Following on from yesterday, where I wrote that the political class needed to be ousted, I’ve been playing with some new ideas as to how that might be done.
The UK current Westminster parliamentary political scene currently looks like this:
The electorate of each parliamentary constituency (shown as the mass of people at bottom) are offered a choice of candidates at each general election (the 6 candidates above the mass of people). Usually one of these candidates is a Labour party candidate (shown in red), a Conservative party candidate (blue) and a Lib-Dem candidate (yellow). The other three candidates might be Green party candidate, a UKIP candidate, and an Independent.
At the general election, about 40% of the electorate vote for one candidate or other, and one of them wins more votes than any other candidate, and becomes an MP (in this case a Conservative). The process is repeated at the next election, 4 or 5 years later. The candidates for the main political parties are chosen by their respective parties, and their manifesto is that of their party, and they owe their principal loyalties to their party. The sole contribution of the voters is to tick a box once every 5 years. Many of them don’t even bother to show up at the polling station.
It is of course possible for individual people to stand as candidates in these elections. But they have be nominated by 10 people, and to make a deposit of £500 before they can stand, and they will lose this deposit if they gain less than 5% of the votes cast in the election. And very often people who do this, with few resources to publicize their campaign, end up losing the vote, and also their deposit, with the result that there are very few such independent MPs in parliament, and lots of party members who have to toe their party line.
I’ve been wondering if there might be some way of increasing the chances of ordinary people becoming MPs outside the party system. It’s not my interest to advance any particular political agenda – left, right, libertarian, etc – but simply to help the voters elect MPs who are chosen by them and who actually represent them, and who are not beholden to the leadership of some party or other (or the EU). I don’t care what their political aims or beliefs might be.
So today I began to tinker with the idea of a New Political Machine which would help advance anyone of any political disposition. This machine would be apolitical. It would not be another political party. It would simply serve to help and promote anyone who wanted to become an MP.
And my proposal for this new machine was that anyone could sign up to it as a prospective parliamentary candidate in some constituency, say, Leicester. They’d do this at the Machine’s website, where they would register their name and address and other details, and set out their manifesto (e.g. abolition of the smoking ban), and agree to the terms and conditions of the Machine. Their manifesto would be published on the machine’s website, which would be open to public view.
Members of the public (and not necessarily residents of Leicester) could then buy ‘shares’ in these candidates. These would be small shares, maybe £1 each, which would go towards the deposit required by the prospective candidate. Any number of them could be bought up to some maximum number. The monies received would be deposited in a PayPal (or similar) account by the Machine.
Should £500 be raised in this manner, the Machine would then register the individual concerned as a parliamentary candidate, and put down the £500 deposit.
At this point, an anti-smoking-ban parliamentary candidate would be in place, and he or she would have their manifesto online, and maybe a YouTube video or two where they could be seen and heard, and maybe a forum where they could be asked questions.
It would still be open, at this point, for people to buy shares in the candidate, and some of this new money would be passed on to the candidate for the purposes of paying for advertising, posters, travel, and other election expenses. The rest would go elsewhere, as I will shortly explain.
But the anti-smoking-ban candidate might not be the only candidate put up by the apolitical Machine. There might also be a stop-the-new-motorway candidate, and a Vegan-diet candidate, and a Muslim fundamentalist candidate, and so on.
And this is where it gets interesting. For not all of the money from shares would go towards the candidates deposit and expenses, but some would go into a Jackpot. And when the election had been fought, and one of the candidates had won, the jackpot (which would also contain any deposits that had not been lost) would be shared equally among the shareholders in the winning candidate.
And this would make the election much more interesting for the shareholders, because in the event of their man (or woman) winning, they would not only see their preferred candidate the victor, but would win a financial jackpot as well. For every £1 they put in, they might well get £4 or £5 back. It would be much like betting on a horse.
The effect of this, much like a horse race, would be to attract shareholders (punters) to the candidates, and bring in much more money. But, unlike a horse race, where bystanders can only cheer on their horse from the sidelines, shareholders would have an incentive to also actively campaign for their candidate, knocking on doors, distributing leaflets, talking to friends. In the closing days of the campaign, more shares would be sold, bringing in even more money to the various candidates’ campaigns – and for the jackpot.
All these various candidates would stand alongside Labour, Conservative, and Lib Dem and other party candidates. So the new, transformed political scene would look like this (the machine shareholders and candidates in black and white on right):
But apart from seeing their candidate win, and winning a bet in the process, shareholders might also have a further incentive for buying shares. And this would be found in the terms and conditions which each candidate signed up to at the outset. For these would require that, should a candidate by elected to parliament, he could subsequently be recalled by a sufficiently large fraction (say 67%) of his shareholders, should they be dissatisfied with his performance as an MP. If recalled, he would have to step down as an MP, and a by-election called in his constituency. And this would be a further attraction for voting for Machine candidates.
How might something like this ‘play in Peoria’? At the outset, probably most people would ignore the Machine candidates for an election, and carry on voting as they habitually voted – unless they were so heartily sick of party politicians that they were looking elsewhere. But there would be several advantages in becoming a shareholder in a Machine candidate. Firstly, unlike with the main parties, they would have a range of candidates from whom they could choose, rather than the one foisted on them by some party Central Office. Secondly, unheard of in the main parties, in the event of their candidate winning the election, they’d win a money bet. Thirdly, unthinkable in mainstream political parties, they could recall their MPs if they wanted to. Also, none of this would require any change in electoral law (to the best of my knowledge): the Machine would simply slot in next to currently established procedures and processes. So the Machine would gradually attract candidates and voters and shareholders, all of them glad of the improved conditions.
The big, mainstream parties (which would be unable/unwilling to give prizes or allow recalls) and their MPs would gradually be replaced by an assortment of independent MPs, free from control by party bosses. And in the process there would probably be much greater public participation, as new people set out their stall as prospective new candidates for some future election, and the currently elected MP was kept under close review. Instead of happening once every 5 years, political activity would be more or less continuous.
That’s about as far as I’ve thought. The Machine, furthermore, might actually be a computer programme, which would even-handedly receive and dispense money, and keep tallies of shares, etc, with only a small staff to maintain it. And there are all sorts of possible variations on the idea. There might also be the ability to sell shares in a candidate, so that candidates would have ‘stock market’ value. Shareholders might also be able to influence how much money went towards candidates expenses, and how much into the jackpot. They might also be able to change the terms and conditions of candidacy. And while the actual voters on the ground would have to be residents in the constituency, shareholders could come from anywhere in the world. And there could be US and German versions of the Machine for use in their elections.
It might even change the meaning of what it meant to by a “machine politician”.
P.S. Sorry about earlier posting. Hit the ‘publish’ button button by mistake.