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Monday, 1 October 2012

A New Politics to end Tribal Politics

I have been banging on about tribal politics for some time, proclaiming the way forward to be open primaries using the 2009 Totnes open primary as a template.

I believe the open primary route could provide us with a way to diminish the power of the political parties that have stolen our democracy. However there may be other ways and I would be interested to hear from anyone who has ideas on other alternative ways forward

The problem with our current tribal politics is that it brings down the debate to the yah boo level, people are so busy defending their tribe they fail to consider the logic of the argument for change.

However many people have difficulty in seeing the advantages of the  political parties power diminished, they think it would cause chaos and that you cannot do without a party system.

Of course you cannot eliminate the party system, we are tribal after all and we like to be part of a team, but you can diminish their power.
Currently we select a candidate for MP either as directed from Party HQ or by the constituency party, we as the voters have no say in this so it is not surprising that party memberships have dropped dramatically, the Tories for example from 3 million in 1950 to 170,000 in 2012. This is unsustainable in a democratic country.

It cannot be right that our MP's enter parliament having being given a mandate by the voters to represent us, only to be promptly taken over by the party machine and told which way they must vote, despite their constituents.

This results in any party with a majority pushing through legislation without proper debate and with which a majority of the electorate may disagree. In poll after poll you find the electorate often support measures which their party does not, the electorate are a lot smarter than they are given credit for, they have common sense.

Imagine a House of Commons with MP's who are directly accountable to their electorate, meaning they can be recalled by their constituents and if needs be sacked for not representing their manifesto commitment. This would also preclude them from signing up to the party manifesto as a whole if they disagreed with some aspects, a further curb on the parties issuing manifesto's they have no intention of honouring. (Referendums!)

This would lead to a House of Commons with independently minded
MP's, who although being a member of a political party, need have no hesitation in voting against their party if they believed by doing so they would be representing the views of their constituents.

This would lead to the Political Parties having to convince ALL MP's of the logic of their proposed legislation, it would mean that the government could be voted down regularly if they were not listening.

I can already hear you saying this could cause chaos with governments continually resigning, but I don't believe this would happen, if you can't convince the MP's of the validity of your legislation then you have to drop it. In the event of a government's legislation continually being defeated, then yes they would have to resign, but that would be no bad thing.

We would end up with a mature thinking House of Commons with MP's  primary concern being their constituents, and if needs be voting accordingly, even if it meant voting for the other parties, and without a threat to their future as MP's within the party.

The Political Parties  would have to compete for the votes of all MP's, without the aid of whips, so becoming the servant of the MP's and not the master, and through them the electorate.


  1. Agree with much of this; democracy is dying, we are governed by a very small minority of people active in politics, and the current system is not sustainable, neither economically nor politically.

    We need radical reform to the voting system, and the bigger system and structure of government.

    Underlying all this political/economic mess is a lack of consistent, coherent values on which society is based. The start of the collapse was in the 1960s. "Individual rights" (to do whatever anyone pleases because it is their right) is a false religion, with huge inherent conflicts, and is far too focused on "individual" and not "society". As evidenced by the corruption in the financial system and its consequences, "individual rights" is far too risky a foundation for a civilised society. We need elites that understand their duty to the rest of society and not focus on their own pockets.

    We need to return to values of responsibility; to one's self, to family, to community etc. I would argue that individual rights are actually best protected by focusing on responsibilities.

    I cannot yet see a mechanism that will lead to the change in values or in our politics and economics. Organisations usually only change dramatically when they are at the point of collapse. We are not there just yet.

    1. We agree democracy is under threat and that radical change is needed to transform our politics but we appear to disagree on most other things.
      Individual rights and accountability are the bedrock of a responsible society, this has been largely destroyed since the 1960's by the ever growing welfare state which has taken responsibility away from people.
      The elites have plundered our economy,they have used taxpayers money to bribe the electorate,the corporates and other vested interests to retain power.
      The mechanism for a change in values has already started,this is being driven by the need to save our economy from the financial armageddon in which we now find ourselves.
      The rescue of our economy will be the driver to the change we need as we are faced with diminishing an unsustainable welfare state and reducing the size of the client state so that we are able to provide employment opportunities for our people

  2. Richard, a question.

    With whom does sovereignty ultimately lie?

    1. Ultimately in a free society it must lie with the people and who they elect

    2. Sovereignty can only lie with the people. It does not lie or can it be shared with those elected. That is why the current system of representative democracy is flawed in that ultimate sovereignty does not and never will lie with the people.

      If you accept that sovreignty lies with the people then you need to design a system of democracy which enshrines that - all that you write is but tinkering with a system not fit for purpose.

      Resolution of where power ultimately lies defines that new system of democracy and it must, logically, contain the principles of direct democracy.

    3. Disagree entirely,you miss the point,if you have a system where the MP's are answerable and accountable to the people and not the government the people have sovereignty.
      The current system is flawed because the MP's are answerable to government and not the people.
      The political elites have stolen our democracy

    4. While Open Primaries are, in themselves a good idea, on their own they will not restore the idea that 'representatives' are accountable.

      What you have not addressed in your article is the question of devolution of power viz-a-viz accountability, what matters are 'national' and what are 'local'; nor why national parliament should be able to interfere in and dictate matters which are purely local and consequently are nothing to do with national government.

      Perhaps it would be easier and quicker were you to read the 6 Demands of the Harrogate Agenda and then explain to me why those demands do not provide the scenario which you seek.

    5. I have not addressed the devolving of power in my blog,although I have previously and am a strong believer in devolving power away from the centre
      However nothing can be achieved until we have a proper fair basis for our democracy.Making our representatives accountable to voters has to be the first task otherwise no progress will be made

    6. So, exactly how do you propose accomplishing that first task? What measures are you suggesting by which that can be achieved?

      Sorry to appear a pain, but too often statements are made that have not been thought through. It is important that if calling for change, how that change can be accomplished should be spelt out.

  3. Not a pain at all, but I have been banging on this subject for a couple of years!
    Tories had successful open primary in Totnes 2009,to successful for some of them,to the extent they have backed off it seems to having more.
    We need to build on the the Totnes open primary,taking the model further to the extent MP's are accountable first and foremost to their constituents and not their party

  4. Simple changes could be made to start the process.
    #1 no prospective member of a constituency able to stand unless resident within the electoral constituency for minimum 6 years or to have strong family ties ( mother father only) to said area.

    #2 removal of the whip system within Westminster.

    #3 Restriction of spending during campaigning to £10,000 locally by candidates/party for all.

    #4 Restriction of National spending by national parties to £300,000 during election campaigns

    These measures alone would start to clean things up a bit as ALL parties would need to use their money wisely to get the message across they wished, it would also mean no squabbling about donations to parties used as war chests to buy election.

    I would also advocate a complete television black out of political campaigns/debates on a national level so candidates would have to get out of their seats and go to woo voters rather than leaflet drop them with negative propaganda against the opposition.

    Just a few Ideas.

    1. Thanks for the contribution!
      With regard to #1 I would be unwilling to include this clause because I believe the constituents in any constituency should make the decision as to who represents them.
      #2 Believe if we had a system as I propose the Whips would be redundant because the parties would be diminished
      #3 & #4 Definitely need some controls but not something I have addressed yet.
      Appreciate your email and hope to be in touch again