Will social media decide the election?

February 25, 2010

Social media is the buzz phrase du jour. As a phrase it covers a wide variety of online tools that are used for sharing and commenting on information and entering into online ‘conversations’ and ‘communities’. The best known of these include Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Posterous and of course blogging tools like WordPress (that this blog is written on).

However, what is particularly interesting with regards to the election is that it wasn’t a mainstream activity when we last voted our MPs in. Over the last few years it that has grown dramatically and is no longer talked about just by geeks. Nowadays many, if not most people, use one form of social media or another.

One of the great advantages of it, at least according to supporters, is that it democratises access to debates and movements – if you have an internet connection you can join in. You can become a respected and influential commentator based on the quality of your comment and not the position you hold – and even if you don’t start the debate you can easily join in (by posting comments, tagging, ReTweeting etc). It is mainly through social media that we now have many more ‘citizen journalists’.

For politicians it allows them to ‘knock on doors’ electronically and can be a powerful and exciting tool if used correctly. Not all of them get it yet, but many do.

However, it also provides everyone with the opportunity to hold our elected representatives to account. Many people have blogged about the expenses scandal and I’m sure many more will blog about their views of the main parties, of candidates, of policies and of the behaviour of people on the campaign trail.

So given the power of social media to hand more power to the people – will it decide the next election?

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This post was inspired by this news and this post.

Do we need a new voting system?

February 23, 2010

I recently received a comment from a reader that proposes a new voting system to help remove the conflict between voting for an individual or a party.

I thought it made some really interesting points, so I have copied it in full and posted it here. I’d be interested to hear what people’s views are on this.

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Can I recommend a system of voting which would deliver PR, has the simplicity of FPTP, maintains the single member constituency, would make it much easier for Independent Candidates to get elected and doesn’t require a huge change from the existing voting system?

Direct Party and Representative Voting

Despite the recent vote in the House of Commons and consequential public debate, the chances of a move to Proportional Representation for Westminster elections are remote. Those in favour of PR cannot build a coalition. The different forms of PR vary in their ability to deliver PR, and are often complex and difficult to understand.
PR also challenges the simplicity of the single member constituency.

An underlying problem with the existing system is that the voter is faced with the dilemma of voting for the party or for the candidate. This works very heavily against independent candidates. These voting issues should be separated as follows.

To meet the demand for political renewal, we need

1 One vote for a party to form the government.

2 One vote for the Constituency MP. This could be by the FPTP system.

And all on one ballot paper – that is the only change we need in the public voting system.

A further change would be needed in Parliament where one MP one vote is ditched, and a fractional voting system introduced. The elected Government’s strength in Parliament would be determined by the first vote. In parliament each MP would exercise a fractional vote. If a party got 40% support in the ‘Government’ vote but 50% of the MPs, each of their MPs would have a vote value 0.8 Independents would have a vote value of one. Non government bills (Free Votes) could be determined by one vote per MP.

Swipe card voting should make it foolproof and simple.

The Government would then have very precise proportional support, not in MPs but in votes. Why should it have more or less?

This system, Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR), would have the key advantages of a PR system and single member constituencies.

• No longer would people be disenfranchised. Every vote would count.
• It would be easy to vote, and easy to count, and the outcomes would be quick and easy to understand.
• There need no longer be a conflict between voting for an individual or a party. You could vote for your party but not necessarily for the particular local representative.
• Yes, it would be difficult for new parties to get started – but arguably less so than at present
• It would make it easier for exceptional individuals or independents to get elected.

This system would not satisfy the ‘Strong Government’ lobby – those who want the system to throw up a big majority for the ‘winning’ party regardless of their actual democratic support. But at least the battle lines and arguments would be simplified.

Not only would this system lead to more independent MPs, it would give all MPs a measure of independence since they will have been elected as individuals rather than just party representatives.

This system, DPR, would make it much easier for Independent Candidates to get elected, would deliver PR, has the simplicity of FPTP, maintains the single member constituency, and doesn’t require a huge change from the existing voting system.

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Very interesting. Do you agree?

It’s all getting quite exciting

February 11, 2010

It is now possibly less than 3 months before we’ll all be able to cast our vote in the General Election.

The exact date of the election has not been announced, but much of the speculation seems to be pointing towards May 6th as the likely date.

And even in my lowly position as a blogger on this subject I can feel that the excitement is mounting. But it’s not just general excitement in politics, there does genuinely seem to be a greater excitement about the prospect of independent MPs.

More and more people are reading blog as we’re getting closer to the business end of this process. But perhaps an even greater indication is how people are finding the blog. More and more people are now actively searching online using terms such as: “independent mps”; “independent parliamentary candidates” or even “standing for parliament as an independent”.

Obviously as the election date has not been named no-one can formally announce themselves as a candidate, but if you do want to stand then good luck and I’m happy to support in any way I can.

And if you can’t think of a platform to stand on – well, you could always suggest we declare war on Jersey.

Three MPs and one Lord charged

February 5, 2010

So the MPs Expenses Scandal has finally led to some criminal charges with three MPs and one member of the House of Lords charged. They are Elliot Morley, Scunthorpe, Labour; Jim Devine, Livingston, Labour; David Chaytor, Bury North, Labour and Lord Hanningfield, Conservative.

You can read more about the news of the charges on the BBC site.

Surely, however, the overriding view has to be: only 4 people!!

For all the revelations we heard about MPs ‘flipping’ homes and listing second homes that were miles away from their constituency (or Westminster) it will seem to most ordinary voters that many more MPs should have been charged.

But if their actions weren’t illegal they were certainly immoral and as an electorate we have the opportunity to be the jury on those charges when the election comes around.

I was on the radio today …

February 4, 2010

… talking about independent MPs obviously.

It was all a bit strange but I was on the 5 live phone-in with Nicky Campbell this morning for a few minutes to promote the cause of independent MPs.

You can listen to the programme until Thursday 11th Feb. I’m the first caller on (Patrick from Southwell), at about 6 minutes into the programme.

You can listen here

The programme was about whether we, as a nation, had forgiven our MPs for the expenses scandal, linked of course to the news that some MPs have been told to pay back just over £1m in total.

I only heard about the subject a few minutes before 9am, but I decided to phone in with the point that we shouldn’t be talking about forgiveness for the current crop of MPs, but with an election looming we should be looking at how to make the system better for the future. So I phoned up and spoke to a researcher, who listened politely, and that was that.

Then about five minutes later a different researcher (or possibly the producer) phoned me back and asked me to repeat my views. After I’d done that he said, great, we’ll put you on and then the phone was put through to the studio and I could hear Nicky Campbell introducing the phone-in programme.

So I didn’t have time to make any notes, or even prepare myself properly. But I think I came across okay and I said what I wanted to about the need for independent candidates and hopefully independent MPs.