Dr. Steven Ford: Hexham

April 19, 2010

This is one of my series of articles on some of the Independent candidates standing at this election. If you want to see a fuller list please go here.

However, I don’t pretend that this is an exhaustive list, you can see more independents on the Independent Network’s website here.

My view is that as an electorate we need more independents to stand – we need more choice about who will represent us. As we have seen from the recent scandals that have hit Westminster, MPs from the main parties all seem to be part of the same ‘club’. To be truly represented we need people that are not part of that club. If you’re constituency has an independent standing, please take the time to consider the difference that having a true member of the local community can bring to you – someone who is working for the constituency and not for the party or their political career.

Name:
Dr. Steven Ford

Constituency:
Hexham

Why do you want to be an MP?
The political class and conventional parties have discredited themselves over decades.

The conventional view of democratic politics, neatly encapsulated by Romano Prodi, is that ‘democracies are operated by political parties’. This is a revealing statement. There is no mention of the ‘demos’ – the people. Political textbooks adhere remarkably uniformly to this view and avoid meaningful exploration of alternatives or mention them only to dismiss them.

I have observed the political process since my mid teens (late 1960s) and have never felt inspired or confident. The more I see and hear of the political process and experience the effects of activity in Westminster the more I become convinced that a major part of the malaise in our democracy (and many others) is the political parties themselves – their structures and processes.

There is too much party political gamesmanship and too little effective democratic government. We have a perpetual scramble to acquire and retain power, rather than perform effective government. Long term necessities are sacrificed to short term electoral advantage.

There is no effective choice for the electorate and we end up with a see-saw between government and opposition. In the UK this has been the case since the 1920s – the last time the liberals were in power. We have a self perpetuating bipartite oligarchy, in which an MP’s progress depends upon conformity and patronage – inevitably this attracts a certain class of person who, I believe, is uniquely unsuitable to wield power.

Politicians are remote, unresponsive, disconnected from people and their lives. Whilst it was always suspected that there was exploitation of the system by those in government, and it was worse in the past, it is now unambiguously revealed with the ‘expenses’ scandal.

There is sleaze, spin and corruption. There is scientific and statistical illiteracy. There is too much policy based evidence, rather than evidence based policy. There is an idolatrous relationship between the political class and unregulated neo-liberal free market capitalist economics. The recession we are emerging from was ignited by Thatcher and eventually blew up with Brown.

There is destruction of the post war social consensus, disdain for and destruction of the public services.

We have the loss of parliamentary and cabinet influence. The police, civil service, armed forces and security services are politicised. There is excessive influence on government from unelected people, lobbyists, the wealthy and businesses – especially banks.

The last people to have influence are the people themselves. The people know this and therefore abandon politics by failing to participate in the democratic process – either withdrawing political interest and activism or not voting.

This is wrong and it must change. It is dangerous and invites worse problems in the future. The only way to initiate the change is for a large enough body of independents to become elected to enforce reform. The influence of Independents and small parties will be disproportionately great with the increasingly likely hung parliament that pundits everywhere are predicting.

I have spent my professional career caring for a community and now I have the scope to care for a larger community in a different way. I wish to participate in the democratic process in order to serve the population of the constituency and to improve the function of our democracy at a national level.

Get involved or nothing changes! Tribal party politics has had its day – it is dying before our eyes. Complaining in private conversations, writing hot letters to the press and shouting at the TV don’t help – in order to change politics for the better, it is essential to be directly personally engaged.

Why do you want to stand as an independent?
In my lifetime, our form of democracy has come to stress freedom for lobbying activities (in practice, by businesses) and a form of polity that avoids interfering with a capitalist economy. It has little interest in widespread citizen involvement or for organisations outside business.

While elections exist and can change governments, under this model, public electoral debate is a tightly controlled spectacle, managed by rival teams of professionals. These professionals are expert in the techniques of persuasion, and in considering a small range of issues which they select. The mass of citizens plays a passive, even apathetic part, responding only to signals given to them. Politics is really shaped by private interactions between the political class and elites that overwhelmingly represent business interests.

This process has gone so far, that we now find ourselves in a Post-Democratic era. Contributing to the resuscitation of our Democracy will be a key role for an Independent MP.

Independents are the future of democracy.

Party politics is now and has probably always been inimical to a healthy democracy because its primary concern is party before people. Honesty, openness, plain speaking, responsiveness, deliberative process and citizen involvement are all key to a healthy and stable democracy. Putting people before party or abstract policy is the central theme to Independent representation.

What are the main issues facing your constituency?
Jobs, affordable housing, transport, environment, poverty, local democracy – for a start.

How do you think you can make a difference?
I will make a difference by disturbing the political status quo and depriving the complacent parties of their presumptuous dominance. Breaking the stranglehold of the parties will enforce a reappraisal.

What are your five main manifesto points?
The concerns of constituents, environment, health, electoral & parliamentary reform.

What one thing would you like to say to voters in your constituency?
In 2010 the majority of voters can win – the era of a London appointed candidate waltzing into a ‘safe seat’ with a minority of the votes is over.

Where can voters find out more?
My website.
My blog.