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.
A poll tax to run for office! Incredible all we have is the filing fee.
deposit of £500 before they can stand, and they will lose this deposit if they gain less than 5% of the votes cast
Yes. That’s how it is over here. And has been for a very long time.
Down south it use to be when somebody was running for office especially sherrif they had a big cookout and free beer and food,with a band and speeches by all the political candidates running. Dont see that much anymore though. But it sure got the voters out especially dumbocrats,they always show up for a free meal and a beer/Pint!
Penalty could keep smokers out of health overhaul
WASHINGTON (AP) – Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Barack Obama’s health care law, according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation.
The Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” to its detractors — allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.
For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.
Younger smokers could be charged lower penalties under rules proposed last fall by the Obama administration. But older smokers could face a heavy hit on their household budgets at a time in life when smoking-related illnesses tend to emerge.
Workers covered on the job would be able to avoid tobacco penalties by joining smoking cessation programs, because employer plans operate under different rules. But experts say that option is not guaranteed to smokers trying to purchase coverage individually.
Nearly one of every five U.S. adults smokes. That share is higher among lower-income people, who also are more likely to work in jobs that don’t come with health insurance and would therefore depend on the new federal health care law. Smoking increases the risk of developing heart disease, lung problems and cancer, contributing to nearly 450,000 deaths a year.
I guess there gonna just lock us all up thru the IRS as they have enforcement over obamacare! They billed it as affordable NOT! Its been a massive fraud from the start,they simply wanted to take over all the healthcare industry,not insure the poor as they said.
And, up in Oregon, they have legislation craftily worded and now under discussion that, if passed, would make anything containing nicotine on par with that of heroin and proscribe the same type of heinous penalties against anyone in possession of tobacco as those possession heroin.
Here is the link, it’s a real law and it’s under consideration currently in the state of Oregon, to turn tobacco and e-cigs (non-pharmaceuticals) into the same status as heroin possession:
“Directs State Board of Pharmacy to adopt rules making nicotine
Schedule III controlled substance. Provides for phase-in of
penalties by board.
Creates crime of unlawful possession of nicotine, effective
until rules adopted. Punishes by maximum of one year’s
imprisonment, $6,250 fine, or both.
Creates crime of unlawful distribution of nicotine, effective
until rules adopted. Punishes by maximum of one year’s
imprisonment, $6,250 fine, or both.
“(4)(a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (b) and (c)
of this subsection, a person commits the crime of unlawful
possession of nicotine if the person knowingly possesses more
than 0.1 milligram of nicotine.
(b) Paragraph (a) of this subsection does not apply to a person
who possesses nicotine obtained directly from or pursuant to a
valid prescription or order issued by a practitioner as defined
in ORS 475.005 while acting in the course of professional
“(a) Bringing, or causing to be brought, into this state from
without this state tobacco products for sale, storage, use or
(b) Making, manufacturing or fabricating tobacco products in
this state for sale, storage, use or consumption in this state;
(c) Shipping or transporting tobacco products to retail dealers
in this state, to be sold, stored, used or consumed by those
(d) Storing untaxed tobacco products in this state that are
intended to be for sale, use or consumption in this state;
(e) Selling untaxed tobacco products in this state; or
(f) As a consumer, being in possession of untaxed tobacco
products in this state.
There’s more at the site, including them relating use of tobacco, especially if by a minor, on the same level as forcing them to take harmful drugs or exposing them to harmful sex acts or inducing them to gamble – they are making tobacco and nicotine in general (except for Big Pharma nicotine) – nearly defacto illegal with God like powers given to the government to enforce anti-smoking arrests, by brute force, if necessary.
They’re turning it into the equivalent of back in Al Capone days when the FBI, IRS and ATF had nothing better to do than go around busting up stills and knocking down doors of speak-easies, where alcohol might be being consumed – or so now, it seems.
For Oregon thats nothing new,they had the same law in effect back in 1900-1918 then repealed it as nobody was abiding it anywhere.
Meant washington but of no matter both states had the same law
Good ideas, Frank. As a reformed gambler, I wouldn’t be interested in that aspect, but the overall idea sounds nice and possibly workable. I was quite excited reading it. The recall idea is very good. Anyone could start off with just an idea and be able to gauge its popularity: test the market, so to speak.
I was thinking of any negatives and one such is that the main parties might insist on joining in if it becomes too popular for their convenience (perhaps a distant worry). a) More money would be raised for them and they’d get (even) more coverage and b) people might put money on the Lab rat, the Toe rag or (if desperate enough) the Dim Lump just to try and win some money. (That might be the people who gamble on the national lottery because they want to help charities. *Cough*)
It’s not an immediate concern, like I said.
A more immediate concern would be something like a number of islamists actually being elected this way, although they might already all be members of “Respect”!
Would the forming of parties be against the rules? What about alliances between candidates in different constituencies? Sorry. More questions than answers at this stage! Nice idea, though.
I was thinking of any negatives and one such is that the main parties might insist on joining in if it becomes too popular for their convenience
My belief is that people largely vote for these parties out of habit. When I used to vote Lib Dim, it was largely habitual (until pretty well all the LD MPs voted for the smoking ban).
What I would hope would happen would be that politics would become ‘popular’ and interesting in a new way, and change its whole nature, and change the nature of the politicians who got elected.
Would the forming of parties be against the rules? What about alliances between candidates in different constituencies?
I think the ability to recall would be the only rule. I think that, once in parliament, politicians would naturally form alliances. I think that is bound to happen. And this is how political parties get started. So it might well be that, while the old parties might vanish, entirely new parties might appear.
I rather like this idea, while it has the downside of attracting a number of cranks most of them would be weeded out by the voters. It would also have the benefit of breaking the current stranglehold of the major parties.
As for aliances they would i think tend to occour where two or more ‘politicians’ are elected with similar manifesto’s creating a scenario where two or more MP’s would work together on one project yet still be free to oppose his or her partner on another without party considerations. This would of course lead to a bit of horse trading on policies depending more on constitutional issues than on party doctrine which I think would be win/win for the electorate.
As for aliances they would i think tend to occour where two or more ‘politicians’ are elected with similar manifesto’s
Yes, I think alliances would be bound to form. But as you say, MPS who were allied over one matter might be at odds over another. I think that for a political party to form, there must be broad agreement over most matters.
UK Triple dip recession looms as GDP shrinks -0.3%
Fears that the UK was heading for a triple dip recession were heightened as the UK’s GDP plummeted by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2012.
Production industries were down by 1.8% while the services sector was flat, although the construction sector grew by 0.3%.
The economy was “close to flat”, according to the Office for National Statistics.
ONS economist Joe Grice said: “The mining and quarrying sector was seriously affected by extended and seasonally late maintenance to the North Sea oil fields – that effect reduced the estimate of GDP by about 0.2%.
“The economy was probably, in underlying terms, close to flat. It extends the pattern that we’ve seen now for some time of a bumpy economy but on a rather sluggish trend.”
However a Treasury spokesman said the news was not a surprise:
“The official forecast was that the UK economy would contract in the last quarter of 2012 so this figure is not unexpected. It confirms what we already knew – that Britain, like many European countries, still faces a very difficult economic situation.
“It underlines what the Chancellor said at the autumn statement and the governor of the Bank of England said this week: while the economy is healing, it is a difficult road.”
Federation of Small Businesses London chairman Steve Warwick said:
“It is disappointing this latest set of figures shows a dip as the economy finds it hard to maintain momentum with the Olympic effect fading. The pattern of recovery has been uneven and marked by ups and downs. External factors have added to the uncertainty, meaning confidence remains fragile and rebalancing the economy is taking longer than expected.
“FSB research showed that small firms are slightly more confident going into 2013 than they were going into 2012. Growth has been forecast in the year, but still below long-term trends. What we need to see is the Government continue with reforms to encourage investment in the economy and to ensure the UK has the flexibility required to take full advantage of the recovery when it comes.”
But other experts warn that the fall was inevitable due to the waning of the Olympic boost the economy. Graeme Leach, Chief Economist at the Institute of Directors, said:
“You can’t see the road ahead through the rear view mirror. The GDP fall was largely attributable to the unwinding of the Olympic effect and so the underlying story is that output is flat. The critical factor is not what the GDP figures did in Q4 but what the broad money supply figures will do in Q1. If the recent slight pick-up in money supply growth can be sustained, the UK economic outlook in 2013 will be better than people expect. So hold back on the doom and gloom.”
This comes after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg admitted the coalition cut infrastructure spending too deeply when it came to power.
Speaking to the House Magazine, he said that infrastructure investment was needed to foster recovery.
“If I’m going to be sort of self-critical, there was this reduction in capital spending when we came into the Coalition Government,” he said.
Following the news, RBS said the UK has had the weakest levels of GDP, with the exception of the World Wars, “since before Victoria ascended to the throne
This would give me the opportunity to launch my party.
Anti Regulatory Social Engineering (Party) anagram meant!
The government Body heard a new A.R.S.E was forming
The Whole body politic was laughing
The A.R.S.E. said laugh as you may but I will be in control and soon
So the A.R.S.E. shut down
The arms of government went weak and trembled
The Cleggs/Legs of government buckled
The brain center at Cameron went cloudy
The eyes of Government went blind
The whole body of government conceded to the A.R.S.E
The Morale of the A.R.S.E party is, you don’t have to be an A.R.S.E to control Government but it helps!
If the people shutdown,so does government.
The rise of a pseudo-scientific links lobby
Every day there seems to be a new study making a link between food, chemicals or lifestyle and ill-health. None of them has any link with reality.
Since this article was written, another ‘link’ has appeared: ‘Childhood asthma “admissions down” after smoking ban’, reports BBC News on Monday. Before his death in 2005, aged 92, Professor Richard Doll was critical of the extension of the causative link he and Hill had established between cigarette smoking and lung cancer to claims for diverse adverse effects of passive smoking – mainly on the grounds that the association was so weak. Yet, since the bans on passive smoking, statistically feeble associations have been mobilised to claim the benefits of reduced rates of passive smoking on various conditions, including heart disease – and now asthma. But we all hate smoking and smokers, so once again science is casually sacrificed to propaganda. See Christopher Snowdon’s critique of this study.
Anyone want to construct their own English Smoking ban Catastrophe?
Prepare to be ostracised, all you smokers of England
11 Jun 2007
“The organisation Ash hopes that four million people, or almost 40 per cent of smokers, will stop because of the ban.”
Smoking ban spurs 400,000 people to quit the habit
Quitters face an almost doubled risk of developing diabetes in their first three smoke-free years.
“In the first three years after giving up, new quitters were 91 per cent more likely to develop diabetes.”
Silent Killer: Big Rise In Diabetes – 2008
“There has been an alarming rise in the number of diabetes cases in the UK – prompting a stark warning from health experts.
The number of people suffering from the condition rose by 167,000 since last year, bringing the total number to 2.5 million.
The latest increase is more than double the 2006 to 2007 rise of 83,000
In England, a 6.4% increase means the number of people with diabetes has passed two million for the first time.”
Of course I don’t believe it any more than I believe in the English Smoking Ban Asthma Miracle but it is an interesting correlation if we assume that the figure of 40,000 quitters is correct.
I spotted that one the other day when we talking about the subject.
Rose you always pull the rabbit out of the hat,you have such a deviously lovely mind I admire it!
In the first three years after giving up, new quitters were 91 per cent more likely to develop diabetes. This decreased over time and after 12 years quitters had no excess risk.
Extra weight put on by new quitters explains around a third of the increased risk, the researchers said. A further third of the excess risk is accounted for by systemic inflammation, as assessed by increased leukocyte counts.
I always viewed anti-inflammatory effects of smoking with a little caution. This study, however, INDICATES the requirement of further, independent, investigations.
So, in the event of deciding to bow to ASH et al, people must be made aware that they are 91% more likely to develop diabetes than people who continue to smoke.
What is the cost to the NHS of the (mostly LONG TERM) treatment of diabetes? The anti-smokers lament the cost of treating so called “smoker’s illnesses”, which, incidentally, do not exclude non-smokers, don’t they?
Before Diabetics will start to criticize – as a tax payer I have no problem with the taxes I pay being used for treatment/research of treatment for diabetics; quite the opposite! I gladly buy more tobacco!
But it is not asking for too much for being treated as a VALUABLE HUMAN BEING. I resent, as a PAYING customer, being TOLD (!!!) to STAND OUTSIDE.
Frank, you did forget one thing; how about adding the possibility to each tax payer of disliked lobby groups being excluded from their contributions? Just tick a box on a form; e.g. ASH – strongly denied.
We would be a happier society; ASH et al would still open anti-smoking pubs which would never be filled to capacity but serves to keep the “moaners” away from people living their lives; Vegan restaurants/pubs would attract likewise; and so would smoking-allowed pubs.
At the end of the day everyone has to make a living; Go with the times and ACCEPT necessary changes. Am I wrong to say that in this current economical climate we do need change in order to revive the places hard working people can relax IN?
Rose, yet another gem. You truly are the Linkmeister! :)
As I’ve remarked before, my father developed diabetes round about the time he gave up smoking.
Big Banks Have Criminally Conspired Since 2005 to Rig $800 Trillion Dollar Market
Posted on July 2, 2012 by WashingtonsBlog
… But Receive Only a Light Slap on the Wrist
We noted Friday:
Barclays and other large banks – including Citigroup, HSBC, J.P. Morgan Chase, Lloyds, Bank of America, UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland– manipulated the world’s primary interest rate (Libor) which virtually every adjustable-rate investment globally is pegged to.
That means they manipulated a good chunk of the world economy.
We actually understated the impact of the Libor scandal.
Specifically, according to the CIA’s World Factbook, the global economy – as measured by the world’s gross domestic product – is less than $80 trillion.
In contrast, over $800 trillion dollars worth of investments are pegged to the Libor rate. In other words, a market more than 10 times the size of the entire real world economy is effected by Libor.
As the Wall Street Journal reports today:
More than $800 trillion in securities and loans are linked to the Libor, including $350 trillion in swaps and $10 trillion in loans.
(Click here if you don’t have a subscription to the Journal).
Remember, the derivatives market is approximately $1,200 trillion dollars. Interest rate derivatives comprise the lion’s share of all derivatives, and could blow up and take down the entire financial system.
The largest interest rate derivatives sellers include Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman and JP Morgan … many of which are being exposed for manipulating Libor.
They have been manipulating Libor on virtually a daily basis since 2005.
They are still part of the group of banks which sets Libor every day, and none have been criminally prosecuted.
They have received a light slap on the wrist from regulators, which – as nobel economist Joe Stiglitz points out – is just the cost of doing business when fraud is the business model.
Indeed – as Bloomberg notes – they’re probably still manipulating the rate:
The U.K. bankers and regulators charged with reviewing Libor in the wake of regulatory probes are resisting calls to overhaul the rate because structural changes risk invalidating trillions of dollars of contracts.
The group, established by the British Bankers’ Association in March after probes into allegations that traders rigged the London interbank offered rate … won’t propose structural changes such as basing the rate on actual trades or taking away oversight of the benchmark from the BBA, the people said.
Libor is determined by a daily poll that asks banks to estimate how much it would cost them to borrow from each other for different timeframes and in different currencies. Because banks’ submissions aren’t based on real trades, academics and lawyers say they are open to manipulation by traders. At least a dozen firms are being probed by regulators worldwide for colluding to rig the rate, the benchmark for $350 trillion of securities.
“I don’t see a significant enhancement to the reputation of Libor without basing it on actual transactions,” said Rosa Abrantes-Metz, an economist with Global Economics Group, a New York-based consultancy, an associate professor with New York University’s Stern School of Business and the co-author of a 2008 paper entitled “Libor Manipulation?” [the manipulation was well-known in England in 2007, Shah Gilani warned of Libor manipulation in 2008, and Tyler Durden, Max Keiser and others started sounding the alarm at or around the same time.]
“It would only be disruptive if current quotes are inaccurate,” so resistance “is suspicious,” she said.
Traders interviewed by Bloomberg in March at three firms said they were given no guidance on how Libor should be set and there were no so-called Chinese walls preventing contact between the treasury staff charged with submitting the rate and traders who stood to profit on where Libor was set each day. They regularly discussed where Libor would be set with their colleagues and their counterparts at other firms, they said.
“Sadly the response looks to be very consistent with the response of policy makers to the banking disasters we’ve seen over the last four years — cosmetic changes, but nothing substantial happens,” said Richard Werner, a finance professor at the University of Southampton. “It’s insufficient and doesn’t really go to the heart of the problem.”
P.S. Sorry about earlier posting. Hit the ‘publish’ button button by mistake.
It was pretty obvious but it made me laugh.
You do know this guy Jacques Tati?
Ha! Thank you Brigitte for that little vignette of the 60s. Although I’m familiar (from somewhere. I know not where) with the name Tati, I can’t recall ever having seen any of his work. That video clip was wonderful, and I will seek out more. Lovely! Evocative of a cultural era!
But to return to Frank’s OP.
Probably one of the best ideas I’ve encountered for reform in this area. Simple. Effective. Easily implemented. Naturally there will be areas which have to be defined and refined, as already pointed out, but the basic idea is really a workable solution. With a little fine tuning to deal with the practicalities, it would be a truly empowering (for the voter) system.
The only real problem I see is that TPTB would do all in their power to make sure it could never happen. because it would take the power out of their hands.
nisakiman, I did associate Frank with this 1950s genius Jacques Tati; in the opening sequence it shows what a single (albeit duplicated) action of law can do to interrupt.
Frank highlights a lot of these!!!
P..S. Sorry about earlier posting. Hit the ‘publish’ button button by mistake.
Taking your idea one step further on Frank, I’ve often thought, in this Internet age, that I’d vote like a shot for any candidate who put in place an online voting procedure for their constituents where by the constituents, and not their party (if they had one), told them how they were to vote on whatever issues were before them in Parliament even if – and this is the most important bit – they bitterly disagreed with it. The site could lay out the bare bones of the options available – the smoking ban, for example, IIRC, was a vote for a total ban, a ban with exemptions or no ban at all. The MP would have the opportunity to put their point of view – let’s say that they thought that the evidence for passive smoking was overwhelming and that the ban was a jolly good idea – to try and persuade their constituents to “allow” them to vote the way they wished. But if the poll showed that, regardless of that, most constituents wanted the MP to vote against the ban, then that’s the way they’d have to do it whether they liked it or not. This could be the main ticket, for example, of one of your Machine candidates who had thrown their hat into the ring.
Clearly there’d have to be some safeguards – making sure, for example, that only the MP’s own constituents voted, and that each person was only able to vote once (because we all know only too clearly the astroturfing tactics of single-issue pressure groups like ASH, don’t we?) So maybe there’d have to be some kind of automatically-issued password which interested voters would have to apply for, and which could only be used once in each online poll. But I can’t see that that would be that difficult in this computerised age. The main disadvantage would be that people who weren’t on the Internet probably couldn’t be included (and I can’t think of a way around that one, I’ll grant you).
Clearly, there’d be some issues (like the smoking ban), which would accrue more votes than perhaps some of the rather more turgid items which MPs have to vote on. But so be it – if people aren’t particularly interested in a certain issue, then by not voting they’d be indicating that they were happy for their MP to make their own minds up on the issue. It would have the dual benefit of making the public take some responsibility for the decisions which were made (because they couldn’t then complain if they didn’t like what happened as a consequence – it was their decision, after all!), it would also hopefully make people more engaged with and interested in politics generally (because they’d feel that they were being listened to for a change), and it would also force MPs back into the role of public servant, where they belong, rather than self-appointed ruler, where they have latterly placed themselves.
And I don’t believe the argument which I just know would be the MPs automatic one – that people would only vote for the things that made life easier for them, like voting against tax increases or against spending cuts or for a cut in working hours. Switzerland, a country which uses referendums on a regular basis to gauge public opinion, has often found that the public – far from being the self-oriented sheeple that MPs in this country try to make out that they are – often show a remarkably high level of common sense and altruism when voting on matters which would seem, on the surface, to be against their own immediate interests.
Oh, and the results of each poll would have to be made freely available to anyone viewing the site, and the deal would be that if any MP dared to vote against the wishes of the majority of their constituents, as indicated by the poll, then they’d have to stand down and make way for another, more obedient public servant to take their place.
Like you, Frank, I often muse on these things in quiet moments … :)
What you’re proposing would really mean the end of parliamentary democracy. Your MPs would serve no other purpose than acting as a conduit for their constituents wishes, and they might as well be replaced by computers, and everyone given a direct parliamentary vote, with the middle men, the MPs, removed.
I’ve occasionally thought about this, but it always looks a bit alarming. It might be described as mob rule. It was tried in Athens circa 400 BC, and it seems it wasn’t a happy experience.
My proposal leaves the present state of affairs unchanged. It just bolts onto the front end another way for parliamentary candidates to be generated. The recall option is a condition that comes with using the proposed new method, which draws upon the power of the internet to raise funds (to pay a deposit and buy publicity) from a large number of people (shareholders), with these shareholders demanding the right to recall their MP. I think that if they also demanded the right to decide how the MP should vote on any and every matter, nobody would want to be an MP.
In my scheme, the recall option would be the only power the shareholders would have, and only over their own MP. It would still be possible for MPs to be elected without recall, if they were wealthy enough to fund their own campaigns.
I think that what you’re suggesting is the same as the shareholders in a company demanding that the members of the company board of directors do exactly as the shareholders demand. The shareholders become the board. And instead of there being 10 or 12 directors, there would be 17 million of them (or however many shareholders there might be). I don’t think a company run by 17 million directors would be likely to make astute business decisions.