Politicians, listen up. Your time has come.

Last night, whilst at a performance by the Barefoot Doctor, and completely unrelated to it, though I was in a fairly open-minded mood, I had a bit of a revelation. And as my revelations go, this one’s a bit of a big one.

The problem is clear

Politicians, and by proxy, central Government, decides what they want to do and when they want to do it. Each political party has an agenda, and each one ends up doing and undoing things that have been done by those in power back through the ages. The problem with this is that we, as the electorate, have “democratically” elected a dictatorship for a government term. I’m not here to talk about any of the various voting structures. I’ve come to realise it’s not a party problem. It’s bigger than that, and it goes deeper into the fabric of what politics means in this country to the population at large.

Why no one has done anything about it is clear too – it’s such a big move, and it disassociates so much of central government in its current guise that it would mean a complete paradigm shift in the way politics is done in this country, and even possibly Europe and the World. I’m discounting that as a valid reason. Government, be it local or central, has a duty to us as citizens of this country to do right by us at all times, and to govern the country (I will come back to the specific terminology of the word ‘govern’ later) fairly. If it, or the people within it, are doing things to satisfy their own egos, agendas and for want of a better word, fantasies, then they are not fit for duty to serve us.

This leads me nicely to the electorate. If you look at voting stats every time there is a poll, or a local, by- or general election, what effectively amounts to a tiny proportion of the voting public cast a vote of any kind. Why? Any number of reasons, excuses, whatever you want to call them. Fundamentally these people are disaffected. They feel that whatever happens in Government will happen anyway, whether they vote or not, and they feel that most of what they’re told is a load of old cobblers. In truth, it usually is. Of course, there are more honest politicians and less honest ones, but as a whole, our Government is so tied up in lies it’s almost impossible to see out of the knotted maze.

In a knotted world, political solutions come with high prices

So this got me thinking. People don’t vote because they don’t think it matters and in truth it probably doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a say, and it doesn’t mean that the elected government has authority to act on our behalf without first consulting us, which they do on a regular basis. Let us boil this down to the basics needs:

  • I want to discuss things that affect me and those close to me
  • I want someone to explain to me why things I might not consider to affect me do, and what impact certain choices might have
  • I want people to be honest when they don’t know the outcome and to say so
  • I want decisions that affect me to reflect my actual needs, not those perceived by others

I can’t say I speak for everyone – I really don’t know if I do or not – but I do know that these particular truths I hold close to my chest. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Let’s see.

I do have a solution to how this can possibly happen, and it uses technology where technology is at its best – facilitating things we are doing or would like to do in a manner that makes it simple and straight forward to solve potentially big problems. We are a rather social population. We seem to love talking to our friends, colleagues and acquaintances. And for some reason we seem to like doing this on the Internet on sites like Facebook. There is our starting point. Allow people to socially discuss things that matter to them in a way that actually makes it up to the powers that be and get actioned on based on the discussion that happens. This will likely involve heated debate and people disagreeing, but if the premise is to impact on a particular issue at hand, I’m certain it will do better with widespread debate and be less fallible than if it were just debated in the Commons.

The bigger picture takes this a step further. Government should do just that – govern, not dictate. That means it should act as the checks and balances, and allow governance to happen on a much more local level. For instance, a change made in central government is going to affect people in large houses in leafy Surrey differently to those who have just lost their jobs in a mining town in the north. This debate would allow people to discuss local issues effectively, to understand the impact it might, or will, have on their surroundings and on what they know, and engage the population with what ultimately is their politics, again reverting to the truest sense of the word – a means by which decisions are made collectively.

As a truly democratic nation, the important things to the electorate, not the elected, are the things that should be dealt with. Should we have bailed out the banks rather than let them crumble and fail as we would other businesses? Personally I think no, but that’s my opinion, and I’d love to have a debate on it at a national and local level to come up with a solution that probably hasn’t been thought of yet. Technology is today allowing us to converse with our friends and even those we don’t know extremely easily. We can harness that connectivity and it can allow us to yank back power, kicking and screaming, from those who call politics a black art.

Who’s with me? This is going to be painful. It’s going to take a while. But if we put the building blocks in place, we can change not only the face of politics, but the mesh that holds it together too.

By Tomislav Simnett

Tom runs Initforthe, a software development consultancy in Manchester, UK. He's been programming for over 30 years. In his spare time, he enjoys motorbikes, skiing, cycling. He has a wife and two children, and he spends as much time not working with them, and trying to see life through the eyes of an eternally curious child.

2 replies on “Politicians, listen up. Your time has come.”

I don’t really see any “revelation” here, people have been disenfranchised with power throughout history but frankly there isn’t a better option. To say we “democratically elect a dictatorship” is absurd, try complaining about it to people in Syria or Iran!!! We operate a system of Parliamentary Democracy, we elect the members of the House of Commons, they debate the issues and then take a vote. If you want to expand democracy to it’s fullest, with the people voting on every issue, it would descend into a farce and would also cost an absurd amount of money to manage.

No political system will ever be perfect but ours is the envy of most of the world, just look at the ridiculous state of even our nearest neighbours. Most Euro governments are farcical, with the 2 traditional seats of democracy in Italy and Greece the worst of the lot. American democracy is pure business, proven by the election of George W Bush, driven only by how much money you’re willing to throw at the campaign.

I agree regarding the questionable nature of politicians, it is said that the least suitable people to govern the country are those who want to do it. The solution for me is not to change the system itself, but remove the ancient and defunct party element. There is no Labour movement or Liberal conservatism any more, merely a fresh load of public school clones every year. We should open up the playing field to whoever wants to take part, the removal of political elitism is the key for me.

Would be interested to hear your response.

Hi Andy, thanks for your reply. The revelation is really just that we now have the technical knowledge and ability to create a system whereby this can be done using social and geographic circles and pretty much everyone would have access to without it taking up vast amounts of their time and it falling into chaos.

Regarding a vote on every issue in a kind of referendum, that’s not really what I’m saying here. I’m suggesting that that majority of disenfranchised people do have things they want tackled but no one really knows how to get their voice heard without a lot of effort. You take it to your councillor or local MP who may or may not pay attention and may or may not take it to the commons, where he or she may or may not get the opportunity to present it. This enables anyone to raise an issue, and allow discussion to happen around it naturally and socially, in the same way that we do it in the pub with our friends – this just enables a greater population to talk about the same thing together.

I totally agree that we do have one of the better democratic systems in the world, but that doesn’t allow us to sit on our laurels and be complacent about it – we should strive to better that whenever and however we can, even if it’s in small steps. I do like your idea of removing the party system and allowing anyone to take part in the election and therefore government process should they desire it. It would certainly remove some of the cronyism and open up the field to people who can connect with the electorate in a real rather than forced way.

I hope that makes a little more sense. Thanks for your input – very much appreciated, and this can’t work without it!

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