I am genuinely concerned about the widening gulf between the public and politicians…and the level of sheer contempt for our representatives. I understand why and how this has happened and all parties and participants are to blame for continuing to ‘play the game’ how it is has always been played for fear of losing what influence they have. I don’t believe that this is necessarily selfishly motivated. Many will be concerned that a group who have struggled to get any voice or power at all will slip back again and be back where they started. I doubt any politician would claim that the situation is acceptable and many would accept that its harmful.
What are the key harms as I see them?
- That people simply won’t enter politics and limit the talent and leadership that we can vote for
- That people won’t vote at all, leaving the *winner* in an unenviable position of being in power and needing to deliver a strategy without a proper mandate (this symptom flared hugely in the PCC or Police and Crime Commissioner elections)
- That people vote in a humourous way – LOLZ politics…which could be disastrous for the area they are responsible for
What does turn people on now:
- Open politics – being able to see and follow the ‘working out’ of policy which is why I am part of the Open Policy network
- Professional expertise – people like someone with knowledge and track record in something rather than ‘principle’ politics and I get why but we risk losing something important here
- Leadership – and, we are sadly lacking this at a difficult time (bear in mind this is my opinion so am happy to be challenged). People need a collective vision and a part to play in getting there..merely being asked to suffer is failing. Compare Churchill and his lasting appeal despite far more hardships.
- A sense of community, increasingly I think social media is enabling people to come together as communities in a more powerful way replicating the smaller communities of centuries gone. It makes you feel you *can* do something by acting together…influence Starbucks for example. We feel less dwarfed by the world in a community.
Lots of things need to change to get democracy working again and one idea I have bubbling away mentally was inspired by something I learned whilst on the Police Authority. In policing diversity is an issue and one of the key influencing factors which makes people aspire to be a police officer is a positive experience of a police officer before starting school. This is why visits to nurseries and play groups is so important because otherwise only those related to police officers will have that aspiration especially in communities where mistrust prevails. Its a way of breaking a vicious cycle. I think we should do the same for local government, which interests me more than parliamentary politics probably because you can “touch it” more readily.
My plot is to have a programme of school children and those in care system taking over the council chamber, redesigning the process, environment and setting the agenda for local politicians. I think Councillors would get as much out of the process as the children would have ‘bossing’ them around. In addition, we would be laying down foundations for trust, aspirations for politicians and hopefully more diverse selection. The ability to webcast the results would provide great learning and I am reasonably certain, compulsive viewing.
Other day dreams relating to rehabiliting politics are:
- Citizen’s agenda item (a debate on every council agenda which is set by local people)
- Citizen scrutiny – redesigning the process to be on/offline in order to allow informed and excellent scrutiny
- Better data and more neutral analysis quantifying the scale of an issue (for example…how much of a budget are political groups really disagreeing about – debate sounds fierce but the areas in question might only be 0.2% of the overall. Local press can play a role here, and local TV might help. Local community umbrella organisations can also support this role of trusted information provider.
Please argue/agree and give examples of any practice that is relevant here! I would really appreciate it. If you want to collaborate with me on making these ideas come to life then I would be very excited to hear from you.
Do you have ideas around the rehabilitation of politicians?
Courtesy of Emma Daniel at Huxley06