Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Chris Port Blog #153. A Proposal For Electoral Reform (That Has No Chance of Being Seriously Considered Now – But Give It A Few Years…)

© Chris Port, 29th March 2011

1) Abolish all political parties. They are now obsolete and have no philosophical coherence. In their place, form transparent ‘think tanks’, ‘interest groups’, ‘focus groups’ and ‘policy groups’. These should be monitored by an independent public watchdog (similar to the judiciary) to ensure that they are not ‘contrary to the public interest’ (i.e. nutters).

2) All politicians to be independents. They may subscribe to as many (or as few) groups as they wish, but must publicly declare these subscriptions together with any direct or indirect interests (e.g. financial). They may switch groups as often as they like, and even belong to contradictory groups, but must withdraw if there are any potential conflicts of interest with their public office.

3) Any person seeking to run for any public office must first pass a basic aptitude test (e.g. I.Q., basic psychological profile and trustworthiness) the results of which must be available as a matter of public record. Each candidate should receive a set minimum amount of electoral publicity through local and national websites and debate forums administered by the watchdog. Top-up funding and advertising received from interest groups and sponsors should be publicly declared and have a reasonable cap decided and reviewed by the watchdog.

4) All politicians to produce an annual policy statement for the public record stating their position on a numerical scale (say left to right, 1 to 100) on a number of key political issues and target indicators set by the public watchdog. ‘Delicate’ issues may be left suitably vague or suspended in times of crisis (as decided by the watchdog, not the government)

5) A week being a long time in politics, a politician may change their policy stance on any issue as often as they wish. However, they must immediately amend the public record and issue a public statement to that effect. If they change their position by more than a set number of points (say 5?), this should trigger either a public debate and vote of confidence, or possibly a by-election.

6) Those seeking election to Prime Minister should run for office as individuals after securing a public declaration of support from a minimum number of MPs (say at least one-fifth?). First past the post, and they should secure at least 51% of the public votes cast. If there is a schism minority result, or an unconvincing majority, then there should be provision for them to invite their main rival(s) into the cabinet in whatever backroom deals they deem fit. This revised stance could then be submitted to the electorate for approval in a secondary vote.  Politicians being independent, the Prime Minister should be free to appoint a cabinet of all the talents across the political spectrum.

7) A continuous ‘vote of confidence’ website to be administered by the public watchdog whereby voters can update their approval/disapproval of the government’s performance on key political issues and target indicators. If ‘no confidence’ ratings enter a ‘red zone’ (say 60% of the electorate) then this should trigger a parliamentary debate. The government should seek to persuade both MPs and the electorate of the wisdom of their ‘there is no alternative’ stance . If it enters a ‘crisis zone’ (say 70% of the electorate) then this should trigger a general election.

1 comment:

  1. It should be remembered that democracy is not a 'natural' state of human affairs. Athenian democracy was an experiment in direct democracy. However, it actually excluded the majority of the population, relied on militarization and slavery, and only lasted a couple of hundred years before being disrupted by oligarchic revolutions and repressed by another state.

    It would not be feasible to operate anything like a direct democracy on a national scale. Therefore, the most democracy we can realistically attain is some form of representative democracy. The main problem here is to ensure that political representatives genuinely represent the interests of their constituents, and may be ejected from office in a timely manner if they disappoint. The killer question is - what is a timely manner?

    Good leaders at the cutting edge of realpolitik sometimes have to make 'tough decisions' on complex issues which cause hardship to the electorate. Quite frankly, many consumer-brainwashed voters are stupid, cowardly, selfish and gullible. In times of crisis, they are easily beguiled by snake oil merchants and panicked into fascism.

    Popularity is not necessarily the wisest way of running a democracy. Sometimes good leaders need the time and the power to do the right (but unpopular) thing. Falsifiable wisdom is the key ingredient for any successful democracy. We don't have anything like wisdom at the moment. So wisdom would be my first priority. If we're unwise, we won't survive. And if we don't survive, the rest is academic.