Diane Park: Halifax

May 4, 2010

This is a repeat of a previous posting as I have done some work with Diane and I’ve got to know her well enough to personally recommend her. If you are in Halifax, please please please consider how Diane, as a passionate member of the local community and tireless advocate for local issues, would be able to work for Halifax if elected.

I’ve been supporting independents as it’s my view 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.

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

Diane Park, HalifaxName:
Mrs Diane Park

Halifax, West Yorkshire

Why do you want to be an MP?
To make a difference, to be able to make the voice of the people of Halifax heard in Westminster. To consult as widely as possible to discover the wishes, desires and ambition of the constituents of Halifax and to deliver

Why do you want to stand as an independent?
Because I want to be able to say what I truly think and not what the party says I have to think.

What are the main issues facing your constituency?
Employment, education, transport, a weak and un-respected council

How do you think you can make a difference?
With straight talking, common sense, consulting, influencing, promoting and always with enthusiasm and drive

What are your five main manifesto points?
Law and Order
We all want to feel safe in our homes and on the street, crime in this country is too high and many of us do not feel safe. Local police stations should be accessible, more police on the streets and a more efficient response and follow up when a crime is reported. Community Justice Panels and use of community punishments as an alternative to short term prison sentences would help the over-crowding in prisons.

The Economy
People today are struggling with spiraling debts, rising food and energy bills and unaffordable mortgages. With plummeting house prices, falling growth, rising inflation and rising unemployment, the outlook for the UK economy looks bleak.
Government spending needs control and the economy needs a boost, by cutting taxes for people from the bottom up and regulating the banking system to prevent irresponsible lending and business practices the economy would be strengthened.

It is paramount that every child to gets an excellent education because this is the best way to get on in life, get a good job, and learn about the world. Class sizes should be reduced giving teachers more time to spend in the classroom.
University education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be put off by the cost.

Health care in the UK should remain free and available to everyone based on need; there should be no waiting lists and no postcode lottery. Money invested in health care should not be wasted on bureaucracy and should be invested in frontline services. Doctors and nurses are forced to spend too much time trying to meet government targets rather than caring for patients. Decisions about local services should be made by the people it affects, locally.

Buses and trains should be affordable and reliable so people can have a real choice about how to travel. Cutting pollution and making it easy for people to leave their car at home. The passenger should come first, with plans for a rail renaissance, reopening closed railway lines and new stations, using the railway as an alternative to Lorries and building a High Speed Network to cut journey times to Scotland and the north of England. Local people should have a say on bus fares and routes in their area.

What one thing would you like to say to voters in your constituency?
I promise to strive to improve the well-being, security, life opportunities and happiness to the constituents of Halifax

Where can voters find out more?
Website – www.dianepark4halifax
Twitter – http://twitter.com/Diane4Halifax

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.

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.

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.

– – –

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?

– – –

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.

– – –

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.

– – –

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.

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.

Some MPs are inspiring

July 2, 2009

I was catching a train out of London last night back to Nottingham. I’d settled into my seat and was phoning home. Just as the train started to pull away a man sat opposite me who was clearly out of breath from running to catch the train. As I can’t help myself I started chatting, “you were lucky to make it then?” He nodded as he was still out of breath.

As he got his breath back we started to chat. He’d overheard a bit of my conversation and so we started talking about families and working in London etc. Slowly we moved onto the reason why we were in London – our jobs. It turns out that he was an MP.

I didn’t want to force him to talk shop, but I did mention this blog and my thoughts behind it to try and gauge his opinions – and away we went. Rarely have I spent such an enjoyable two hours – the train journey flew by as we discussed a wide variety of topics – starting with independent MPs, but covering transport policy, European views on recycling, what our dads did for a living, riots, Gordon Brown’s legacy, organic food and traffic lights.

I’m not going to repeat any of the conversation here – I didn’t ask him if it was public consumption – but although we didn’t necessarily agree on everything (as an MP for 17 years he didn’t believe that independents could make a lot of changes if elected) what was obvious was the passion for the job and the sincerity and dedication that he gave to it.

Amidst all the discussions there have been lately (and although I’ve never tried to fan the flames, that includes some here), what we have to remember is that some of the individuals involved in parliament are excellent at their jobs and are worthy of our respect and thanks.

I don’t know how much he claimed on expenses as I didn’t ask, but that just didn’t seem important last night anyway. It was very inspiring to meet him … and if this idea does go anywhere I will consider myself lucky to meet more people like him.

Who was it? It was Alan Simpson (Lab) Nottingham South.

Who does an MP represent?

June 21, 2009

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it’s one of those things that rattles around inside my head with no real resolution, so I thought I’d get it down here to try and formulate my thoughts, but also to see if anyone wants to comment.

The issue is, who does an MP represent and how do they best do it? I’m talking here in quite a theoretical way. And I know the most obvious answer is “their constituents”, but I don’t think it’s necessarily as simple as that. Here are the possibilities as I see them (in a very condensed and simplistic form):

1 – They represent ALL of their constituents
In this scenario the MP tries to represent everyone in the constituency at all times as best they can. However, as there are so many different views and opinions represented there, the MP has to pick their way through them and to keep as many people happy as possible (or as few people unhappy as possible), keeps to a pretty centrist, neutral line.

2 – They represent the people who voted for them
Here there is an understanding that the first past the post system we have means there are winners and losers in every election and so the winning MP should just get on with doing whatever he/she promised in the election and therefore whatever mandate they were voted in on. The difficulty here arises when issues that weren’t discussed in the election are raised.

3 – They represent themselves
I don’t mean in a self-serving ‘Expenses scandal’ kind of way, but what I mean is that they vote on issues according their own views and conscience, safe in the knowledge that they fairly represented themselves in the election and so the electorate knows what to expect.

4 – They represent the country
In the final viewpoint MPs don’t work for local issues, but for national ones, implementing them locally as best they can. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made for the good of the country that may have a negative effect on the local constituency.

I think that it is possible to see merit in all of these different viewpoints, especially if you put yourself in the position of different people. If you didn’t vote for the winning candidate, you’d want your MP to act according to point one; but if you did vote for them, you’d want point two. I’m sure most MPs would prefer to live according to the third point of view; whereas on many occasions national politics (especially if you’re in the Government) requires option four to be the way things are done.

I’m still not sure I know the answer, but it’s an interesting question.