Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Ideas for Power2010

I've been tagged in a meme by Bracknell Blogger, Dazmando.

Being a completely anti-social misanthrope (ahem) who spends far too much time hanging out online (double ahem) I'm usually disinclined to get involved in blog memes, but from what I've read of the other ideas put forward in response to Guy Aitcheson's request for suggestioned reforms I'm a bit disappointed at the lack of original thinking and the grasping for 'big ideas'.

Check out some of the different ideas on the Power2010 blog where there is a lively discussion. The deadline for submitting ideas is November 30th.

So let me start by outlining what I think are the problems from the viewpoint of someone who has been on the inside and the outside and currently hangs out on the fringes.

The main problem is a sense of disconnect between the inhabitants of our representative chambers and the general public. We hardly know who they are or what they do, and what little we do know seems designed to put most people off.

Distrust stems from incomplete and unreliable information, broken communication channels and messages which are not short and snappy or clear and complete or full and frank. Only when all the information is at our disposal can consensual adult decisions be made.

What happens in Parliament must correspond with society, our needs and our wishes if it can be expected to be representative: we must encourage accessibility and break down the barriers to participation.

My first reform would therefore be on election day at the point where decisions are made. While I would keep current restrictions on access to the polling station, I would also require a room to be set aside where literature from party candidates can be picked up and perused.

I've found it shocking that people are asking questions of tellers on the doorsteps of polling stations and making judgements without any space to make a proper decision. And as most polling stations requisition whole schools or other community buildings for the duration it is something which could be implemented at no cost.

My second reform would be to the political calendar, so people can set their diaries according to what happens. PMQ's is accepted as the highlight of the week because it occurs with unerring regularity at midday on Wednesdays. I know there are a range of events and ceremonies which take place at Parliament, and while I can say what happens at a few of them I couldn't even say with certainty when it is open.

So as a general plan I would have the parliamentary calendar correspond directly with the school calendar. This would create an intrinsic timetable to events and allow business to be conducted separately from the primarily ceremonial aspects of parliamentary life.

My third reform would be to the financing of political debate, and to do so in such a way which makes it reflect the level of service provided by the people campaigning for votes.

Currently the total amount of spending by political parties is of the order of £1 per person per year, yet we hear about the inordinate impact of donations made by excessively rich members of society who are able to decline requests to clarify whether or not they are even eligible to donate those sums!

Political funding is closely akin to racketeering at the moment and it must be put on a more equitable basis. So I think if people were aware that their votes were providing the means of financial support for that party to be successful then participation would be incentivised and made more affordable - we may have won 'one person, one vote', but we are still a long, long way from saying the contributions of all people are equal.

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I'm supposed to tag 5 bloggers, so I'll be deliberately democratic and link to bloggers representing a fair cross-section of the local blogosphere:

Freethinker Elizabeth Thomas,
atheist Steve Borthwick,
environmentalist Matt Blackall,
humorist Mr London Street,
communications expert Tim Trent.

I'll also warn them now, if they are prepared to write a post I will write a round-up collating their responses for my local blog.

I am particularly interested in seeing the different perspectives each will bring to the question.

3 comments:

Guy Aitchison said...

Interesting ideas Oran Jepan - your third idea for reforming party funding is similar to what the Power Inquiry proposed when it carried out its investigation into the sources of disengagement across Britain a few years ago.

They suggested that voters should tick a box at election time saying which party should get £3 a year out of the public purse. An alternative is to allocate state funding according to the number of members a party has which would encourage them to engage more at the local level and be more democratic in their make up.

ps -Don't forget to submit the idea on the site - the most popular will become Power's campaigning pledge for the next election:
http://www.power2010.org.uk/page/s/yourideas

Oranjepan said...

Yes, I remembered something along those lines.

I don't like the idea of allocating funding according to membership numbers because that simply reinforces the status quo.

It seems a bit of a waste of time to give voters a separate box deciding where we want any money to go because that is just a duplication of effort which undoes any connection between the process and the means of supporting the process.

I did also think about the US system of registering affiliation to parties on the electoral roll, but that seems to me to be far too rigid and hasn't impacted active participation where turnout is concerned.

mattblackall said...

i'm getting round to writing a post about this very topic, should be up soon