A proposed solution to political parties

There are tiffs all over the place, even on my site.

The issue at my place is over women bishops. If the CofE did not have a hierarchy with power positions, this dispute which has caused such ill-feeling would never have happened. If there wasn’t an UMP, then we’d not be seeing Fillon act like a child over there and set up his own version of the party in the assembly.

We would not have had the wets and the dries, the true conservatives and the pink-tories. We would not have had issues in 2006 with people aspiring to “run” a blog group. OoL these days runs as a blog, not as a group and so the question never arises. We would not have a Cameron v UKIP stand-off.

The essential problem with parties, as you well know, is that there is no way, the bigger the party and the more political or religious it gets, that it can encompass every viewpoint. So it writes a manifesto, a policy document but most would disagree with at least something in there. More often than not, the whips and the conscience vote take care of this.

Then there is the ministerial collective responsibility, i.e. ministers are expected not to shoot their mouths off outside the cabinet room and even there it is dangerous. So constantly, members of groups and parties are faced with decisions of belief and conscience. In religion, e.g. the women bishops thing, it is vital that people act according to conscience as that is the whole point of the church.

In a party in power, it is more incumbent on members to comply, to toe the line, to show a united face, even if that face is not what they believe in. Was there ever anything more ludicrous than that? The solution, of course, is no parties, that MPs are elected on the strength of their stated policies and possibly their association with a point of view. For example, a Christian need not be part of another’s church to broadly agree and support the other.

The notion of a hierarchy though, an oligarchy, handing down what someone should think or directing how someone should vote, is anathema to me. The notion of tribal voting is a good reason such people should not have the vote or to be slightly more democratic, have a lesser vote. So the ignorant would be guaranteed one vote, someone who can show political understanding via a test gets two and someone sitting the full exam gets three – something like that.

IMHO, the prestige of being, say, an Immortal who has passed the exam or perhaps a Journeyman who has passed the test, is something interested people would be proud of. It might well get people to come up to speed on their knowledge of nation and politics. Always supposing that there is zero restriction, plus only a nominal admin cost, then it is democratic by its own lights. It does not exclude people except on knowledge.

Perhaps there can be a fourth category – someone who has earned a qualification in some field of work and has been in it for X years, plus the political diploma on top of that. From this group would come the parliamentarians and only the qualified would get to be candidates in the elections.

There would be a leader of the house, elected by the house and his/her job would be to ensure the functions of State ran, e.g. defence, benefits for the rigorously defined deserving, diplomacy, the police and other matters like that. Who would that be? The one most MPs wanted. That still doesn’t mean one or two artificially opposed parties, one blue, one red.

Legislation? Electronic black boxes of course, in the homes of Journeymen or Immortals. For the One-voters, they’d need to get down to the local council office and cast manually or via touchscreens. Any issue at all for parliamentary discussion would be posted online for people to access should they wish and the electoral commission’s job would be to keep that running, with arguments also included for people’s perusal.

The date and time of the passing of the bill, the deadline, would be onscreen and at the deadline, the votes on that issue electronically calculated. The results could be grouped. For example, if 75% plus approved, then it would be incumbent on the parliament to take it onboard, if 50-74%, then it would require parliamentary discussion and a vote, if less than 50%, then it would be up to MPs if they introduced it.

Bills could be introduced by the Immortals out in the community, which gives the ordinary people access to a say more immediately than with an MP. There’d be time set aside for constituency business in parliament, i.e. the MP would introduce something pressing from his/her constituency, on the basis that if it fell into certain categories, it would just be carried.

There’d still be a speaker, the Queen would still call on the Leader of the House on issues she wished to be informed about or to tell him about.

The thing is – we don’t need parties to do this. Sure people tend to associate and collude and might even call themselves conservatives or workers or whatever but it is not recognized as such in the parliament, even if they sit together. There could even be a simple rotation mechanism for where people sat, i.e. every six months, they’d move along ten places – whatever.

Party costs, e.g. advertising, nominating PPCs etc? The former is up to the individual MPs, the latter is a nominal fee, non-refundable, e.g. £50. All nomination etc. is done via the blackboxes. Cost of airtime.

Instability? Overturning of legislation? Something law one day and not the next? It need not be so if there is a drawn-out process where laws are added, not at Nu-Labour rates but maybe twenty bills a week. After all, the parliament is taking care of much less business now.


Next: A humble proposal for getting parliament in order

3 comments for “A proposed solution to political parties

  1. Greg Tingey
    November 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    “For example, a Christian need not be part of another’s church to broadly agree and support the other.”
    Try a Wee Free a (Dominican)Catholic & a Quaker, then!

    What utter tosh.

  2. November 27, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Nigel Sedgwick posted this comment at my place and as it’s relevant, I asked if I might post his solution here:

    James asks: “How would you do it, Nigel?”

    Well, firstly, my analysis of the problem is different. The primary problem is not the existence of political parties; that is only a secondary or tertiary problem. In so far as it is a problem, what is required is a weakening of the influence of political parties – particularly the larger ones. It will not be possible to do away with them; nor is it really desirable. They are, after all, just examples of political cooperation and compromise between individuals – taken to an undesirable extreme by central control.

    The primary problem (the one that I think James seeks to address) is that the universal franchise, as introduced between 1918 and 1928 in the UK, has been overdone. As (maybe) pointed out by de Tocqueville and/or Tytler, and paraphrasing somewhat: if you empower politicians unrestrictedly to put money into the pockets of those who vote for them, it will go there – and eventually in spades.

    My suggested improvement (a solution being too grand a word for anything in politics and government) is to return to a bicameral parliament through a fully elected House of Taxpayers, where electoral votes for that House attach to each pound of tax paid by each citizen, rather than to the existence of each citizen.

    There should remain, election of MPs to the House of Existence by the concept of one citizen, one vote; this is because it is necessary. Money is not everything, but it is quite important – more important than recognised by the current electoral system.

    I propose this, rather than the ‘ranking’ of electors by intellect, achievement, hard work etc. This is because that approach is impossible to do fairly and objectively. It would lead sooner to corruption of the system. My recommendation has an implicit negative feedback for ‘higher’ taxpayers. They may have more voting power than lower taxpayers, but if they use it to vote lower taxes for themselves, they will lose that very power to the extent that they abuse it.

    My proposal is not a return to plutocracy; nor is it some sort of elitism. It is an acceptance that the current franchise has gone beyond reasonable balance: when much that government does is concerned with such a large proportion of the economy, it must be accepted that there needs to be better balance between the influence of those who pay and those who receive (and most of us do both, though in different proportions).

    As some might know, in the UK, the current House of Commons is an excellent basis for the House of Existence; reform of the House of Lords (fully elected and with reinvigorated authority equal to that of the other House) would be a very good way of getting a House of Taxpayers. And, largely if not totally, this takes nothing from citizens – it gives more to nearly all of them – if not equally, IMHO equitably.

    Given these two Houses in a truly bicameral parliament, and the natural opposition of funding versus expenditure, my view is that the contention should lead to sensible compromise, in which value for money becomes a major issue – along with long-term economic growth.

    Thus the dream of James’s ‘Immortals’ (with their apprentice ‘Journeymen’) and Plato’s ‘Philosopher-Kings’ is replaced by the reality of balanced self-interest: between the politicians (as chosen) by and for their favoured constituencies.

    Such a scheme is realistic, not idealistic. I would like to think it might last three generations – before familiarity and consistent attack weakens it into too much corruption. That is a similar lifetime and state of our current ‘democracy’ since the (then much favoured) concept of the universal franchise.

    This is, as several might know, not the first time I have proposed this: democracy, the next level.

    Best regards

  3. November 28, 2012 at 8:32 am

    This all looks like good sense and is a really good argument. I do think Greg makes a good point and you maybe gloss over the possibilities there will also be points where they are just not in broad agreement over.

    But I don’t think that is really a deal breaker against your argument anyway. Elected politicians would either agree or not, they might try to argue each other around to a position both could put up with, in the end the vote would be what counted and they wouldn’t be being controlled and compromised by some puppet master.

    Your post kind of reminds me of posts I read about new constitutions I have read that wanted to give the citizen more power to vote laws.

    I also think Nigel has a good point. I guess it fits with the old saying about he who pays the piper getting to call the tune. Though he dismisses it I think I would be in favour of some people having two or three votes, depending if they passed an exam, or served in the armed forces or emergency services and maybe based on age also. Something like that and carefully thought out.

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