of MPs are failing. I think most of them know that a good public image is important. But the key thing that I think most of them forget is that if you spend a huge amount of time and energy trying to create one it almost certainly backfires – you look like you’re trying to create an image and for the majority of the British public that is about the worst thing you can do.

The main reasons I like Hawkeye Pierce and Ken Clarke (how many times have they been compared in the same sentence before?) is that they don’t try too hard – they just seem like nice guys. They seem like the kind of people who care about others, can get on with others, are genuine in their beliefs and would stand up for those beliefs – exactly the kind of qualities needed for an MP.

So I wonder if Hawkeye will win – if you’ve seen it please don’t tell me.


August 17, 2009

Those of you on Twitter (follow this blog – @independent_mps) will have seen the latest trending topic #welovethenhs.

(For those of you not on Twitter – Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a social networking site where people write little updates of their life in 140 characters (just a bit less than a text message). A trending topic is something that lots of people have been writing about at the same time. And the use of the ‘#’ symbol is called a hashtag that makes a topic more searchable for other users on Twitter.)

This, of course, is in response to the US lobbyists who are trying to stop Barack Obama’s healthcare plan by rubbishing our NHS.

The attack on the NHS has been helped by a couple of British women who were used in the propoganda (and are now saying that they were fooled as to the intentions of the film. They say they have legitimate concerns about the NHS, but they would never want it to be scrapped).

But it has also been helped by Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP for the South East of England.

A bit like my previous post when I questioned Alan Duncan’s recent comments, I think we can also ask – what on earth was Daniel Hannan thinking?

I can’t understand the motives for his comments and perhaps more importantly the placement and timing of them. Politically it’s surely a crazy move, for no matter how much the Tories think that the NHS has been badly run under Labour they can’t be considering scrapping it – so politically it’s an embarassment for the party and got to be damaging to his political career. And if it was an attempt to improve the NHS, then why do it in the US at such an incendiary time? Start a debate here at home by all means, but not in the US.

The only advantage can be if he wants to be a consultant in the US for drug companies or the very well paid health insurance sector … oh, wait a minute. Maybe I can see his motives!

As for my view on the NHS. Well, for what it’s worth I’ve not joined in with the #welovethenhs trend on Twitter. I love the concept of free treatment for all. But the implementation still needs a lot of work. I’ve had cause to use the NHS quite a lot over the last couple of years (fortunately for relatively minor issues) and I’ve always found the system to be under pressure, but the people outstanding.

For me it’s a case of #welovethetheoryofthenhsbutitstillneedstobebetter – but I think that’s almost 140 characters on its own.

What on earth was Alan Duncan thinking?

August 14, 2009

Alan Duncan was recently caught saying that MPs have had to live on rations since the expenses scandal hit. He was secretly filmed saying this after also saying that no-one from the outside world would want to be an MP any more.

There is certainly an element of truth in the fact that MPs salaries are lower than a comparable job (if there is such a thing) in the private sector would pay. The level of responsibility, the hours, the pressure etc make being an MP a hard job to do – there’s no denying that. And many in the private sector doing a similar job would probably expect to earn closer to double the c. £65k salary that MPs currently receive.

Of course many constituents would consider £65k to be a very attractive salary. I’m sure many would have been pleased to receive that salary even in the good times; but as more and more people are being laid off or having to take enforced salary cuts £65k looks like an even better salary.

It just goes to show that the current crop of MPs is more concerned with themselves than their constituents. Although the hours are long and the job is tough, £65k is a good salary if you do the job because you want to represent your constituency and to make a difference to the lives of people.

Here’s a link to another video from Don’t Panic after the expenses scandal first broke.

It’s all about the money

August 11, 2009

As I was saying in a previous post, one of the main reasons that I have posted so little recently is because I’ve been busy with the day job. And as that is what keeps food on the table – that is what I’ve had to focus on.

Of course the same is true for parliamentary candidates (or potential candidates). Until you’re actually elected you need to keep on doing whatever it is you do. The situation is of course worse for independents as they don’t have the support and infrastructure of the party to plug into when it is election time …

But enough about their plight (for now).

This post is actually to ask for money – I know you’re not meant to be so bold about it all (it seems a bit crass), but there’s no way around it right now.

I want to see if this idea could actually work, if it could actually make a difference – even if only to one constituency. But there are two major problems that stop that happening right now:

– I can’t afford to give up my day job to pursue this idea
– It will never happen if it is to be a ‘hobby’

So I think it is time to put up or shut up. It is very likely that a general election could be called in May and that’s only 9 months away – not that long really. So if this idea is going to make a difference it has to be more than just an idea and start to turn into something real … and of course that will take money.

What I’d like to do is a three month feasibility study – to find out whether there’s a public appetite, whether some people would want to stand as independents and others would want to vote for them. (Nearly) everyone I’ve spoken to seems to think that there is some merit in it, but I realise that that is only a very small cross-section of the public. I want to get out there and find out if that view is reflected out in the wider world.

So how do I do that .. and we’re back to money.

The things I think we’ll need to include (but are not limited to):

– An office – this needs to be based somewhere, even if only temporarily
– Some ‘marketing’ budget – for surveys, questionnaires, profile raising etc – at this stage this would only be on a sample scale level, but like everything it will still cost money
– Some postage and stationery etc budget – we’ll need to write and post stuff out
– Some of my time – as I’ve stated many times, I can’t afford to do this for free. I’m happy to donate some time and effort to it, but not at the expense of my family (sorry, but that’s the way it is)
– An intern or junior person – someone who can get all the stuff done that needs to be done

So how much will all this cost for a three month feasibility study:

– An office – I’m guessing, but I suppose about £400 per month for an office in London – £1,200
– Some ‘marketing’ budget – I work in marketing so I should be able to be more exact here, but I can’t. I hope that a few people might be able to help out – but if you want proper results it needs to be paid for. So, a finger in the air would say – £5,000
– Some postage and stationary etc budget – not much for now – £200
– Some of my time – my view is that whoever runs this whole thing should be paid the same as an MP (without the expenses top-ups) on a pro-rata basis. The current salary for an MP is £64,766. So for one day per week for three months – £3,238.30
– An intern or junior person – the hope is that as an intern they would need a salary (i.e. it’s a great opportunity and will look good on the CV), but there would need to be an allowance for travel and food. So at £20 per day for three months – £1,200

As a round number that’s £10,000.

Has anyone got a spare £10k that they could donate to such a worthy cause? Please let me know if you have.

Wow, it’s a lot isn’t it? I suspect we could do it £9k, or even £8k, but we’re still talking about real money.

Please, please, please get in touch if you can help in any way.

The Jury Team … update

August 10, 2009

A few weeks ago I posted about The Jury Team, a political party for independents, set up by Sir Paul Judge just before the European Elections. In my last post I said that I’d tried to get in touch with them as obviously I didn’t want to duplicate efforts and would be happy to support them in any way I could if we were trying to achieve the same goals.

Well since that time I haven’t heard a thing.

But more than that – it seems as if The Jury Team has, to all intents and purposes, stopped activity. The blog hasn’t been updated since June 4th (I’m not very prolific, but come on …) and the Twitter account has only had one tweet since June 11th.

Oh well. If anyone knows anything about the Jury Team, I’d still like to get in touch.

Of course you can always follow Independent MPs on Twitter – @independent_mps)

So what have I missed?

August 9, 2009

So what have I missed?

In my last post I promised to write a bit more … and then of course I haven’t. My only excuse is that the day job has been busy and I’ve had to focus on that. But of course I have, I’ve got a business to run, a livelihood to maintain and a family to support.

I’m not trying to be all Edwardian about it all, but those are exactly the issues facing any potential independent MPs – it’s all about the money. How can you build up  a support base and start the process of generating a network that could eventually get you elected if you’ve got a life to run as well? No matter how good you might be as an MP, for most people family and livelihood has got to come first. And of course you’ve got no way of knowing when the actual election will be, so you don’t know how long you might need to be postponing other elements of your life.

Of course, if you’re a member of a political party, you can get all sorts of support with this kind of stuff – a network of volunteers is already established for you.

Anyway, what’s been happening since I’ve been ‘away’?

I suppose a couple of relevant things have occurred – the first was the Norwich by-election. Unfortunately, as you can see, the independent Craig Murray only got just over 2.5% of the vote. I don’t know if he was actually any good, but I’m sure that if he’d had a stronger network, more time and money then the result would have been better.

The second of course was that Esther Rantzen has decided she will stand as a candidate for Luton South at the next election.

There’s an interesting quote from the Conservative candidate about it – “That Ms Rantzen continues to be so interested in Luton – where she has no apparent links and even though Margaret Moran is standing down – has surprised many Lutonians.”