Peter's Policies

Actually, I only have one!

Direct Digital Democracy

Let me explain ...

It's quite simple really.  As your representative I would represent the majority view of my constituents on any & every issue - regardless of my own beliefs or opinions.  The issues that matter to you - big or small - are the ones that become my 'manifesto'.

Immigtation, Europe, troops in Afghanistan, speed cameras, bankers bonuses, Bradford's city centre, sharia law, post offices, electoral reform, equality legislation ... you'll be asked what you want, instead of you being told what you're getting! If the people of Bradford East think it's important then that's what I'll be arguing for.  After all, that's what MP's were always meant to do wasn't it?

Want to see what sort of policies ordinary people vote for when they're consulted?  Then go straight to here.  Or if you want to read a bit more in depth about the mechanics of it all, then carry on reading below:
  • How will it work?
Easy. By asking you!  Primarily through a dedicated website similar to the government's on-line petitions site. But in addition to creating a petition, there would also be the opportunity for everyone to vote in favour or against any of the petitions, and to debate them through comments.  In effect there would be a referendum on every issue.  Should any issue get over 5% of the electorate voting on it by the closing date, I'll simply reflect the view of the majority to parliament or the relevant authorities and cast any vote according to the outcome - whatever that may be.
  • Has it been done before?
A limited version of it works rather well in Switzerland and in California.  It returns power back to the people, where it belongs.  The Swiss people recently decided they'd rather quite like to have cuckoo clocks & bell towers rather than minarets on Mosques. Despite the howls of protests from political "leaders" around the EU, that's exactly what they got.  Whatever you think of that decision the important thing as far as I am concerned is that THE PEOPLE DECIDED IT and that's what they got.

Tower Hamlets, London, succesfully run a You Decide scheme where local residents decide which local services will get supported through the local budget - a scheme known as Participatory Budgeting.  In the region of Brazil where it has been running for over 20 years it has proved incredibly succesful at allocating money to the most important areas.  Funny that - when people decide how to spend the money rather than politicians and bureaucrats, real improvements get made!

There are some small trial schemes of Direct Democracy available here or here.  These give an idea of how things could be done.
  • What if people don't participate?
Fewer and fewer people are already participating in the democratic process because they feel their vote is irrelevant, their opinions are ignored and their ability to influence things is non-existent.  Yet people are still interested in the issues. Just ask them their opinions and they tell you.  People are still actively joining single issue pressure groups, and voting on social network sites and TV talent shows.  Why the difference?  Because in the world of commerce & entertainment their opinions matter and they know their vote can influence the outcome.  When people realise the power they have they use it.  The level of political engagement in Switzerland is far higher than any other European country.  They know they have the power to change things.  Their country's laws & culture are decided by them.
  • Will people have to vote on everything?
No.  People will choose the issues and topics that matter to them.  They can find out what the current issues are by going to the website or by choosing to receive a daily/weekly/monthly digest of all the latest issues under consideration. Or they could choose to be informed only when certain topics (or keywords) are raised. An individual can also generate their own issues for others to respond to - as with the government petition website.  And all votes are anonymous to everyone else.

People could also choose to nominate a proxy voter. So, for example, people could nominate to always vote the same way as a friend or colleague does, or the same way their iman or vicar or union rep or councillor or political party rep does. Powerful alliances could then be formed.  The only restriction is that the proxy must be another constituent.

As an elected representative I would be the 'default' proxy, but as people choose over time to either have no proxy or an alternative proxy, my voting power would diminsh and others would increase.
  • What about fraud and abuse?
Each constituent on the electoral role would have a unique identifier that is securely verified. Systems would ensure that automated voting or multiple votes from the same user are virtually impossible.  People will have their own voting record account so they can ensure that their account isn't being misused.  In short, whilst no system is 100% secure, the checks it is possible to put in place would make the voting system at least as secure as the ballot box or postal voting system.

Some people worry that frivolous things will end up wasting time.  But go and take a look at the things people use the government petition site for.  The overwhelming majority are for serious matters. As people realise what a powerful tool they have, frivolous issues will disappear.  Requiring a quorum vote of 5% (as with candidates standing for general election) will ensure that only matters which concern a reasonable number of constituents get a guaranteed response.
  • What is your role in all this?
I will act purely as my constituents representative - a public servant. Like any other constituent I will be able to raise issues and vote on them.  My voting record will also be the only one that is made public so I am fully accountable to you.  I may choose to advocate certain views on the website but the way I represent my constituents will be determined solely & entirely by the outcome of the direct democracy process. If you want to see some of the principles that will inform the way I would advocate people vote, then you can read about them here.  But I cannot emphasise this enough - YOU get to choose whether you agree with me or not.  Unlike any other MP who thinks that one vote every 5 years gives them free reign to do what they want, I will be my constituents servant, not their master.

As the 'default proxy' I will initially have a lot of voting power, but over time this should diminsh as people pro-actively choose to vote independently or nominate another proxy.
  • What about people who don't have the internet?
Definitely problematic but not insurmountable.  I will investigate other means of people participating, either by post or telephone. If we can ensure these methods are workable, secure & verifiable we'll introduce them. In the meantime I would encourage those without home internet access to use public access venues (libraries, internet cafes, community centres).  If they were able to register then it would always be possible for them to nominate someone as a proxy.  If you read my personal principles, you will know that I am determined to see as many people as possible participating in the democratic process. I will work diligently to make sure that is possible.  The more power you have and the less I have, the better.

It seems revolutionary but that's only because we've been conditioned into believing that "politicians know best"; and that great killer of all progress - "this is the way we've always done it".

There's lots of talk about our broken society, but our politics is broken too.  All the 'reforms' the political parties talk about are no more than sticking plasters on a gaping wound. Enough is enough. It's time for a new way of doing things.  The time is now.

If you've any questions or comments, get in touch and I'll do my best to respond.

So what sort of things would we get?

posted 1 May 2010, 15:25 by Peter Shields   [ updated 1 May 2010, 16:47 ]

When ordinary people are given the chance to vote on individual policies, what sort of crazy, crackpot ideas do they support?  Well, if the people of Bradford East are typical of those polled by YouGov then here's what I could end up voting for.  Not crackpot or crazy at all are they?
  • Holding a referendum on the status of the UK within the EU: 59% agree (37% strongly agree and 22% tend to agree) and 31% disagree
  • Limiting benefits to 80% of the after tax minimum wage:  63% in favour and only 15% against
  • Sentencing violent criminals to 'army style' punishment:  78% support with only 11% against
  • Requiring private medical insurance for non-EU citizens: 78% in favour and only 10% against.
  • Establishing 10 year residence requirement for UK Citizenship: 63% agree with the 10 year rule and 81% that any crime in those 10 years should disqualify someone for Citizenship
  • Limiting UK troops in Afghanistan to the NATO average: Supported by 67% to 14%
  • Protecting bank customer deposits from casino banking: 73% support and only 9% against
  • Allowing state schools to opt out from local authority control: Approval by 36% to 33%
  • Limiting government borrowing to 10% of expenditure: 47% agree and 19% disagree
  • Change voting system to Direct Proportional Representation:  55% agree and 17% disagree
  • Allow 'Citizens Initiatives' - Referendums on issues with sufficient public support: 70% agree and 15% disagree
This is only to give you an idea of the sorts of things that ordinary people support when GIVEN THE CHOICE.  In Bradford East it might be completely different.  But the important thing is this: YOU DECIDE.

If you vote for me you will get a vote on EVERY issue, not just a like-it-or-leave-it vote once every 5 years.

1-1 of 1