Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Will it work?


Too busy at the moment to think this one through, so here's a question:

Will a Labour version of the 'Tax Bombshell' campaign from 1992 ('cuts bombshell'?) do for Gordon Brown or Alan Johnson what it did for John Major?

On the admittedly adventurous assumption that it's possible, do Labour really want to win an election in the way that Major did? I suppose a low-majority Parliament would be less awkward for Labour than the Tories, Maastricht rebels and all.

But surely Labour - communications-wise - are totally stuffed? I'm conscious of all of the really solid stuff - the economy, the MPs expenses, the irresistible siren call of change, the disenchantment with a squabbling party (squabbling over what, exactly? If Labour could do itself one huge favour, it would be to deselect loads of it's prominent faces - they really are a complete dead-weight).

But for me, the whole error is compounded by the contrast with Obama. For Labour, it's like there's a fantasy world in which their great plans - all cooked up behind closed doors - will somehow be greeted with a fanfare of approval and that the only thing we've not quite got is Blair's ability to present these solutions.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying here, but I really don't think any political party will ever run a successful campaign on any issue again until it learns that ideas have to come from the public in some way - that the public need to be involved in the process. 

I'd never argue that you can earn respect or votes by asking people what you should do in office, but I'd suggest that Labour could do worse than asking people to describe the problems, or to collaboratively map out coherent proposals for change, and ensure that plenty of their own people are there in the mix providing the political ballast, saying things like 'no-one will vote for that' or 'newspaper owners have something of a veto over that.'

If you want to be cynical, it's a way of looking like you're listening. Or if you want to be a bit of a lefty, it's a way of breaking the monopsony on policy advice that is provided by civil servants, pollsters, think-tanks and pressure groups.

Either way, it'd be nice to see Labour even trying to make an effort to look like this fucking obvious possibility has vaguely occured to at least one person in the Victoria St HQ. I'd strongly suggest - with one possible exception - that it hasn't. (You know who you are, don't you, matey?)

It's probably too late, and there are probably too many new factors that dwarf the 'non-inclusive policymaking' problem. But take a look at ideas like www.debategraph.org or www.mixedink.com - again, not panaceas, but pointers to what a positive e-democracy could look like, and online indicators of what a possible offline approach could be.

Labour could do worse than trying to at least look like it doesn't think of itself as a bunch of wizards that know all of the answers.

That really would be too much of a lie to get away with.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jacko

I was in the West End of London last night - as I walked through Trafalgar Square, an impromptu and slightly incompetent 'Vigil' was being held.

It wasn't an horrible mawkish Lady Di thing. As I walked up the Charing Cross Road, there were loads of people walking along, singing Jacko songs. Later on, in the tube station, there were about 20 people standing in the ticket hall singing...

"Sunshine .... Moonlight .... Good times .... Boogie!" - lots of clapping and whooping.

London had gone a bit suntroked and bonkers and it was quite nice really. It made a change. For most people, I suspect that it was fairly unreflective. Unusually, every radio in town had been playing only one artist all day - it had quite a positive unifying effect on a big city.

It all really makes the case for national days of celebration, doesn't it? How about 'Marvin Gaye Day', or 'Shane MacGowan Day'?

Whatever else you say about Michael Jackson, there'll always be the slendour of 'Off The Wall' - a cracking LP with a 'She's Out of My Life' sized mistake on it. When I was a teenager, there was the stuff I pretended to like and the stuff I really did like but kept quiet about. Off The Wall was pretty near the top of that second category.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dogfood

It's time that a few other people were made to eat the kind of dogfood that MPs and BBC people have had to sample this year.

We could start with Network Rail, for instance. I can't think of a better case for a consumer co-op model of management. Can you?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pretty fundamental

Bill Thompson isn't keen on the idea of broadcasting levies because...

"They want to keep us all in a world where vast numbers of people spend most of their precious leisure time watching a flat-screen television on which the limits of interactivity are set by an electronic programming guide and, if you're very lucky, a red button that lets you vote on your most-disliked Big Brother housemate.

Of course the unions want to protect the jobs of their members, and they cannot be criticised for this, but sometimes bad things happen to good people. Many fine writers, including my partner, are suffering because book publishing is going through enormous turmoil, but there is no subsidy on offer to them.

In broadcasting actors are out of work while directors and production crews see budgets cut and funding dry up, and journalists are living with uncertainty.

This is happening because the age of television is ending, just as the age of printed textbooks and user manuals is ending, as the age of the hand loom and the wheelwright and the scribe ended before them. It is a hard change to live through, and those who are only skilled to work in the world of television will inevitably fear it, just as print-only journalists fear the online future.

But this is not a reason to distort the growth of online services in order to give television a few more years."

And that's all fine if there is a genuine universal hunger for full-on interactivity all of the time. If - when the dust settles - it turns out that lean-back media has no audience and that there isn't a sizable slice of the population that doesn't wish for passive consumption as opposed to engaging with everyone they can reach in a collaboratively-filtered reputation-managed world.

Either way, there's a significant burden of proof to justify killing the most attractive industry in the UK and depriving us of it's products.

But what if (as I strongly suspect) a large percentage of the population just want to be entertained in their living rooms. In the absence of effective collective action, this demand will suck content in from where it can get it. It will suck it in from markets that are structurally protected. The end result will be screens dominated only by quality US content and crappy US content.

I'm OK about yielding to Asia's comparative advantage in rice production. But if the sections of the population that are least interested in interactivity (and I suspect that there are social classes that are more represented in this group than others) then the consequences are quite serious, aren't they?

It will be a disaster for a sector that is comparable to financial services in it's contribution to the economy. It will choke off thousands of hidden subsidies to local arts and performance projects.

And what does ..."distort the growth of online services" mean? It seems to assume that there is such a thing as a working undistorted market in anything?

I thought we'd buried that idea finally over the last year?

Digital Britain has advocated a massive handout to hardware and connectivity suppliers in order to help them distort the market away from people who used to create valuable content and sell it, because the spending on connectivity and hardware has rocketed while revenues for creators has tumbled.

And why do people pay for connectivity, set-top boxes, flat screens and iPods? To watch things that they can get for free - that's why. Programme-makers have been subsidising Apple and Humax for years!

Hardware and connectivity levies would have provided a tiny bit of compensation for these losses - and I do mean tiny.

And another thing: The Labour Representation Committee was founded all of those years ago to ensure that time/cash rich people didn't have a monopoly on political representation.

With this fetishisation of interactivity, it looks like we're going to turn the clock back to the time when 'active citizens' - those Dickensian busybodies - are the ones who step in to speak for working people who are too busy or preoccupied to 'engage'. Public service broadcasting - and PSB journalism - has always kept these people informed and helped them to be represented.

That, and representative democracy....

It seems that all of this has to be swept aside because the lobbyists who have dominated the Digital Britain response have collectively ensured that HMG will cast all caution aside in order to subsidise a genuinely expensive unwanted 'demand' for connectivity and interactivity.

This is not just about panhandling Unions demanding that their jobs should be be preserved. It's about democracy, culture, equality and representation.

It's pretty damn fundamental.

Slavoj Žižek on the Iranian situation

I'm no specialist on the current situation in Iran, but this looks quite a convincing piece of analysis to me:

"Ahmadinejad is not the hero of the Islamist poor, but a genuine corrupted Islamo-Fascist populist, a kind of Iranian Berlusconi whose mixture of clownish posturing and ruthless power politics is causing unease even among the majority of ayatollahs. His demagogic distributing of crumbs to the poor should not deceive us: behind him are not only organs of police repression and a very Westernized PR apparatus, but also a strong new rich class, the result of the regime’s corruption (Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is not a working class militia, but a mega-corporation, the strongest center of wealth in the country)."



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I did not know this

From Wikipedia's entry on the Daily Mail: (via Pootergeek)

"Rothermere was a friend and supporter of both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, which influenced the Mail's political stance towards them up to 1939. Rothermere visited and corresponded with Hitler. On 1 October 1938, Rothermere sent Hitler a telegram in support of Germany's invasion of the Sudetenland, and expressing the hope that 'Adolf the Great' would become a popular figure in Britain."

Like a lot of people, I've always been happy that there was a few fragments of evidence that the Mail offered bits of support to Moseley's Blackshirts. It's neatly confirmed a few prejudices and I know that it's been the basis of a lot of cheap shots.

In less argumentative moments, people have often pointed out that the Mirror - now a Labour paper wasn't exactly hostile to the knuckledraggers at the time, so - cheapshot aside - the Mail's history is not really something that I've taken very seriously.

But if Wikipedia's reporting here is in any way a balanced account, it really does up the ante a bit, doesn't it? It's not a portrait of a paper that just flirted with Fascism, but one that made arguably the greatest mistake that any UK-based newspaper could have made in the 20th Century.

From that account, it's also interesting that Stanley Baldwin had to defeat the demagogic upstarts at the polls in order to rescue conservatism.

I suspect that, at some point, little David Cameron may have to do the same?

Grover Washington Jr: Sausalito

Soz. A bit busy with all sorts at the moment. Will this do for now?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Assisted places scheme

I met Kim Howell MP once, and was quite convinced that he was the most arrogant twat that I'd ever encountered.

This letter to The Times is quite good though. It does have all of the rancour of the passed-over, doesn't it?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Alan Johnson will lead Labour before the next election

The logic behind this post (Gordon Brown will be gone as PM before the next election) stands up at first glance.

What do you think?

The poor and the ignorant go to jail, while the rich....


"Get caught, sister lady, with a nickel bag on your way to get your hair fixed and you'll do Big Ben, and Big Ben is time.

But the man who stole America will not do time."

It's quite sobering how a 1975 monologue about Watergate can still make you want to go out and start a riot even now.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Withered compliant local constituency parties

If Salford Constituency Labour Party let Hazel Blears off the hook, surely someone living in that constituency with Facebook account could find a hundred-or-so like minds?

Have you seen? She's added to her ludicrous cheque-waving apology with another one - this time in the Manchester Evening News.

Again, before I continue, by way of mitigation, let me invite you to use the search box on this site to confirm that I've been one of the blogosphere's few cheerleaders for Ms Blears.

Where were we? Oh yes. Hazel has said 'sorry', and her senior constituency party officials have urged everyone to 'move on'.

Nothing illustrates the problem more than this does.

Her wider CLP may not be so tame, but this is a high profile case, so the exception kinda proves the rule here: Constituency parties have given MPs a soft ride for far too long, allowing them to conduct their constituency business without much scrutiny, and allowing them to put the need for 'party unity' (trans: a easy life and a promising career) above their need to be independent-minded representatives.

It is the job of the constituency party to keep the MP decent - a job that hasbeen all-but abandoned in a lot of cases.

Most CLPs have been diminished in number over the past twenty years. Party reforms have reduced all means of challenging the orthodoxy on matters of policy and direction down to nothing.

Now, I'd argue that there is a strong case for MPs to be the main channels for policymaking, and that there are good reasons why members should only have a limited ability to intervene forcefully and directly on specific policy matters.

But local parties need to have a more adversarial relationship with their MPs than they do. They should be demanding that MPs account for the tame way that they have conducted their parliamentary business - and the kind of people who would have given Ms Blears a hard time have long-since left the party.

Being able to conduct a debate among party members while asserting one's independence and (Parliamentary) privileges is - as far as I can see - one of the baseline skills needed to be a good MP. 

But many local parties have been reduced to being a couple of dozen nodding dogs, with a slightly larger group of members who haven't seen the point of getting directly involved in their CLP for years.

The current crisis of representation underlines the need for every CLP to pull their candidate over the coals in the next couple of months. It also underlines the need for more new members - and this doesn't just apply to Labour either.

Oh, have I mentioned 'reselect.org' yet? 

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Parliamentary Labour Party needs a collective slap

I'm no huge fan of Gordon Brown, but I think that he is confronting quite the most deluded shower of internal opponents.

Anyone who thinks that Labour's problems at the moment are a crisis of leadership really do need to have their bumps felt for them. And not in a nice way either.

The way a small number of MPs have behaved over the years (in the full knowledge of a larger - perhaps dominant - number of MPs) made a difficult job impossible. No PM, in the current economic situation would have weathered the dung-storm that people like Hazel Blears have had thrown at him.... after the disgusting spectacle of her waving a cheque around as it it conferred some sort of absolution.....

...and then her stupid smarmy resignation with her self-indulgent 'Rocking the Boat' badge ....during an election campaign

...and one that returned a blackshirt in her own back yard

...by a small number of votes 

I really think that, at a time like this, the PLP could do with a spot of humility about it’s own behaviour rather then laying it all off on the PM (and I’ve not heard many MPs apologising to the PM for making his job impossible in recent weeks).

We have a political caste that dominate our party now. People who have done very little outside of politics, people who are quite simply on a different planet from the rest of us. I wouldn't mind if they'd exhibited any of the qualities of an effective representative - independent thinking, debating skills, an ability to communicate with the people around them.....

I really don’t think most - and I do mean most MPs have fully grasped this yet.

These are people who were often shoehorned into safe-seats to represent people with whom they have no affinity. People who - like Georgia Gould a few weeks ago - got clever mates with connections to run selection campaigns for them, knocking out strong local candidates on the way. 

If this shower of tossers really thinks that leadership is the problem, maybe they should ask themselves why they've spent the last decade singing from songsheets and presenting the public with a clone-army that is incapable of communicating with the public except through a controlling leadership? 

As anyone who has done a real job will tell you, a single point of failure is the result of an unforgivable bit of planning. Yet MPs have slipstreamed on the communications skills of a tiny little cabal for years now - and they somehow think that they deserve to keep their jobs on the strength of it.

There are some really honourable exceptions to this, but there are plenty of people in the PLP that don't deserve to be there.

Labour's biggest problem has always been it's selection processes. I wish that every MP that chooses to criticise the PM at this point would ask their CLP to re-open selections for a full and open process in advance of the next election. I suspect that some would have a very unpleasant surprise when they saw the results. 

In a lot of cases, the party would be a great deal stronger without them.

When brains fall out

There's a not-bad detective novel by Faye Kellerman called 'Straight Into Darkness' - I read it a few years ago - about a copper balancing his commitment to good policing and his personal weaknesses with his powerlessness in the face of big events.

It's particularly interesting because it's set in Munich in the late 1920s. It shows us a city that is subject to a creeping takeover by the Nazis. Playing the civil and democratic institutions as deftly as a fiddle, we see them deploying deniable low-level brutality with large-scale political intimidation while gradually placing it's thugs in key positions in the city.

It sees a movement that knows it will never seize power in the decisive way that, say, the Bolsheviks seized it in 1917, but one that would use the weaknesses of democracy against it.

Now, I wouldn't pay Nick Griffin's shower of knuckledraggers the dubious compliment of a direct comparison. Whatever people say about last night's results, this is not an irresistible tide of mouth-breathers poised to seize the wheel.

The Master Race will have to wait a while longer in the UK, I think.

But it does, for me, foreground the whole question of 'no platform'. I understand the argument that fascists need to be flushed out and to have their arguments exposed. But we've seen that political debate doesn't work like that. 

For instance, in an election that has been largely dominated by the perception that the main parties are on the take, the biggest beneficiary has been probably the most corrupt party that the UK has ever seen. Y'know, statistically speaking. The idea that public debate is something that happens on a rational plane is one that doesn't really bear much examination. It's why plebiscites and direct democracy present such a bloody awful way of making decisions.

Liberal Democracy is a like a game. There are a set of unwritten rules - you can't oppress minorities, you can't win and then abolish subsequent elections, and so on.

If you don't buy into those rules, you don't get to play the game.

There's a line that one of the Nazis uses in Kellerman's book. A character is told that he has become so open-minded that his brains may fall out. For me, a lot of those defending the right for the BNP to access the same platforms as politicians who are committed to liberal democracy could face the same charge.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

How Labour can get out of this mess

Firstly, let me set the scene by agreeing with others who laid out the background better than I can here.

Firstly, Norm reckons that Labour supporters should wish for an early general election that we would certainly lose. Shuggy doesn't. I'll leave you to read their reasons, but I'm with Shuggy on this one.

I'm also with Shuggy that democratic reform - significantly within the party - is the big question - and a failure to do it has led the party into the mess it is in now.

And the nature of that democratic reform? Well, outside of the populist arc-light, I'm finding a remarkable consensus coalescing among people who I generally don't agree with about anything.

In short posts on my other blog, I've cherry-picked Simon Jenkins and David Blunkett and Brendan O'Neill arguing that....

... and...

So where does this lead us? Firstly, I think that this is, potentially, a very exciting moment. Labour - by most standards - are open to constitutional reforms. We've seen more of them in the last decade than in the preceding century. It may have been annoyingly slow and crabwise, but we've had

  • widespread devolution,
  • lots of different voting systems in different places,
  • the Human Rights Act
  • (admittedly incomplete) Lords reform,

and ...

  • the Freedom of Information reforms (!)

That last one illustrates that this government is not one that is completely averse to giving it's powers away.

On the question of electoral reform, I'm fairly neutral on proportionality, I don't think it's as important as a lot of protagonists say it is. It's also something that is politically problematic for Labour and out of the question for the Tories.

But I think that there is

  • a cross-party consensus in support of political decentralisation.
  • an opportunity to challenge and largely replace the political caste that have stood by and allowed the power of parliament to whither 
  • a widespread view that politics needs to be renewed. That parties need to reverse their decline, that they need to funded by lots of small donations rather than a few large ones
  • a cross-party view that new communications technologies can alter the way that people are involved in policymaking
  • a loss of the legitimacy of Parliament - as it is currently constituted - for it to use parliamentary privilege to defend the privileges and monopolies enjoyed by parliamentarians. 

Now is a good time to unpack the term 'Parliamentary Privilege.' Formerly 'immovable' obstacles could be brushed aside at the moment.

Personally, I've always hated the idea of MPs being 'recalled' and brought to account by their constituency parties because it has usually (in the past) been used as a means of mandating them to adopt unworkable (or electorally impossible) policies. (I made this argument more fully here). But today, everything is different.

The idea of MPs being forced to fight for their right to represent their party based upon the character is a fantastic opportunity for Labour, (and, as it happens, for the other parties).

Also, the possibilities for crowdsourcing opinion and evidence, as well as the ease with which trusted open deliberative communities can be formed, means that the kind of consensus-building needed for constitutional change can be done in weeks rather than years.

As long as the current danger-point for Gordon Brown passes (and I'd not bet the farm that it will), Labour have a year. They could.....

Ask some trusted public figures to spend two weeks crowdsourcing existing evidence to come up with a model of the issues surrounding constitutional reform and decentralisation

Identify the obstacles to decentralisation and seek a consensus on what needs to be done to overcome them (some of them involve restraint in the way that the main parties campaign)

Open every CLP's selection process up so that every candidate has to prove that their character is acceptable to people who will campaign for them.

Also, establish a panel of people from outside the party (those smartarses that are talking about standing as 'white-suit' candidates would be perfect) and ask them to give every Labour candidate a clean bill-of-health on the question of probity

Labour could go to the country in the spring as the party with a clear road-map to transform politics forever subject to a consensus that isn't necessarily that politically contentious while being able to sidestep the intractable question of electoral reform. It would also go to the country as the one party that has NO candidates that haven't proved their personal probity.

There is no reason why any of these possibilities couldn't work today. They are all do-able before the next election. Even the Tories would agree with a lot of them.

In fact, the main reason that the Tories may not play ball here is that this approach could give our Gordon a fighting chance of winning the next election. Or - better still - it could give whoever Gordon steps aside for at the last minute a fighting chance of winning the next election....

(Gordon is, as far as being a leader during an election, less suitable than Michael Foot was, as far as I can see - he has to go before polling day).


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Public sector self-confidence

I'm quite keen on the idea of public sector self-confidence and the need for a renewal of the idea of a public service ethos.

So, it seems is Geoff Mulgan - I missed this at the time but just tripped over it looking for something else.

"Responding to questions about the handling of the economic crisis, Mulgan said: ‘[One] thing that perhaps will change irreversibly now is we’ve been through a long period where probably there was insufficient confidence in a public service ethos and too much deference to business methods in inappropriate fields in relation to policy advice. Being wealthy was taken as a proxy for wisdom.’

He said many wealthy people had been involved in advising government not on business but on areas such as social policy and that ‘having a senior corporate position was seen as qualifying people to advise on running large public services’."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Micro-pay for a book to be written

Joe Clark has, in the past, part-funded his work by asking for micro-patronage. He has, it seems, thousands of supporters who are prepared to make very small donations to him so that he can research and write on subjects of his chosing.

His latest is the Cranky Guide to Copyright which I suspect will be worth a look when it's ready. He's not keen on the idea of Creative Commons but doesn't like big corporate copyright enforcement either.

It's a subject I change my mind on most days so I think that Joe's work will be worth a look. Once you've paid him to write it, that is....  

John Healey on decentralisation

Here's John Healey with a generally encouraging post on decentralisation over at Labour Home.

Two observations:

1. Healey is right that Cameron's decentralising rhetoric is one that masks a refusal to address the causes of political centralisation, and one that will, in practice, continue and deepen the tendency that has gathered pace since the 1970s

2. Healey needs to distance Labour from it's past on this one. There are plenty of understandable reasons why Labour took the approach that it did - he hints at it here:

"When we were elected in 1997 we were a government in a hurry. Our landslide was in part a rejection of under-funded, under-performing and highly uneven public services and our mandate was to transform them. So while we may have overdone the targets, central programmes and performance management, we were right at that time to drive the change from the centre. However, the arguments for doing so are now long gone."

He needs to go a great deal further for two reasons. The first is a principled one, the second is one that is more Machiavellian:

a) in democratic terms, what has happened to local democracy has been indefensible. It's been bad and wrong on so many levels, and they don't need listing again here again, do they?

b) people that work in the public sector are voters too. They've lived through a decade where they've had money chucked at them in a way that they wouldn't have dreamed of in the mid-1990s. They should be Labour votes that are weighed rather than counted.

Yet they hate their work. They hate the useless ever-multiplying over-paid audit-obsessed middle-managers.

They hate the insecurity of 'contestable' jobs. They despair - on behalf of the people they work to serve - of the lack of continuity, the inconsistency and the collapse of professionalism that has come with the rise of the managerial consultariat.

Politicians routinely get their targets met, but more rarely get anything useful done. Public sector employees understand - as voters as well as workers - that these clipboard-wielding zombies are incapable of moving small pebbles up hills. That they are great at giving the public what they say want - but never in a way that they want it. 

As Dr Faustus discovered, you have to be careful what you wish for....

Labour needs to go one step further. It needs to do what is in it's soul. It needs to announce an about-turn. A re-statement of faith in professionalism. A shift towards a publicly accountable - but professionally capable - public service ethos.

It's no longer acceptable for all aspects of government to be about upwards accountability. That's what fosters our enervated arse-covering public sector. 

Instead, we need an almost revolutionary commitment to decentralisation. One that only Labour - with it's Trades Union footprint - can promise.

The case is made here better than I can make it

It's time for an apology and a change of tack. Change is in the air. Now's the time to do it.

Go get 'em John!

The most important political reform

A few pointers off: I don't know if you heard Niall Ferguson on the Today progamme earlier - (at the moment, they haven't posted the audio file here - 8.30am slot, but it may be there by the time you read this, but he hinted at his message in this report from the Hay Festival last week,) talking about the global political impact of the current economic crisis.

"I don't know who is going to win but we know that while the struggle goes on ordinary people will get trampled. There will be more economic volatility and ordinary people will pay."

The big development will be a period of political instability. "As the Daily Telegraph drip feeds you the peccadilloes of MPs, you are seeing just the beginning of a crisis of political legitimacy that will be played out over the next 18 months," he said.

"It won't be like the 1930s – it won't end up with fascism – but it might be like the 1870s, or 1970s, so don't throw out that old kipper tie yet."

There would be a rise of populist politics, he said, which would involve "a rejection of the culture of Westminster, was anti-finance, anti-immigration, anti-globalisation and pro-inflation.

"There will be more riots in major cities this year. If you don't trust legislation you take to the streets."

Ferguson was particularly scathing (on Today) about proportional voting systems, arguing that they offer a lifeline to opportunistic populist politicians. I think that the 'weak government' argument is a stronger one against PR, though from what I can see, some variaton on STV can assuage even that argument (though it doesn't lead to a hugely proportional outcome).

Here, Freemania urges us to keep our eye on the really important ball that's in play - the quality of representative democracy (and - again - the threat of populism).

For some time, I've been arguing that PR isn't the most important game in town, and that the liberal left has been looking in completely the wrong direction with it's obsession with 'modern liberty' - making the case that this approach is one that plays into the hands of right-wing populists. 

Either way, we have a window of opportunity between now and the next election to demand something that could make a decisive change. For years, the political class has watched it's legitimacy slip. The most important political change now must, surely, be to ensure the the candidates that face the electorate at the next election aren't simply gifted to us by a rotten legacy. 

It's time for every long-standing MP, and every candidate that has been elected by a slighly moribund political party - to face a challenge to their right to stand at the next election.

Here's how: http://www.reselect.org