An end to political parties?


by Leon
20th September, 2006 at 11:36 am    

Dizzy picks up on a piece by Danny Finkelstein in The Times today about Clare Short’s desired hung parliament. Danny makes a good point regarding the contradictory world of politicians; represent your electors versus toeing the party line:

“Voters and the media ask parties for total unity and want MPs to be completely authentic. Politicians are simultaneously expected to say exactly the same thing as every other member of their party and to be true to themselves. This is obviously impossible…. Bridging the unbridgeable contradiction between unity and authenticity has turned politics into an elaborate game for insiders.” [Via The Times]

Of course that elaborate game for insiders is being challenged by the rise of British political bloggers such as Guido and Iain Dale but the game goes on none the less…Dizzy thinks he might have a solution:

“If politicians are only able to genuinely “re-connect” with the electorate by having the freedom to say what they believe rather than falsely maintaining an air of unity, does that not mean the abolishment of the whip as a concept to some extent? Does it not also imply a rethink, perhaps a regressive rethink, of the very role of political parties in Britain today?

Daniel Finkelstein has certainly highlighted the problem, is the solution a return to a Parliament of individuals rather than party political robots?” [Via Dizzy Thinks]

With the increased levels of voter “apathy”, reports from the Power Inquiry and the latest campaign for people power Our Say, is it time to rethink our democracy?


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24 Comments below   |  

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  1. Rakhee — on 20th September, 2006 at 11:51 am  

    Sorry Leon to put this up here but just seen this – 6yr old dies in midst of honour killing – wasn’t sure where to flag it on here but definitely worth our attention..

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2366352,00.html

  2. Jai — on 20th September, 2006 at 11:55 am  

    Rakhee, would you mind if I posted that link on Sepia Mutiny’s news tab ? (I will credit the article to you).

  3. Leon — on 20th September, 2006 at 11:56 am  

    It’s an ongoing trial so not sure it’s good to comment as yet.

  4. Rakhee — on 20th September, 2006 at 12:05 pm  

    Jai, not at all.

  5. Leon — on 20th September, 2006 at 12:09 pm  

    The link doesn’t appear to be working now…?

  6. Rakhee — on 20th September, 2006 at 12:18 pm  

    It is on my side..it’s on mirror as well http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/tm_objectid=17784941&method=full&siteid=94762&headline=girl–6–dies-in–honour–fire-attack–name_page.html

    Think it’s still worth commenting on even though the trial continues…

  7. Chairwoman — on 20th September, 2006 at 12:28 pm  

    Interesting – neither link is working. Conspiracy theorists alert!

  8. Leon — on 20th September, 2006 at 12:28 pm  

    Hmmm getting a 404 error with that link…

  9. Roger — on 20th September, 2006 at 12:38 pm  

    In part it’s the question Burke raised with the voters of Bristol [who threw him out]: are M.P.s representatives or delegates of their constituency?
    In the old days of very small electorates it was pefectly possible for a candidate to know personally everyone in the electorate [with rotten boroughs they could be the electorate!]; now if people vote for an individual they usually know very little about them- even less than if they know they belong to a particular political party. I agree that we need to find ways of reconnecting politics and the people, but it is going to be difficult. Most people- including MPs, in fact, don’t know much and don’t have stromg views on most subjects. One advantage of the whipping system is precisely that it is only on matters where they have strong conscientious reasons that members oppose their parties’ whip- we do know then that they feel strongly and probably know something about the matter and are acting individually.

  10. Jagdeep — on 20th September, 2006 at 12:41 pm  

    It was an arson attack:

    Girl died after ‘arson’ at home.

    Elsewhere in the news —->

    A Sikh man killed in the street:

    Gang attack teenager identified

    Black man stabbed to death by a mob:

    Night of violence ends in murder

    And so it goes on! The never ending chain of misery, murder, lynchmobbery and blight that the slimy ethnics have infected our country with! Will it never end?

  11. Sunny — on 20th September, 2006 at 12:54 pm  

    Leon – What exactly would the re-think mean? We need more direct democracy but then others seem to be afraid of it.

    I think there is an element of naivety in how people comment on ‘re-thinking democracy’ taking Finkelstein’s article as an example.

    The fact is people are hypocritical in their approach to politicians and hence the politicians are encouraged to be hypocritical themselves.

    Just take the example of the Hungarian PM who openly admitted to his party they hadn’t delivered enough on their promises – and he is then faced with a riot of angry people.

    The real question is – do the electorate want to hear the truth from their politicians or not? I’m not convinced they want to hear the truth as much as they pretend to.

  12. Jagdeep — on 20th September, 2006 at 1:00 pm  

    Sunny, I’m sure that spending time in India and having the briefest flirtation with the gutter politics, nepotism, corruption, criminality and bigotry amongst Congress and BJP and the others is making you be less cynical about politics in the UK. I know it does for me, when I compare the two.

  13. Leon — on 20th September, 2006 at 1:03 pm  

    @Sunny;

    What would re-think mean? That’s the question; rethinking our political structures, the voting system, maybe even the monarchy. It’s an open debate and I’m not one to stand in the way of peoples suggestions along that line.

    When you say “fact is” what facts are you speaking about (news reports/statistics/what studies?)? I agree with the perception that most people probably are hypocritical regarding their politicians but recognise that’s just my perception…

    Sunny, are you saying things should remain as they are for fear of how the massives might react if real democracy was dropped in their laps? Must admit, I’m a little surprised by your cynicism.

  14. Roger — on 20th September, 2006 at 1:05 pm  

    “Just take the example of the Hungarian PM who openly admitted to his party they hadn’t delivered enough on their promises – and he is then faced with a riot of angry people. ”
    Rather more than merely openly admitting he hadn’t delivered on his promises: making promises he knew he couldn’t deliver and wasn’t going to try to deliver either.

  15. Sunny — on 20th September, 2006 at 1:12 pm  

    Roger – well that is what all politicians do, and sometimes people vote for them anyway because they like the sound of what a politician says.

    Leon – I am cynical of the political process too, but I find that political systems are very usually rooted in the culture and the behaviour of the electorates. Sometimes even dictatorships.

    India is a very interesting example too. Sure there is lots of corruption and lying – but I do find it interesting how people there make alliances, vote in big block votes according to their affiliations, play games and all the rest.

    India has an extremely vibrant democratic system. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the best system but it sort of reflects the people themselves – very much rooted in their tribal affiliations. They also care very much for the idea of ‘India’ as a nation but at the same time are quite happy to crap on their fellow Indians in a massive jostle to get to the top of the ladder.

    Anyway, my point is that we cannot discount the fact that it is sometimes the people who are themselves quite hypocritical in their approach to the political process, hence encouraging politicians to follow that route.

  16. Sunny — on 20th September, 2006 at 1:13 pm  

    As for the areas covered (monarchy, political structures) – I think you may have a point but then I’d like you to be a bit more explicit on what you’re suggesting. The pros and cons of Proportional Representation? Some other political system? Constant referendums?

    I’d like to expand more on this but I got off my flight from India not long ago and need to catch up on some work and head out for a meeting.

  17. Rakhee — on 20th September, 2006 at 1:16 pm  

    Welcome back Sunny!

  18. Roger — on 20th September, 2006 at 1:29 pm  

    “well that [making promises he knew he couldn’t deliver and wasn’t going to try to deliver either] is what all politicians do”
    Hardly: unfortunately, many of them are sincere in what they promise. At the least they provide aspirations as to what they hope to do, all being well, and even achieve some of them.

    An Indian friend quotes the story of the Indian politician who invites a Bangladeshi to visit, just after Bangladesh came into existence. After a very luxurious stay the Bangladeshi says “How do you manage to live so well on an Indian M’P.’s salary?”
    “Ah,” says the Indian, “You see that bridge? Half of its cost is in this house.”
    A few years later the Indian visited his Bangladeshi friend, by now an M.P. as well, in an eqwually luxurious house.”
    “Well,” he said, “I see you’ve learned my lesson.”
    “I think I’ve improved it,” says the Bangladeshi. ” I didn’t bother with the bridge.”

  19. Leon — on 20th September, 2006 at 1:41 pm  

    More explicit that linking to the Power Inquiry (unfortunetly haven’t time to post up each recomendation I agree with) or Our Say (I already posted about this a week or so ago saying I thought it a good idea). I’m not sure I’ve the intricacy of mind to write a fully fledged manifesto this afternoon!

    Anyway, I wasn’t hoping for a revolution just thought Dizzy had an interesting idea regarding the power of whips. Mainly I’m very curious about what people thought about the contradiction between a politician’s ‘loyalty’ to their party and/or their electors, who should hold the balance of power in that relationship etc…

  20. Sid — on 20th September, 2006 at 2:06 pm  

    Roger,
    thats a great story and nails the kleptocratic nature of Bangladesh completely. Mind if I use it?

  21. soru — on 20th September, 2006 at 2:40 pm  

    I’d keep the current system in the House of Commons, and set up something complementary in the House of Lords.

    Something like: if you vote in a national election, you get 3 extra votes, which go to organisations or individuals of your choice. Those organisations nominate people to serve for a fixed 8 year term, and can’t force them to stand down.

    Given suitable proof of ID, you can change your vote at any time.

    Say you are a conservative Muslim dentist, you pick the BMA, the CBI and the MCB. One day, you read in the paper about something stupid one of those organisations has said or done. You get annoyed, so you rush down to the post office and change your vote.

    If enough people do the same, you get to see your Lord packing the removal vans on TV that evening.

  22. Roger — on 20th September, 2006 at 4:32 pm  

    Sid: You’re welcome. It didn’t originate with me either.

  23. Bert Preast — on 20th September, 2006 at 6:12 pm  

    There are no party manifestos which I agree with wholeheartedly. It’s always been a feather in cap to my mind when I see an MP vote against his party line.

    However in Spain we have very localised government and many independents, and in all honesty I can’t say I’ve found the system superior to the UK’s.

    Which was disappointing, to say the least. :(

  24. Nyrone — on 24th September, 2006 at 2:50 am  

    So, does anyone actually think a hung Parliment is a good idea?

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