godricgal: (Default)
[personal profile] godricgal
Is anyone else super excited about the election? We only become a democracy every four-five years, and I've been practising my Xs for the last five years, just waiting to make a difference.

Honestly, I didn't think I'd feel like this because representative democracy is outdated and, in my view, undemocratic in and of itself, as the only representation our representatives make is of their own party policies, or, very rarely, their own personal views, with little or no deference to the majority view of their constituents.

This discussion at the BBC is almost overwhelmingly populated with comments from people who feel disenfranchised from the political process, who not only want the government to listen to them, but want to have a direct influence in what happens in our country. In short, the consensus seems to be that the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland want a change to a participatory democracy.

I could go into this forever, about why these demands are being made now (widespread access to the Internet and a better and more widespread standard of education since the last major overhaul of democracy in 1928 are the key points, I think) but there are two important things to consider.

Before I go into that, I will preface it with this: there are plenty of people out there who say they will not vote. These are generally made up of two sorts of people: those who profess not to care about politics and those who say there is no difference between the two main parties. The former group are being lazy -- they'd all care if their benefits were cut or could no longer see a doctor without paying for insurance or proving their ability to pay ahead of time; the latter group are surely prime supporters for a system of participatory democracy.

Important thing number one: The Tories, in their manifesto, are alone among the three main parties in making moves towards such a system. They don't go nearly far enough, but such a change cannot come overnight and we're not quite ready for such a system to be made formal (mostly pending Universal Access). Their draft manifesto includes pledges to make any ePetition that gathers more than 100,000 signatures eligible for debate in Parliament, and allowances for any that has more than a million signatures to have a bill tabled by a member of the public.

Important thing number two: The Labour party downright dismiss the idea of any move away from representative democracy: "We operate a representative democracy, and so the Westminster Parliament, must remain at the heart of this country’s governance," says the Labour Party website, on the topic of modernising democracy. (Just to make the point clearer, the use of ICTs only get a passing mention in this document and refer only to eGovernment, which is nothing to do with democracy -- the ability to buy one's tax disc online has no bearing on anything other than convenience, and the large majority of the use of eGovernment systems is to make it easier for the government to administrate, and (this last point is my opinion but I believe it's true) the large majority of that is to make it easier for them to know when we're doing something they believe is wrong -- i.e. it's a revenue generator. Also, why would they explicitly make this point if they did not feel threatened by a large movement for change?)

Representative democracy is a system that was devised for the representation of the people in a time when it was impossible for the general population to be responsive, a time when it could take days for a message to get from one end of the country to the other. It was the best they could do at the time, but it is not the best we can do now, far from it. So it is ridiculous for any party to talk about modernising democracy without capitalising on the Internet and its potential for acting on the will of the majority, which is what democracy really means. The raw fact is that the will of the majority is only exercised every four or five years. Gordon Brown and the Labour Party do not want to share the power of government with the people.

Opponents to such a system argue that the general population is not well enough informed to have direct influence over government policy. Patronising much? Not to mention the fact that it is often the bestowing of responsibility that prompts responsible action, and clearly never, in the history of humanity, has there been a greater tool for access to information than the Internet.

Low turn out to the polls is almost universally attributed to voters feeling that their cross in the box does not mean anything, that it will not change anything. Participatory democracy solves that and the Internet facilitates it. It's obvious, surely...?

It's not that there aren't barriers to such a system, but total reform cannot happen overnight -- it's a paradigm shift, massive social change, but that does not mean we cannot aspire to it, or should dismiss it as too big a change. Ironically, one of the biggest failings of democracy is that change is impeded by the almost constant change in government. And there are interim measures that could be taken without great constitutional change that will give ordinary people direct influence in Westminster. And I will spend the next few years proving that. ;)

In the meanwhile, I'll enjoy the anticipation of doing my bit for democracy, such as it is, on the 6th of May.

N.B. I am obviously a supporter of the Conservative Party, but I have been very careful in considering the policies of the three major parties in this argument. The reason the Lib Dems haven't got a mention is because they do, predictably, focus on PR in their talk of political reform. The truth is that, once a true system of participatory democracy was enacted, party politics would, in the end, become defunct - what I'm interested in is who is most likely to initiate such a system.

Anyway, that's my piece for tonight. I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to keep quiet throughout this election, but I will put everything under a cut so those who'd rather not read can just pass over.

Date: 2010-04-07 08:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patriot-jackie.livejournal.com
Please don't keep quiet! :D I want to read about y'all's election!

I find it fascinating that the people of both the UK and US feel a similar sense of disenfranchisement regarding their respective governments. Over here, it's led to talk, opposed and in favor, of a "Third Party," though nothing will be viable for our 2010 elections. Your proposed solution is much different and further reaching than that, if I'm understanding it properly!

When you say "participatory democracy," is that the same as "direct democracy?" Meaning the people, not representatives of the people, vote for everything? Total majority rule, in other words, and giving up on the Politician? Or do you mean an abolishment of the Party System?

Date: 2010-04-07 11:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
My view is that simply offering up a bunch of people with different policies as an alternative to the existing parties is not going to be enough to solve the problem because it's not so much the parties that are broken, but the system. Voting for the guy with the slickest election campaign, kisses the most babies and sits on the most beds for a sympathetic chat with the most NHS patients is not going to lead to change. That's been proved again and again and people just don't buy it any more. The government are unresponsive, they don't listen. The Internet makes it possible for all those with access (and we have a Universal Service Commitment to make broadband available to all homes by 2012) to give their opinion at the click of a button without even having to leave their homes - armchair democracy. So why should people be satisfied with the current system? Technology has moved on but democracy has stagnated.

In addition to that, in voting for a particular party, one has to accept that a vote for them is a vote for all their policies, and so the choice becomes a case of who you agree with most. Even then, election manifesto pledges are broken and governments table bills and cook up policies that were never even whispered about at election time. Where's the democracy in that? We should be voting on single issues, and we need to have a mechanism for determining what those issues are so that we don't simply end up voting on what the government wants us to vote for.

Academics seem to use 'direct democracy' and 'participatory democracy' interchangeably. I prefer the latter term because it implies that it is inclusive, and pervasive in society. I would certainly suggest getting rid of the party system before we lose the politician - let them run as people rather than cogs in the party machine. We do need elected representation, if only for the sake of representation to foreign governments, international industry and supranational bodies.
Edited Date: 2010-04-07 11:05 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-07 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patriot-jackie.livejournal.com
Obviously I'm sympathetic to your plight, which almost describes the situation over here. Lucky for me, I live in Texas, so there are a few places I do feel represented. However, even considering my bad representatives, I fully support the notion of a Democratic Republic, like we have here.

My question on Parcipatory Democracy is by what mechanism are the rights of the minorty and the rights of the individual protected from the Majority? - And yes, it is irritating to consider the minority when even the majority is ignored. But it is fundamental to consider. - We have our Constitution and our limited government. A nation of laws rather than a nation of men, as John Adams put it.

Having representatives affords professionals who can devote their time to governance. On the flip side, it provides an avenue for professional politicans. But there is a lot that government does that I think requires professionals. - Not elitest representatives, but people who do not have other jobs and daily responsibilities, at least for specified periods of time, so they can devote the proper amount of time to governing. - You have a busy life, and so does everyone; you undoubtedly have several key political issues you always keep abreast of. But there are also other issues you're not as informed on by the simple fact that there is so much.

Our founders believed that a democracy would always lead to tyranny, because there is no mechanism to protect the individual and the minority; I have to agree with them. What protections would you propose?

Edit: Uh... The icon is just humorous admiration of Thomas Jefferson. Not a "You suck!" call out. ;)
Edited Date: 2010-04-07 04:58 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-12 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
My question on Parcipatory Democracy is by what mechanism are the rights of the minorty and the rights of the individual protected from the Majority?

This is a tricky issue, and I certainly don't have a satisfactory answer to it. Ultimately, I think the answer lies in society and progressive change in attitudes. In the last three hundred years, we have seen periods of rapid social change. The perception is that it has never been quite as rapid as it has been in the late 20th/early 21st centuries, and whether that is true or not, is open for debate, but I certainly think it is reasonable for those of us living now to feel that way when most of us remember life pre-Internet and our parents remember life pre-television. This, I think, leads to an expectation that change should be immediate, or if not immediate then apparent within the terms of a single government administration. This, I think, is damaging, because it fails to take into account or plan for long-term change.

In searching for a solution to a problem, it seems the answer is either found in the radical change we expect to have immediate results or the change that does not go far enough for a failure to have a long-term vision.

In short, I think part of the solution lies in engendering an increasingly liberal society which understands the value of diversity and becomes sympathetic to the varying needs of the individual. My belief is that we are heading that way in the UK and that there is a general swing towards and attitude of fairness for all*. I may be wildly optimistic there, and I know we're a million miles away from a Utopian vision of equality, but I do think the wind has changed in the direction.

I believe in a self-determining society, but at the moment, I fully support the need for representative to, not oversee, but mediate the governance of the country. I do have a model for an interim model of governance that I think will manage to satisfy the need for great change whilst maintaining the comfort of the boundaries of the current socio-political paradigm. I wish I could share it with you, but there is the possibility of publishing a paper on the subject in the near future, so I'm going not going to go into it at the moment.

Suffice to say that the large part of my Ph.D thesis is going to focus on how to include all section of society in a participatory system and how technology can be utilised to help ensure they have access to non-partisan information to empower a move to self-representation.

I'm not sure that's answered your questions, lol, but I hope it's of interest. :)

* By this, I'm not alluding to communist values, but recognition of a need for greater equality of opportunity, meaning that if people are willing to participate in society, the rewards are open to them in measure to the effort they put in.
Edited Date: 2010-04-12 12:22 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-13 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patriot-jackie.livejournal.com
I agree with your assessment of immediate expectations. In the case of the US, it took us 100 years to get to the point we're at, so it's going to take a similar length of time to reverse course. I hate being patient, though!

In short, I think part of the solution lies in engendering an increasingly liberal society which understands the value of diversity and becomes sympathetic to the varying needs of the individual.

I know "liberal" has variable definitions depending on who's saying it, from which country, and even which time period. If you're talking "liberal" in the old definition of essentially libertarian values, then I'd agree. "Liberal" in the sense of... well, political liberals, well... I laughed. 'Cause they're for giant government! And the larger the government is, the smaller the voice of the people. The roles of government are considerably different between our countries, but that's a constant truth. I'm assuming socially liberal?

In either case, I think your hope is essentially that society as a whole, with all the exposure it has to world via technology, will evolve to a place where direct representation is a viable form of government. Did I get that right?

If so, I'm more pessimistic than that. lol It sounds too close to utopia to me: people, while generally good and compassionate, always have their selfish qualities. I love the idea of Star Trek's futuristic government, where there is no money and all people work towards the betterment of society, but I don't think humankind will ever reach that level of enlightenment. I think we'll always need stated restraints, and a separation between direct representation.

But it's always worth exploring!

That sounds awesome about the paper. :) If you do end up publishing it, I'd love to read it!

Date: 2010-04-13 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
I hesitated over the use of the term 'liberal' in my reply, knowing that you'd probably have something to say about your definition of the term!;) But it is the word I meant and did quantify it enough for you to assume I mean socially liberal. It doesn't have the same meaning over here at all, not even in political terms. (Same with 'Conservative' as we have discussed before.)

I think your hope is essentially that society as a whole, with all the exposure it has to world via technology, will evolve to a place where direct representation is a viable form of government.

In a sense, I suppose, but that is over-simplifying it. My research indicates that low voter turnout is not because people don't care about what happens to us, but because the system puts such a wide gap between the citizens and the political 'elite' - people don't feel like they have a place in the system and so either they have let politics go on without them, or they don't vote because they don't think it'll make any difference who is in power and find a choice almost impossible to make. Re-engage people - give them responsibility - and we will start to reverse that...To what extent, I don't know, but a swing in the right direction is very likely.

Collective activity and expression of opinion is evident all over the 'net and not just among those who consider themselves politically active -- and perhaps not in big ways, but I believe it's an indication that people do have opinions, informed or otherwise, that they want to communicate. Just look at all the Facebook groups protesting about this or that - it's collective action that is not organised by the state or any official body, just by ordinary citizens who have an opinion to express.

That people seem to want to do this is Important Point Number One.

Important Point Number Two is that the opportunity exists to channel this desire for expression into a format which results in action and results in attention, for now, at the highest levels of government. If people believe they are being heard, they will be more likely to speak.

In being given the opportunity to speak and being asked for their opinion, people are all together more likely to equip themselves with some knowledge of what they are engaging with. Obviously, the Internet is the best tool we've ever had for this - the biggest and best library in the world in (potentially) every home.

Of course, this doesn't apply to everyone, and it's not going to happen overnight, but I do believe it is a scenario of social development which fits within the known patterns of human behaviour.

I am over-simplifying it, too, because there are other factors which will have an impact on the level of interest and activity people have in the political world.

Date: 2010-04-18 05:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patriot-jackie.livejournal.com
knowing that you'd probably have something to say about your definition of the term!;)

lol Of course I couldn't resist! ;D

My research indicates that low voter turnout is not because people don't care about what happens to us, but because the system puts such a wide gap between the citizens and the political 'elite'...

I'm reminded of the old adage about leading a horse to water. This could be said of many Americans, too. Recently I've tempered my opinions of those who do not vote. - But then, there's a very real difference between standing by one's principles and apathy. At least in America, apathy, not principles, is why many citizens do not vote.

Our govermental structure is very much bottom to top. Votes for local governmental offices "count more" than those for State and National, and local governments have more direct influence over lives than the Federal or State. Yet commonly, the voter turnout is less than 10% for these elections - and that's a high turnout rate. Special elections occurred just Tuesday, and they were expecting a grand 2% in Dallas.

All this to say that even when here we have "more" representation available to us, it still doesn't goad people into action. Local government is far easier to affect change within, far easier to find a neighbor with good ideas to run.

Y'all's situation is different to be sure, and probably a change like your proposal would inspire folks to do their civic duty. But then people grow accustomed to it and take it for granted...

I think, for both of our countries, this is the absolute root of where all the issues arise. If the people are lazy or apathetic regarding their self-governance, then the people allow their government to carry itself away. Then you have not only the issue of a run-away government that feels unaccountable to an apathetic people, but also a people in civic atrophy upon which the burden is squarely laden to correct the government's ways.

it's collective action that is not organised by the state or any official body, just by ordinary citizens who have an opinion to express.

Ahh, sigh. I wish our President would respect that very American ideal. (Not that it is American only, but free expression we pride ourselves in as a natural right.) In a way, Conservatives are reaping what we sowed, but it's a little different when the President scoffs at and demeans the People's free expression.

Date: 2010-04-13 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
people, while generally good and compassionate, always have their selfish qualities

True, but let me tell you a story and then I will make an argument.

Imagine a nation stripped of all its laws; imagine that the people of that nation were asked to vote on new laws -- which to amend, reinstate or create.

Revelling in their new power, the people of A Nation decide to abolish tax. Cue parties on the street, celebrations as pay checks are delivered, untouched by taxation authorities. The party continues for several weeks before the rubbish begins to build up in the streets because the bin men are no longer making their rounds; the hospitals are shut because they have run out of money for wages and supplies; public transport grinds to a halt after the loss of government subsidies.

So the good people of A Nation decide to reinstate tax. In short, they learned their lesson.

An extreme example used to demonstrate a point, but a useful thought on civic responsibility, I think.

Do I expect people to become less selfish the moment they have the power to make more decisions about the running of the country? No. Do I expect them to start to think more deeply on the issues put in their hands? Yes. And that is enough to start with.

What it requires is experimentation. Within the framework of the current political system there is the opportunity to invite engagement in a manner which simulates the possibly workings of a partially participatory system of democracy. It's frustrating that I can't talk about it, but I am hoping that by the end of the summer there will be a paper and a prototype and then I will tell you all!

Date: 2010-04-18 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patriot-jackie.livejournal.com
Truthfully after digging into economic policy deeper, I cannot support tax cuts unless it’s part of a comprehensive strategy that includes drastically cutting spending. … Well, I could if the tax cuts were designed to increase revenue and bring business to our shores, but that’s another discussion.

I don’t want to tease you about your paper! (You have made me oh so curious, though! I eagerly await the end of summer!) But I will say this about my hesitations regarding Democracy: In a participatory democracy, the people are the ruler, and therein lies the problem I see.

We can look back in history time and time again and see the failures of governments past. Tyranny, anarchy, despotism, kingships, empires… They all have one thing in common: over time, they become corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it’s played out in history for us all to see. No one should ever be surprised when a government, even a good one, goes bad. Corruption is a facet of governance because we are human.

When a representative government goes wrong, it is up to the people and the rule of law to sort out the mess and replace those leaders with worthy ones. But what happens when the people, who are the government, become corrupt?

I figure that this is the reason why our founders, who are, to be sure, 200+ years deceased, have several quotes regarding democracy being more bloody than any despotic regime.

In my line of work, I constantly tell people that previous performance does not guarantee future results. But I have to say that there’s not a solitary form of government that hasn’t been corrupted. I guess it all circles back to my original question of the minority and individual: when those rights are lost, that’s when the trouble always sets in.

I figure, considering your research, that you've probably considered this. But I'm still a skeptic! ;D

Date: 2010-04-07 08:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katyscarlett76.livejournal.com
We've discussed politics before and I know our political viewpoints are completely different and I like that, a good civilised intelligent dicussion is just what I need to help me understand my own views better :)

Having said that, I do agree with you on this. I'm passionate about people using their vote and using it wisely. I just don't understand people who don't vote and always do what I can to persuade the people around me to vote. But I do think that the system at the moment puts people off. The reports in the paper this morning that 25 million of us live in constituencies with such safe seats that our vote is vitually worth nothing is depressing and that needs to change otherwise people will never feel like it's worth voting.

I also think we need some limits on power, 12 years is too long for one group of people to remain in power. It's human nature that power corrupts and we should have some limits to stop that. The American system has it's own problems but I do think the set election times with the limits of two terms for presidents is a good thing. My childhood/teenage years were lived under the Conservatives (I was 20 in 1997) and my adult life so far under Labour so I've seen what more than a decade in power has done to both parties, neither can claim the higher ground and I do think we should limit it.

Anyway, I look forward to your future election posts! (How's Final Year going btw? Dissertation stress hit yet? I remember spending the Easter Break of my Final Year camped out in front of my computer!)

Date: 2010-04-07 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
a good civilised intelligent dicussion is just what I need to help me understand my own views better

Amen to that. :)

The reports in the paper this morning that 25 million of us live in constituencies with such safe seats that our vote is vitually worth nothing

Add this to the discrepancy in the sizes of constituencies, even discounting the quality of politicians for a moment, it's no wonder people feel powerless.

I think we've talked about limits on power before, but I agree with you. A swing of power between the left and the right is one of the checks that keeps us moderate. And as you say, power corrupts, the result being stagnated poison in the halls of Westminster. They begin to think they can do anything, and yes, we've both seen it with both parties in our lifetimes. Argument enough to get rid of this government, in my view. I don't care if it's only for four years, at this point, but we need fresh blood and a little bit of time to swing back from this large, unwieldy government that Labour have built up over the last decade and a bit.

Final year is going very quickly, lol. Project hand in date is the 8th of May (I'm planning to finish a few days early so I can stay up all night on the 6th ;)) and my perception is that I'm behind, but I think everyone probably feels that way. Some genius set another coursework hand in date for the day before our project due date, so I'm actually more worried that, and at least I'm enjoying my project. ;) Anyway, at some point between the 20th of May and the 4th of June, it'll all be over! Thanks for asking. :)

Date: 2010-04-07 09:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladybracknell.livejournal.com
I've no time at all for people who don't vote. It's always been my opinion that regardless of how little you agree with the three main parties, it wasn't that long ago that people died to earn you your right to vote - not to use it is grossly disrespectful of them. I'd be in favour of making voting compulsory, like it is in Australia - and there's no way to tell how that would affect things - but I do agree that political reform has never been more necessary than it is right now.

I look forward to more political posts - I'm a natural Lib Dem, so with you in the blue corner, Katy S batting for the reds and me wafting about in yellow it could be interesting :D.

Date: 2010-04-07 12:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
There's something about the idea of compulsory voting that I find uncomfortable. Yes, it may deliver a solution to the problem of low voter turnout, but there is something undemocratic in and of itself in saying, "On this date you must present yourself in this place and put a cross in a box - you will participate!" It's something I keep coming back to and keep rejecting because I don't think the benefits out weight the imposition of making it law. The problem isn't the electorate, anyway, it's the system of government -- making everyone turn up to the polls every four years isn't going to change the fact that that is the extent of their participation in the system, is it? It's a tricky one because I want everyone to turn up, too, I would rather they did so because they felt they could make a difference.

The Lib Dems have a couple of policies that preclude me from even considering them. It's a shame because I quite like their people now and they have some very sensible policies on HE that I like a lot.

Edited Date: 2010-04-07 12:47 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-07 08:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gilpin25.livejournal.com
All you need now is for me to declare my allegiance to the Monster Raving Loony Party, and we'll be able to form a perfectly representational parliament between the four of us. ;)

Less flippantly, my feeling with this election is that, much like the American one, the majority of people seem to want change. At least in theory we do, but after all the uproar with the MPs' expenses and suchlike, where all the parties emerged with very dirty washing, it's not as though any party is standing out as whiter than white here in the Trust Us With The Country stakes. When Tony Blair first got elected, I certainly don't remember so much talk about votes not making any difference back then. People were keen to get out and vote and bring about that change (I wonder if they rue that now;)). It feels almost as if we desperately want a change in government again, but are frightened of the consequences if it happens and it isn't for the good.

We're in a very safe Tory seat here, so you could argue it's a foregone conclusion and not worth putting a cross on the paper, whichever way you want to vote. But that's apathy of the worst kind to me, and I think it has partly been brought about by people feeling disenfranchised from the political system, as you say. But not voting isn't going to change the system; at least doing so might begin a change in the right direction.

I'm not sure I'm as excited about all this as you, lol, but Mr Gilpin and I are currently debating being vote counters for the Council. We did it for the last election and it is quite exciting: the MPs usually come in to see how it's going and stare fixedly at you, and it finishes at about three in the morning, with fingers firmly crossed that you're not the poor sod who can't get their total to balance and forces a recount!

Date: 2010-04-07 08:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrstater.livejournal.com
I think you need to be a vote counter. Just think of the community vote at Meta, and how I'm always getting it wrong and you're the one who sorts it all out. What would England do without you?

Date: 2010-04-07 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gilpin25.livejournal.com
It's very well paid, much better than Meta rates. ;) The snag is it can literally go on all night if there's a big turnout, then Mr Gilpin has to do a normal day at work on the Friday after no sleep. But it was fun to be involved and see what goes on, and I wonder if my fingers still remember how to count at speed like an ex-bank clerk another four long years on!

Date: 2010-04-11 03:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shimotsuki.livejournal.com
Good for you and Mr G! My grandmother used to volunteer with the Board of Elections, but I think it was to help check that voters were registered (and hadn't already voted yet, lol) rather than for counting votes. One year there was a snowstorm and they sent a police car to take her to the polling place, and she talked about it for months afterward. ;)

Date: 2010-04-12 12:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
When Tony Blair first got elected, I certainly don't remember so much talk about votes not making any difference back then.

Of course, part of the problem is that Cameron's Conservative Party have the appearance of running off the back of the relaunch of the Labour Party as seen in 1997. Back then, Blair promised great change and in that time, people don't seem to have registered much of a change, yet they gave him another chance, and then another, still without much of a result and Cameron's new Conservatives is suffering for that, because they've been duped by before and, to add insult to injury, Conservative and Labour politicans alike are tarred with the brush of MPs' Expenses.

Individual politics aside, this government has been in power for far too long. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" has rarely been so apt in the history of democratic Britain, and it's time to flush out those who have become used to power and bring in some fresh blood whose arrogance hasn't had a chance to mature to the rotting stage just yet.

I'd really love to become more involved in the election, but as my project is due in two days after the election, I just don't have the time, but I reckon you and Mr. Gilpin should go for it. It's not often we get the chance to dance in the corridors of democracy, after all. ;)

Date: 2010-04-08 10:35 pm (UTC)
sea_thoughts: (Thoughtful - helensheep)
From: [personal profile] sea_thoughts
I'm equally unimpressed with all three parties but I will still go out and cast my vote anyway, because so many women fought and even died for this right that I think it's wrong for women to refuse to do so.

I will continue to read your election pieces with interest.

Date: 2010-04-13 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
I'm equally unimpressed with all three parties

As are many people, myself included, for the most part. Which is why single issue politics makes sense! One of the many frustrating aspects of the party political system is having to align oneself with one party or another. I am a true Conservative in that I despise big government in favour of social responsibility, but I disagree with many of their actual policies. I could never vote Lib Dem because I don't want the EU to be anything other than a trade organisation -- in that capacity, it is absolutely necessary, but there it should stop. But if I could vote for the Lib Dem's higher education policy, the Conservative's democracy policy and Labour's...oh, there was something I agreed with them about, but it escapes me just now ;)... then we'd be getting somewhere, don't you think?

Date: 2010-04-14 03:31 pm (UTC)
sea_thoughts: (Thoughtful - helensheep)
From: [personal profile] sea_thoughts
It would be nice if you could vote for ideas, yes. I would like less government intervention but I can't bring myself to vote for the Conservatives. :/

Date: 2010-04-11 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shimotsuki.livejournal.com
I'm woefully ignorant about British politics[*], so I found this very interesting -- thank you. For one thing, I am seeing that terms like "liberal" and "conservative" may not exactly translate between the US and the UK, because when I first read that it was the Tories who have come the furthest toward internet-based accessible politics, I had a moment of shock -- I could never see the US Republicans being out in front of the crowd on something like that...

Two things made me curious after reading this. First, I know that e-democracy is something you care passionately about. But is this a big issue for the average voter in the UK? Do you think the Tories' position on this will attract a lot of attention and support? It may be hard to tell, because as I understand it the pendulum is likely to swing their way, anyway.

Second, some US states such as (famously) California have a system of "ballot initiatives," where (as I understand it, at least; my state doesn't have this system) new laws can be added to a ballot and passed by the electorate in a general election. But the problem is, since these ballot initiatives don't go through the legislature -- where as gridlocked and stifled by special interests as they may be, at least the legislators (or their staffs) understand the process of writing legislation -- the BIs often don't work as intended, or they open legal loopholes, or they end up being unconstitutional and getting struck down by the state's supreme court anyway. So my question is, if an entire nation were to move toward direct democracy or internet voting on every issue, what would ensure that the parts of government that actually need to be run by specialists would still be?

[*]My ignorance of British politics has been abating slightly recently, as I've started reading The Economist, which my guy subscribes to. So now I know about the invisible middle class, and Thatcher's program with the council houses, for example. ;) The issue that just came today has a feature on the three main parties and the election, and I will certainly be reading it -- now maybe with more interest than I would have otherwise, because I've seen people I (e-)know discussing it!

Date: 2010-04-12 11:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] godricgal.livejournal.com
The first thing to know in comparing British and American politics is that "conservative" and "liberal" are terms which do not equate across the pond. Not helped by the fact that our right-of-centre party is called the Conservative Party, which is actually probably slightly to the left of your Democrats, lol.

My research indicates that eDemocracy is something people are thinking about, even if they don't know the term very well, they do want to communicate their opinions online and are frustrated that, when they do, they are not listened to by the government. My research is somewhat skewed by the majority of participants being middle class, but there are other indicators that I can't quantify, but have observed that suggest people from all walks of life are using the Internet for political communications and value its importance.

I think what is clear is that it is people want a more responsive government, and a willingness to engage with the public through eDemocracy is going to have some sway, I just hope the Conservatives make a good bit more of it in their campaign.

As I mentioned in my post, one of the things the Conservatives are proposing is that any ePetition receiving more than a million signatures can be the subject of a bill tabled by a member of the public, which is not dissimilar from the BI system which you mentioned. We currently have a system for 'member's bills' which are bills tabled by individual MPs and which are notorious for having a low priority on the House of Commons agenda, so there is the risk that public bills will have an even lower priority, but we'll have to see. I don't see this as immediate change and I'm happy to see things moving in the right direction.

Sorry...accidentally pressed the comment button before I'd finished!

...if an entire nation were to move toward direct democracy or internet voting on every issue, what would ensure that the parts of government that actually need to be run by specialists would still be?

There is much that I think the government has no business sticking its oar in. Most cabinet ministers do not have direct experience of the sectors they are running. Rarely has the Minister for Education ever been a teacher, or the Minister for Health ever been a doctor or a nurse. This is illogical to me - and they so frequently go against what what is said by the professional bodies for these sectors - it is arrogance to the nth degree. So why not give autonomy to professional bodies? They are the ones trained and experience in their sectors, after all. The officials in these organisations are currently elected by their members, but there is the potential for widening this, so that they are elected by all stake holders. While we're back to elected representatives, I think that electing on a proven track record in a particular profession is different to electing politicians, and it has the potential to be much more based on merit. The other big difference in electing to a professional body is that it is almost always an individual that one is voting for, whereas in politics, while it might be, in principle, an individual candidate who is getting the vote, most people cast their vote based on the politics and policies of the party they represent. Not sure that answers your question, but ask away if there is something more particular I can elaborate on.

If you want a few pointers on where to look online for more info on the election and/or British politics in general, just shout.
Edited Date: 2010-04-12 11:24 pm (UTC)

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