Now that Steve from Make My Vote Count has read my article properly (and he admits that he didn’t read it properly the first time – I’d say perhaps in a half-arsed manner?), he has given a more robust response.
I do understand his points. I did put a further in, but it takes them a long time to get round to approving posted comments. It might appear tomorrow.
One part of his piece that I did think was a good idea was this:
Anyway, i’d rather have a system that flips yours on its head, where popular impact is felt at the stage of policy formulation and debate, with the public acting like an expanded legislature. This creates a better politics because politicians have better, or at least more informed, policy options to choose from. And the public can’t simply complain of having legislation thrust upon them from above, as fellow – arbitrarily chosen – citizens have had a role in formulating it. Such a system still manages to retain a clear line of command, where ultimate responsibility for decisions lies with (relatively) transparent, accessible and public individuals who are ultimately (and most importantly) accountable for their actions to the electorate.
Yes! A ‘citizens jury’ which can go through upcoming legislation and ask questions or suggest changes. Sounds fantastic. It’s supposed to be how policy is formed in the Labour Party (policy forum meetings for members discuss various options and they get passed on and debated by delegates before being presented to Conference).
January 26, 2007 at 00:52
Sounds suspiciously like ‘consultation’ and we all know what sort of reputation that has!
In the original post you are not talking about governing by referendum, and obviously know all the pitfalls of that – its just that if you read it too quickly thats what it sounds like. Which might explain some of the response you got.
I think its impractical for many reasons, and wouldn’t fancy the government having a database of exactly what I think on everything – if they want to know they can read my website 🙂
But I like the idea. The subtlety is that it is so unlikely enough people would vote to really affect anything. The danger is that it would become just another source of statistically invalid propaganda.
How on earth do you hold MPs accountable for their voting record if they can just make it up and not be proved wrong?
Nothing wrong with impractical ideas if they stimulate a bit of debate which may or may not lead to either a conclusion or even just a better sense of what the requirement is.
In this case you could end up exploring the pros and cons of MPs getting an idea of public opinion in their patch before they vote. They can still stick to their principles even if they know everyone is against them – but at least they would know.
I thought the response you got with the suggestion that MPs’ own votes should be secret was hilarious! Imagine an unpopular bit of legislation. You would get 50 MPs voting against it and 500 claiming that they were one of the 50 in their newsletters. You know how about 10,000 people claim they were at the Sex Pistols concert at the Manchester Free Trade Hall… it would be like that.
January 26, 2007 at 20:06
I have to say I do think I could have written a better piece. However, I had made several drafts, and I didn’t want to go into boring detail about how the idea would work.
It was also intended to provoke a bit of debate as much as to promote a single idea. And in that, I am happy that people have expressed their own opinions, if only to show that some people clearly have a problem with democracy (and who suggested tests for voters!)
The idea of using a similar mechanism simply to give MPs an idea of local opinion is not a bad one. However, I suspect that the most motivated people would be the ones who are ‘against’ what they perceive the MP’s position to be, and so every MP would face a poll suggesting that they are wrong on most votes.
Secrat ballots for MPs was so funny though. You could elect a Tory MP who always secretly voted with Labour and never know!
I’m sure I remember seeing you at that gig at Manchester FTH, I was the one in the pram. 🙂
January 27, 2007 at 02:33
“The idea of using a similar mechanism simply to give MPs an idea of local opinion is not a bad one. However, I suspect that the most motivated people would be the ones who are ‘against’ what they perceive the MP’s position to be, and so every MP would face a poll suggesting that they are wrong on most votes.”
I was going to say that, but it seemed so obvious 🙂 Also that in many cases only those against something (whether they think their MP is for or against) are motivated enough to do anything.
January 27, 2007 at 10:31
Just in regard to comments on the MVC blog. I’m actually on my Jollies at the moment, so thats why its so slow. I’ll endeavour to try and get round to it over the weekend though. If the Polish Vodka doesn’t get in the way of good intentions.