Monday, 22 June 2009

Frank Field MP

I will be looking at This speech, which seems to me to be reasonable and rational. So let's tear it to pieces and see how reasonable and rational I am.

Even if the winner is not a reformer, I don't think their tenure will stop the voters' demand to be more involved. I think this is a bit naive, because demand does not translate to ability, or even to concerted or long-term demand. The bankers made a good target. Now MPs are making one.

If we swing back in time we see that the crowd always played a crucial part in the legislative process, making their views felt, long before there was universal franchise. Well, yes. In true democracies, they do. But it's not efficient. The greatest good for the greatest number of people lets some people be very miserable indeed. There are two ways a crowd can make its point felt, and one is shouting loud enough to deafen other things. (The other is by being obviously right, but it doesn't often happen.)

But political parties are now dying. Mmm. That's going to take at least another generation, if they /don't/ find some way to renew themselves. The thing about parties is that they allow filters on the voice of the outside. So the crowd roars, and MPs speak, and a very few people decide.

It's the electorate that is demanding a bigger political say than has been offered by a vote every five years in a general election. Oh, Frank. And you were doing so well. Everyone who can think knows that a general election vote is the smallest contribution you /can/ pay to politics. If you want to make a difference, there are many ways. For one thing, people in Birkenhead can write to you directly. I can write to my own MP. For another, MPs are a loud and flashy show. One person trying to influence things without money can seldom make a difference. (Seldom, but not never.) There are ways to engage with the political process that do not involve waiting five years to make one cross on a piece of paper. Many many matters are and should be dealt with at a local level. If people are demanding more, it is not up to the speaker to give it. It is up to /them/ to find out what they can do.

How many people have read the Telegraph and actually done something other than tell people how angry they are? A 5% increase in circulation and for what? The general election will roll around, and in a year or two this story will be history.

There is also a wish to have a say on who should be the candidate in our safe seats. Well, alright. Personally I don't care about the safe seats. I want to be able to decide who a party puts up in unsafe seats. Then I might actually /join/ one. But I see where you're coming from. Parties don't want to risk their vote in seats that matter. So... safe seats? Alright. I'd like to see primaries there. But I'd like to see fair open primaries that don't have prohibitive costs of entry and advertising. Perhaps I'm preaching to the converted here.

Referenda? Someone learned Latin! But no. Referenda (I learned Latin too) are a way of letting people who are not otherwise engaged shout loudly 'black' or 'white'. They are one of the worst parts of populism, because they combine the slow response of proportional representation with the idiocy of having to put a question to the lowest common denominator, and then make the answer into law. No, no, no...

...where is our vote on the Lisbon Treaty? Tony Blair had it. It's been ratified. Stuff happens. Live with it. Don't make the mistake of speaking about it in the present tense.

We will, in fact, import the Swiss system of referendums into our parliamentary system so as to give the big decisions a legitimacy which they now lack owing to the death of parties. I might /like/ parties to die, but I don't think they will. The whip system allows for a relatively binary approach to the floor. Oh, and then there are Liberal Democrats. A three-party system would be better than two, I think. But there is one heck of a lot of inertia here, and even if one party dies, that will more likely make room for another than cause the demise of their political enemies.

If Coca-cola goes out of business, people buy /more/ Pepsi, not less. Even if they know that soft drinks are bad for them. They're cheap, and they make you feel good.

I know that the pressure from voters for reform is so strong that whoever wins the Speakership will not be able to turn back the tide pushing for a greater voter involvement in how they are governed. I want to believe you, Frank. But I don't. I think you're putting on a brave face. There always has been involvement. There will be a greater delving into those ways.

At least, I hope so. Because I do not want to be in a world where I have a referendum on things I don't care about, but have to attend because otherwise it's apathy.

Last three elections, I've gone to the booth to refuse to vote. How many more times do you /want/ me to do that?

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