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.

A bit of an update …

July 8, 2009

Ever since I started this blog I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the responses that it has generated. From probably about 99% of people the first reaction has been “that’s a good idea”, but then as they’ve thought about it a bit further they’ve come up with a further question or two.

It is those questions that I’m trying to unearth. I want to hear what people’s objections and worries are about an idea like this. I want to see what needs to happen to move this from a ‘good idea’ to a ‘good reality’.

Whether it’s been people leaving comments on the blog, or as part of the conversations I’ve had about this, there seem to be some consistent themes being expressed. People may phrase things differently, but the general concerns seemed to be grouped around these three areas:

One of the issues I’ve raised is how expensive it is for an independent candidate to campaign in an election, so if we’re going to provide support financial support would seem to be the most important kind. So that begs the question that many people have asked is ‘how is it to be funded?’ The simple answer is that I don’t know.

However, the questions don’t stop there. Because even if funding can be generated questions remain about how the money is spent, what level of ‘influence’ can be gained by donating, how do we manage expenses etc etc.

Again the simple answer is that I don’t know the answers … yet. I do have some thoughts and ideas and I’m receiving more advice and input from people the more I discuss it.

“Yeah, but what good can one independent do?” That seems to be a question that a lot of people are asking. The main inference being – will it do any good and if not what’s the point?

Personally I don’t know if it will do any good; but I’m fairly confident that when the next election does come it won’t do any harm to have more candidates offering a greater breadth of skills and experience and giving constituents more choice.

As for influence inside parliament – well I think influence shouldn’t just be measured directly. If we show a public appetite for more independent MPs – even if we don’t actually get any elected – then there’s a good chance that the current parties will have to adapt to reflect that. That level of indirect influence has certainly happened with the Green debate in such a way that the traditional parties have adopted green policies to such an extent that the Green Party is almost no longer needed (although I’m sure the Green Party members wouldn’t agree with me exactly).

There are good people in the current system
This has been something that people have said to me and I agree very strongly with that (as you can see from my recent post about Alan Simpson). Not only are there some good MPs, but also a lot of good constituency workers and volunteers.

I don’t want to sweep everything away, but hopefully add more good people to the system to make it better.

I’m going to write a longer post about each of these issues and explore each one in a bit more detail shortly. It seems to me that no-one has said anything (yet) that should stop this in its tracks and that nearly everyone that has raised an issue has raised one that will help us to tighten up the idea and make it even more workable. So more comments and thoughts please.

The Debate Begins

June 16, 2009

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 …