Open Letter to Brian May
I saw your campaign, and I am very interested in it. I see something promising. I am sure you have a lot of mail, but please hear me out. Because I have the answers to the problem.
The basic problem is that ordinary people don’t have to interact with politics more than once every few years. And even then, they aren’t making decisions. They are a step removed from that — they choose people who can make decisions. We need the following reforms:
1) Strong “NOTA”. Without the ability to say no to all the presented options, the ability to say yes to one of them is a rather coercive form of democracy at best. Being able to reject all offered candidates means that even in seats where no “protest” candidate comes forward, voters have a reason to vote. In addition, the risk of being voted less preferable to a tub of lard means parties will improve their game and naturally try to present candidates that appeal to more of the public in general, rather than just “more than the next guy”.
2) Voter recall of MPs. Unlike the proposal doing the rounds a few months ago, we need to be able to recall our MP for any reason or no reason at all. All that should be required is a no confidence petition signed by the majority of constituents. Because the MP is there to represent not party donors, not the party, and not themselves — they are there to represent the constituents. This recall would also ensure that if the popular consensus does shift, the MPs in parliament will continue to represent the majority interest within that constituency. A recent BBC article shows that this inevitably shifts over time, and away from the ruling party. Vote recall will prevent the worst extremes of that.
3) Referendums. Britain has had two referendums total (three, for Scotland). Last year, Switzerland had 12; California had 8. But their referendums differ not just in quantity, but on what they vote on. Our referendums were essentially votes on how we choose the people who vote on issues. The referendums in Switzerland and California were directly on the issues themselves, and were binding. That’s the kind of referendum we need, and the quantity we need, if we are to engage ordinary people in politics on a continuing basis. By having everyone be a potential decision-maker, you break down the “us vs. them” barrier in politics.
4) Proportional Representation. I’m not sure what the best form is here, but something is needed. Whatever is chosen, it should be something that does not make it harder for an independent to become an MP; party politics is already overwhelming and stifling of dissenting opinion. To address one specific counter-argument, yes I know if implemented tomorrow it would mean UKIP would be vastly stronger represented than under FPTP. However, UKIP’s rise to the extent it has is actually a symptom of a dysfunctional voting system. Both radical and reactionary parties will rise from time to time, and the thing that curtails their rise is when the dominating parties take note , take them seriously, and engage those who would support them, either to take up those policies or to convincingly explain why those policies were dumb. UKIP grew so large unchallenged because it had not grown large enough to threaten seats, so no parties engaged (either for or against) the points they were making.
5) More local government power. Yes, devolution would be a good idea (I think the UK should be re-framed as a federal state). But more important, county and borough-level powers should be increased, so that local government can provide an entryway for people to get a taste for politics without needing to up sticks and move to London. The present system means that very few opportunities for involvement in politics exist at a local level, which effectively excludes many people who might otherwise be excellent politicians from discovering they can do good in it.