invincecable 2

March 12, 2010

I mentioned the movement invincecable earlier, well I was invited to join in a conversation with the organisers this afternoon.

My view is that this is a great movement for independent candidates to get behind. There are two main reasons for that.

The first is that one of the biggest issues people have raised with me when I have discussed independent MPs with them is, if lots of independents get elected who will actually run the country?

My first response to that is that I believe that in a constitutional democracy we should create the best system we can for those constituencies. We should vote in the very best MPs we can … and then create the government. We shouldn’t accept that local constituents will be badly served just because we think certain people need to form the government.

That said, we will need to form a government after the election and we should make sure that the best people for the job fill the senior posts. Independent candidates should vow to support the best people to fill the senior roles in the government in the case of a hung parliament. And who better than Vince Cable to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

The second reason that independent candidates should get behind this movement is that this is likely to be a very interesting public movement. The people involved are very skilled PR and social media practitioners. They are going to do whatever they can to rouse support for their movement – independent candidates could tap into that support and use it to help in their election campaign.


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?


Independent Cabinet Members?

November 26, 2009

I’m really pleased to have received another guest post from Sonny. Of course part of the reason I’m pleased is that it saves me from writing posts – I can keep the debate going on here and still concentrate on the day-job. However, the main reason I’m pleased is that it raises another really interesting topic.

Over to Sonny.

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Think about independent MP and how this might impact the day to day running of government, it’s hard not to conclude that party politics in the current system will always win out. For the simple reason that even if 95% of MPs were independent and the other 5% was one party… the combined organisation and collaboration means that the party would rule.

So you can see how and why party politics have come to govern our country over the years. A group of like minded people coming together to unify resources. But this could mean something like 37% of the votes rules 100% of the population because they get to choose the cabinet from their group of like minded people. It’s frowned upon to do otherwise.

When Boris Johnson was campaigning for The Mayor of London he asked Menzies Campbell to work underneath him if he won. Campbell considered it but from what I can see to be peer pressure only, he turned it down. It would be “letting the side down” or “sleeping with the enemy” as it was construed. I thought this was a preposterous way to look at it. Johnson was simply asking the person he considered to be best for the job regardless of colour (party colour I mean) and the Lib Dems looked a gift horses in the mouth. They turned down the opportunity to be a seriously active part of a governing body, not just someone shouting from the side lines.

It was a sad day for politics and democracy in my opinion, but it shows how our government might be forced into picking a cabinet in the manner of “best of a bad bunch” rather than “best man for the job” (or woman obviously). I would have thought that a conservative would have been better suited to running the fiscal elements of government, where as a socialist better at social welfare issues, a green party member better at energy management, a BNP member on immigration (only joking, the only role they have in the cabinet is locked away in the bottom draw behind the bed linen… just my opinion though). Essentially though, our current system of choosing a government means that we are not utilising some of our countries finest talents, just because of their party affiliation.

In order to make sure Independent MPs is a viable option of government and not one that is sacked off after the first term in office I think we need to get rid of party politics altogether. So Fred Smith stands as Fred Smith for Northampton, not Fred Smith, Labour. You choose the person that best represents you as a constituent not who you think is more likely to stop the other party that you don’t like getting in. Tactical voting would no longer be an issue.

Instead we have a House comprising completely independent MPs, who get together to choose a Prime Minister and a Cabinet so that all MPs have as much of a say, rather than the situation we’ve had with Gordon Brown becoming an unelected PM. With the whole House choosing the Cabinet/PM who are in turn accountable to the whole house, this would encourage people to stand up for what they actually believe in and what their constituents believe in. Not the current system where some MPs suck up to those with a bit more power, just to get a nice seat in the cabinet and then when it all goes wrong they just all swap places and do just as bad a job. How many positions in Cabinet has Mr Mandelson held even after he has been involved in scandals…. (hushed tones from a lawyer)… allegedly.

This is surely a better form of democracy than party politics and first past the post?

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Very interesting.

So, what do you think? Should we scrap party politics altogether?


Fewer Or Greater Numbers Of MPs?

November 24, 2009

I’m delighted to have a guest post from Sonny.

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Since the whole debate about MPs expenses two arguments surrounding the matter have arisen:

A) The suitability of Party Politics to represent public opinion (and the birth of Independent MPs)

B) The number of MPs we have in parliament.

Both heavily interlinked I feel. The vast majority of suggestions at the moment point toward fewer MPs, but I don’t think that helps the fight for greater number of Independent MPs… or democracy.

With devolution in Scotland and Wales over the past years, the trend has been pointing toward greater numbers of MPs and giving power back to local government… until the issue of expenses came about. Then the consensus shifted in favour of few. “Let’s get rid of the dead wood and cut expenses”, but are we confusing “how our money is spent” with “how many people our money is spent on”?

I believe a reduction in the number of MPs would be detrimental to a more democratic government and to the ability to elect Independent MPs. The idea of IMPs is to give power back to the people by making them more willing to vote, regain a face to politics and introduce variety. This would be hard if one IMP were to represent a bigger constituency, unable to really represent all opinions and make Party Politics more attractive. We should be working towards “A local face for local people.”

We need to engage the voter more by showing them their vote counts toward something close to their homes and their hearts. Give power back to the local authorities whilst reforming the system so that more independent MPs can come together in Parliament and govern our collective needs.

It’s like any form of sampling whether be polls, quality control or something like frames in a second of film; only by taking more samples can you get a more accurate representation of the overall picture. A large number of MPs and a proper system that allows them to work out their differences is the only way forward.

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Thanks Sonny. So what are your thoughts on whether we should cut the number of MPs have even more?

And if you want to write a guest post – I’d love to receive it, send it over to independent.mps@googlemail.com.


Question Time – a review

October 23, 2009

So, last night’s Question Time on the BBC featured Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP. I’m sure you knew that anyway, there was a huge amount of controversy over whether he should be allowed to appear.

I think he should have been on. Whether we like it or nor his party currently represents two constituencies in the European Parliament and receives significant numbers of votes at elections of every type. But beyond that, restricting the free speech of someone we don’t like is a slippery slope that leads to the sort of politics the BNP peddles.

But once he was there, how did he do?

To be honest I was disappointed with him. Given that he has over the last few years given the BNP electorial credibility I was expecting someone who was a skilled and clever politician. In the end he came across as nervous, evasive and at times scared. The rest of the panel and the bulk of the audience was clearly strongly against him, however they didn’t go for the kill in the way that I thought they might. Yet Griffin showed himself to be ill at ease in the situation while his use of language was clumsy and awkward and he seemed to possess no rhetorical skill.

Instead, he seemed to catch himself out more often than the rest of the panel did and his attempts to laugh off some of his previous quotes, or to join in with a perceived bonhomie on the panel looked very distasteful. There was one incident when he seemed to pat Bonnie Greer on the back that was particularly unnerving.

That said, I was also very unimpressed with Jack Straw on the panel. He seemed to want to attack the BNP rather than offer a real alternative to its voters. He talked a lot without saying anything and on the subject of immigration, which Baroness Warsi rightly said needed an honest debate, he was at his most evasive.

The person that actually came across best on the show was the non-politician and that was Bonnie Greer. She was rightfully dismissive of the BNP’s views without resorting to personal attacks.

But what this all shows to me is that although I find the BNP’s politics completely abhorent, the major parties are not addressing some of the major issues and grievances felt by the electorate. Those people are seeing the BNP as the only real alternative and they will continue to do so until their issues are properly addressed.

You can watch the programme here on iPlayer, or a cut down version here from the Guardian.

Let me know your thoughts.


Is it time for another push?

October 15, 2009

I got a comment from Mike a couple of weeks ago urging another push for independent MPs … and I think he’s right.

So, I’m going to try and be a bit more active with this blog and a bit more active on raising awareness generally and let’s see if we can make this happen between us. Obviously, it needs help – your help. So mention the blog to friends and family, comment on it, provide feedback, ask questions etc etc. Anything you can do will help and will be appreciated.