Peter's Ponderings

On May 6th 2010 the good people of Bradford East got the opportunity to elect me to be their MP.

The result was this: 237 intelligent, insightful, forward thinking revolutionaries quite liked the idea. 40,220 didn't (philistines!) Another 25,000 couldn't care less either way (sluggards!)

This was my campaign site - my opportunity to get my ideas & my name known. The campaign has finished but the material is too good to waste (even if I do say so myself). So here it is for posterity, along with some post-election thoughts. I'll also add the occasional other relevant article so maybe consider subscribing or checking back regularly.

Hope you enjoy it and if it gets you thinking about how you'd like your say again in how our country is run, I'll consider it a job well done.

BETTER THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW?

posted 28 Apr 2016, 20:47 by Peter Shields   [ updated 28 Apr 2016, 21:37 ]

These are your EU leaders - the ones who implement EU legislation and determine budgets. You don't know who they are, what they stand for, and what they stand against.  But they've got to be better than the politicians we know & hate, right?

The People's Republic of EU

Some facts:
  • They are elected by no one.
  • They are amongst the most highly paid politicians in the world €240,000pa + allowances.
  • They receive a handsome pension (currently worth €60,000pa after 5 years in office ... oh, but they can forfeit it if they say anything "disloyal" to the EU).
  • Upon leaving post they receive a "transition salary" of 40-65% for the next 3 years whilst they "look for other work"!!! (Not usually a problem because they're typically shoe-horned into other EU posts or senior exec posts in large corporations). That's £400k unemployment benefit!

Looking down the list of past & present UK commissioners you'll find a list of election losers, disgraced politicians and even people who have never been elected to any public position, anywhere, ever! And don't forget, like all EU civil servants they are immune from prosecution for misconduct in office, for life!

I wonder what first attracted our politicians to the unelected, handsomely rewarded, unaccountable, highly powerful position of EU commissioners?!! Wouldn't it be great to give these people more power & influence in our national affairs.

What first attracted you?


Politics and God Don't Mix

posted 10 Jun 2010, 07:07 by Peter Shields

Wrong!

And if you've enjoyed watching this fascinating lecture on "The Lost Art of Democratic Debate" then you'll agree that grappling with moral values & principles are intrinsic to democratic debate and justice.

Which is why these events organised by the Christian Institute should prove to be helpful & informative.  Click on the banner to see if there's an event near to you.

Wayne Grudem + The Christian Institute - June 2010

The Lost Art of Democratic Debate

posted 10 Jun 2010, 04:24 by Peter Shields   [ updated 10 Jun 2010, 07:46 ]

If the 'art of democratic debate' conjures up images of the shameless, debauched slanging matches of the knuckle-draggers who appear on Jeremy Kyle, Jerry Springer et al, then listening to Michael Sandel (teacher of Political Philosophy at Harvard) should be a breath of fresh air!

He reminds us of a world where things like justice, morality, principles & purpose are grappled with.  Sounds heavy, but it's actually a very easy, entertaining listen.

If you can't see the video below, click here.

And There's More

posted 5 Jun 2010, 19:46 by Peter Shields

It appears that along with the observations I've already made about the Conservatives getting on board with many of my ideas(!), and about the existence of a Direct Democracy politician in Sweden, there is a growing global movement for Direct Democracy already happening.

There's a huge list of Direct Democracy related links to be found here, but below I list a couple that might be a good introduction to what is going on. It's really quite interesting  (or am I just an anorak?!):
  • There's the well established Swiss model of doing democracy - and highly enviable it is too.  If this doesn't kill most of the arguments against Direct Democracy then probably nothing will!
  • The "Interactive Democracy" blog covers all sorts of topical, democracy-related ground ... and is probably what I'd aspire to have this site evolve into if I had the time or inclination!
  • In "Peter's Policies" I've already mentioned Participatory Budgeting and how it's spread from Brazil to parts of the UK.  Fascinating to hear about Direct Democracy actually working and how much better it's results are.
  • In "Peter's Policies" I also mention the two trial UK 'Virtual Parliaments' that are already up and running on Direct Democracy principles - here and here.
  • Closer to home, there's the more eccentric but still informative Movement for Active Democracy, by a fellow Direct Democracy candidate in this years General Election.


It's Catching!

posted 5 Jun 2010, 19:26 by Peter Shields   [ updated 5 Jun 2010, 19:43 ]

I'd already noticed that the Conservatives were pinching my ideas for their manifesto.  So I wasn't surprised when - rather pleasingly - they announced their referendum on electoral reform and a whole raft of measures to restore many of our civil liberties.

But I was quite shocked at just how blatantly some influential Conservatives were going to steal some of my more radical proposals!

The newly launched "Direct Democracy UK" promotes the idea of localism and participatory democracy within the United Kingdom.  There really are some quite radical ideas.  And whilst I wouldn't call them truly Direct Democracy, they are major steps in the right direction of decentralising power and restoring it to the people - where it rightly belongs.

The ideas seem to be a distillation of the contents of their book, "The Plan - 12 Months To Renew Britain" which gets remarkably positive reviews for a political book.  Might be worth a read if I've got you interested in all this sort of stuff yet.  (Or feel free to buy a copy to donate to me!).

Guess the Country

posted 5 Jun 2010, 16:06 by Peter Shields   [ updated 5 Jun 2010, 17:32 ]


Not hard is it?  For such a tiny nation they've exported a lot of world renowned, innovative, iconic brands & ideas.  Could this be the latest ...?


If there was anywhere on earth that would already have elected someone on a mandate of Direct Democracy then I guess Sweden would be the place.

I was as shocked as anyone to discover it, but since 2002 there has been a local government representative in the Swedish district of Vallentuna who works according to the principles of Direct Digital Democracy - i.e. they have no policies of their own just an ideology which states that they will vote in accordance with the wishes of the electorate.

What started as an experiment for some high school students stemming from their study topic on "IT & Democracy" proved so successful that the DemoEx (Democracy Experiment) candidate got re-elected a second time with an increased share of the vote.

So for all those of you who thought the idea of Direct Democracy sounded good in principle but it'd never work in practice - there's living proof that it does.

Over here the campaign for a fairer voting system seems to have gained some momentum since the general election.  But there's a few of us who are even further ahead of the game. We believe that even Proportional Representation doesn't go far enough!

There is now a fledgling DemoEx movement being established here in the UK.  So if the idea of taking democracy to it's ultimate conclusion (...or back to it's original roots actually!) interests you, or if you're the kind of person who likes to be at the forefront of things rather than at the tail end, then have a look at DemoEx in the UK. It's right at the conception stage at the moment but with some innovators & pioneers it could bring to birth a revolution in politics & democracy.

Someday I hope it will rank alongside ABBA, Ikea, Volvo & the Vikings.  Those crazy Swedes! 

Crash course in politics #2

posted 31 May 2010, 16:23 by Peter Shields

C2DE's - what to do with them?

I'd never even heard of them 'til I entered the campaign trail.  In laymen's terms - 'Red Top' tabloid readers and downwards!  Vast swathes of them vote. Sadly, it's with their feet - they simply stay at home for elections.

The results in Bradford East are not atypical. The winning candidate was chosen by 21% of the electorate, whilst "Can't be bothered to go out and vote" was chosen by 38%.

Now I had quite high hopes of being able to get at least a little bit of support amongst some C2DE's because (a) I have some quite good relationships in a couple of areas through my pastoral work, and (b) the whole tenor of my campaign was quite anti-political and plain-speaking.

How wrong I was! And let me relate just how wrong I was.

A number of the people I had as proposers on my formal nomination papers would be classified as C2DE's.  They were happy to nominate me, not because of my policies but because they know me & like me.  I tried to engage them by getting them involved - signing my nomination papers, promoting my campaign to their friends & family, taking my t-shirts to wear, giving 100's of leaflets/posters and challenging them to distribute them and talk to their friends about voting for me.  At one point I was told that if I called at various houses and told the occupants who had sent me then the occupants would vote for me! (I didn't take them up on the offer I hasten to add!)

I called in on my proposers on a number of occasions to keep them updated with things.

On May 6th, aprox 7pm, I called around to see if they'd voted yet.  Their response?  "Oh, is it today"?!!  I'm not sure if they ever bothered going out to vote - I suspect not.

We have absolutely no idea just how disengaged with politics these people are.  If you read nothing more than the Star or Daily Sport, watch only MTV, and mix with people who do the same then it is more than possible to completely avoid even a General Election.  I guess it's a bit like my engagement with the world of cricket.

So what to do about it?

Well I reckon I could get nearly all of them to vote quite easily.  I would charge them £1!  Counter intuitive?  Well the flip-side is you'd have to promise them that there'd be a prize draw and 10 lucky voters in each constituency would get £1,000 with a national jackpot of £10,000,000. The General Election Lottery!  [The option of a free vote would still be available, but with no entry to the lottery!]

I'm pretty certain it'd work.  The more important question is do we want it to work?  Do we really want people voting who have no interest at all with the substance of politics?  Wouldn't it merely entrench the already depressing discovery I talked about here?

This is where a religious parallel raises itself in my mind.

Look through the history books and you'll see that the middle classes sustain the church but revivals happen when the working classes are converted.  Is it not the same with political revolution?  If you could motivate the disengaged (who are predominately C2DE's but not exclusively) to vote for you, you could genuinely bring about a political revolution.The catch-22 is that in order to communicate to C2DE's you would almost certainly risk alienating the ABC1's.  The ability to communicate to both groups, to motivate them & inspire them to action requires something incredibly special.  Which I guess is why national religious revivals and political revolutions are so incredibly rare.

A corollary of of all this explains why Party Politics is often so bland : they all chase the "middle ground" - the mass market - of people who actually turn out to vote.  Evangelism - political & religious - seems to demand more & more effort for diminishing returns.  Much safer & easier to preach to the converted, trying to convince them to join your church rather than trying to convert the heathen.

So unless you see yourself as a John Wesley, Martin Luther King or Frank Skinner ... chasing the C2DE's is going to put you on something of a hiding to nothing. 

Second lesson in trying to get elected:  decide - C2DE or not C2DE!


An inconvenient truth

posted 10 May 2010, 01:08 by Peter Shields   [ updated 10 May 2010, 16:46 ]

In Bradford East, 40,457 people cast their vote. 26,820 of them count for nothing.  That's right, 2 out of every 3 votes cast are utterly worthless.  And that's pretty much the same picture nationally. 70% of people who voted needn't have bothered.

One good argument in favour of the First Past The Post electoral system - that it produces strong, definitive government - has been proved false by this election.  That argument may have been stronger in times when there were only 2 parties, but that is no longer the case.

Fifty years ago 98% of all votes cast were for either Labour or Conservative. This time it was just 65%.  The tide is going out on simple 2 party politics.

Here's a break down of all the votes cast in this General Election:

And here's how that translates into actual representation in Parliament:

And here's what Parliament would look like under Proportional Representation*:

If chart 1 & chart 3 look remarkably similar that's because they are. In fact they're identical. Some people think that is shocking because it means the BNP would end up with seats in Parliament.  However I'm constantly amazed how those same people don't seem bothered by the fact that Sinn Fein are allowed representation in parliament.  The way to beat ideologies we don't like is to beat them, not to rig things against them.  Surely anyone interested in justice & democracy can see that our current electoral system is neither just or democratic.

And that is why we need a system where the true wishes of the people can be determined.  Proportional Representation would be a start.  Direct Democracy would be even better.

The mood for change is rising.  If you think it's time that democracy better represented you then the time to act is now.  Join one of the Take Back Parliament demos like this one in Leeds.


* - ok, it might not look exactly like this depending on which electoral system is used ... but it'll look more like this than the other one!

Crash course in politics #1

posted 8 May 2010, 16:22 by Peter Shields   [ updated 8 May 2010, 17:46 ]

The biggest and probably the most depressing discovery I've made is that the vast majority of votes are cast along purely tribal lines - political & religio-ethnic. Policies hardly come into it at all. The candidate's personal character hardly comes into it at all. Their skills or experience hardly come into it at all. The quality of the campaign hardly comes into it at all.

That our old Labour MP should have got over 13,000 votes almost staggers belief.  I'd bet good money that 12,900 of those votes would still have been received if you'd wheeled out a corpse and stuck a red rosette on it.  (That's got to be an experiment worth trying sometime!)  Of the 100's of people I spoke to I could count on my fingers the people who actually knew the name of their MP or knew what policies differentiated the parties.  "People like me vote Labour" was the most common reason people would give for their voting choice, or alternatively "We don't want them lot in".  It's basically 'them' and 'us'.  It really is as blind & as primitive as that.

The other tribal vote that most people won't talk about for fear of being labelled a racist bigot is the religio-ethnic vote or, to be more accurate, the Ummah vote.  If nominating a corpse with a party rosette on would help to discover the base-line tribal vote for a political party, nominating a fictional candidate with the name Muhammed Hussain has got to be worth a try.

Based on my limited experience here in Bradford East, I reckon the base-line Ummah vote has got to be worth at least 300 votes for an Independent and a couple of 1000 for a party politician.

It does work the other way too, to a smaller degree.  A number of people told me they wouldn't be voting for a candidate because they didn't have an Anglo-Saxon sounding name.  No doubt those people would be labelled racist bigots, whereas voting for someone because of their Arabic sounding name wouldn't be!

I wonder what would happen if Harriet Harm-man's equality & diversity legislation was applied to voters!  Imagine if you weren't allowed to discriminate on grounds of party, or race, or religion or sexuality before casting your vote!

First lesson in trying to get elected:  Find yourself a tribe!

Things can only get better?

posted 8 May 2010, 04:50 by Peter Shields   [ updated 8 May 2010, 17:27 ]

In the end I was pipped at the post.  Just 13,401 votes separated me and first place - so it could have gone either way!

Pictured on the left are the campaign leaflets I'll use next time. Since this time I spent £2,500 for 237 votes they should work out a cheaper way of gaining votes!

So whilst a cost of £10+ per vote and about 30 minutes of time per person is a little demoralising, I am not despondent; disappointed but not depressed.  I'm an entrepreneur & evangelist at heart and if this was a religious campaign not a political one 237 'converts' would be considered a resounding success :o)

I reached 2 of my 6 personal targets: (1) Not to be last and (2) to beat the National Front (or the National Trust as my eldest son keeps getting them confused with!).  But I was a considerable way off reaching my other targets, namely - (3) getting my deposit back; (4) beating the BNP; (5) beating Labour; (6) becoming MP.

A quick comparison with the other three candidates I'm aware of who were standing on a similar direct democracy mandate (Old Holborn, Denny de la Haye and Andy Kirkwood) reveals that I was slightly above par for the course.

The silver lining to this particular cloud is that the Liberal Democrat, David Ward, bucked the national trend and replaced the incumbent Labour candidate.  If we should vote for people on the basis of their campaign and their personality rather than their politics, then David well deserves his win. In fact he deserves a much bigger majority than he got.  But therein lies the first & biggest lesson I've learnt from this whole experience - politics has precious little to do with it!

It just remains for me to thank everyone who has bothered to read my 'ponderings', wished me well and helped me in ways big & small.  In particular, I hope those of you have contributed with their time or money don't feel too disappointed with the outcome.  Sometimes it's not what you accomplish that matters, but what you set into motion.

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