Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Time to demand reselections

For some time, I've believed that the problem with most political parties (or at least, the one I'm able to observe at close hand - Labour) is that the key relationship - between the political party and the people who are elected in their name - is broken.

Liberal democracy works very well if you have competent, independent minded people being put up to Parliament by a few political parties with broadly competing ideologies. The whole process of deliberation and legislation should, if this works, be optimised.

That's the theory, anyway. But this hasn't been the situation for some time now - and it's been getting a good deal worse. The current political crisis is, I believe, a symptom of this.

Because of the domination of the national agenda, and the sensitivity to the national media, a situation has been allowed to grow up in which the parties have been able to dominate the constituency parties, and have sought to parachute suitable candidates in.

Alongside this, in the 1980s, my own party went though a bout of turmoil where activists sought to deselect candidates on their policies (insisting they adopted policies that the voters wouldn't stomach) rather than on their abilities, their ability to interact at a local level, and their personal integrity.

The result is a slightly autistic and unaccountable political caste, answeralble only to small whithered political parties.

That's why I spent the weekend building this site: www.reselect.org - I've written about it in more detail over at the Liberal Conspiracy and I think you should support the idea.

4 comments:

Judith said...

I'm all for reselections.

But I have to question your assumption that choosing candidates on their abilities is better than choosing them on their policies.

Some of us want our MPs to be politicians and do not care for or about their managerialism.

I also think that choosing candidates with personal integrity may be seen as desirable or irrelevant for either type of MP, political or managerialist.

On another note, it is the local parties who know most about an MP's integrity - they remember all their promises, know about their lifestyle etc - but there is a taboo on mentioning what we know.

Female party members in particular can tell you which MPs have groped them in the pub after canvassing, at Conference or on other occasions and it is hard to justify not speaking about it, but we don't.

I have to ask, do local parties really want squeaky-clean candidates? In swing seats we want someone who will win.

Perhaps this whole issue of choice is only relevant to safe seats?

CS Clark said...

I have to ask, do local parties really want squeaky-clean candidates? In swing seats we want someone who will win. Via Bad Science, I saw this suggesting that there's a correlation between the safeness of the seat and the dodginess of the MP's claims.

cian said...

I think you're being a little blase about how big a deal this is, Paulie. Sure for middle class people the sums are not so huge, and most of us have bent expenses claims at some point.
But I don't think working class/lower-middle (whatever the fashionable socio-economic terms are these days) people feel that way. They don't get expenses, and these are large sums to them. If you're on the median salary (16-18K), an MP's salary is a huge sum.

And for those unlucky enough to have suffered the welfare system that Labour has "reformed", the idea that Labour MPs could get away with this will infuriate them. The DHSS don't care if you made an honest mistake (or indeed they made the mistake), or not, they will still make your life a misery.

I've actually been surprised by how interested acquaintances are in this story, incidentally. I got bored a while back.

Paulie said...

I'm not sure if we're understanding each other Cian. In a previous post a few days ago, I more-or-less said that the problem with my old position was that I didn't fully acknowledge the point that you are making here, but that I do acknowledge it now, and as a result, I've changed my mind.

I think we're agreeing here.

My mistake, in the past, was to treat it as all being relative.

Most of the *professional managerial* class ARE on the fiddle and I made the mistake of saying that MPs are by no means the worst of these, thereby excusing them.