Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Fed up of tribalism in politics

There is much wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth* on the ineffectual nature of politics and politicians in the current general election, with the newer thrusting parties like the SNP, the Greens and UKIP (there's an unholy alliance) blaming the old guard and the Westminster elite.

Actually, I'd suggest that most of the problems with politics are caused by tribalism, and nowhere is tribalism stronger than amongst the likes of the SNP, the Greens and UKIP. They aren't the solution, they are even more dramatically more of the same.

I suggest it's time to redesign parliamentary democracy for the 21st century. After all, we don't do medicine the way they did back when Parliament was establish - why should the democratic processes stay the same in an internet interconnected world?

Here's a few suggestions:
  • MPs become solely local representatives. Their full time role is helping their constituents.
  • As well as a local MP, we vote for policies, which have to be fully independently costed before the election (it may be better for there to be a rolling set of policies with 'NHS week, defence week, education week etc. to avoid overload)
  • Each policy has a champion who is not an MP but an expert in the area, whose role after a policy is adopted is to manage it into practice using the civil service.
Of course there is a lot of detail you could moan about. For instance:
  • How would you balance the economy if people could vote for any old policy? Clearly you couldn't expect it just to happen by osmosis. There would have to be a balancing mechanism where you could only change policy to one that costed more if other changes enabled funding to be released.
  • But what if people voted for a policy that is bad? Erm, this is democracy. The most contentious issue is with things like the death penalty and ring-fencing the aid budget, where the 'elite' generally has a different view to the larger populous. The line between democracy and mob rule is an interesting one. I'm really not sure about this one, as I'm with the elite on both those examples, but I don't think it highlights a problem with my suggestion, but rather a problem with democracy as a concept.
And there will be lots of other picky details. Well, of course. This is a fuzzy handwaving idea, not a proper proposal. You wouldn't expect to sort out politics in half an hour. But I still think that this is the kind of radical re-think we need. Anything else is just tinkering.

* I can't type 'gnashing of teeth' without retelling the old Ian Paisley joke. 

Paisley is preach hellfire and damnation and tells his audience that when the sinners among them go to hell there will be a wailing and a gnashing of teeth.

'I'm sorry, Mr Paisley,' says an elderly lady from the audience. 'But I have no teeth.'

'Teeth,' responds Paisley firmly, 'will be provided.'

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