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Forum Post: Manifesto for Change

Posted 2 years ago on March 19, 2012, 10:28 a.m. EST by Demoskratos (2)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Dear all,

This is the basis of a manifesto in Scotland/UK, for others to build upon and improve the central idea. Much of it is specific to the UK/European political sphere, however, the basic idea of using the internet/smartphone apps to establish a movement based on direct democracy (hence Referenda) is still fundamentally applicable to the USA. It is doing the rounds on UK occupy sites.

Have a read and work on it together to hopefully put it into practice once the necessary infrastructure has been aligned.

Thanks,

Chris

Referenda Manifesto (Preliminary draft)

Introduction

The original concept of democracy when established in ancient Athens was simple. One man has one vote, and thereby all important laws and decisions were made. This was known as ‘Direct Democracy’.

In the year 2012, however, Direct Democracy for all accounts and purposes does not exist in the UK. Aside from the occasional referendum which on average happens every 30 years or so, the general public have no direct say on any matter, but instead vote for people to represent their views on their behalf. The result, of this – and undoubtedly other factors thrown in – is widespread voter apathy, a distinct lack of interest in politics, and a great distrust of politicians drawn from a small cross-section of society.

Furthermore, we see democracy across Europe being destroyed by the German led hegemony which essentially imposes an unelected government on both Italy and Greece – the later having self defeating austerity measures which have brought the country to its knees and threaten at any time to ignite a social time bomb, all to protect the ideology of the single European currency and ever more political, economic integration.

We live in an unusual age where there is a working coalition government between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in Westminster. While some understand that sacrifices have to be made by both parties in order to govern effectively, great swathes of the general public cannot comprehend that they vote for a party that categorically states in their manifesto that they will not raise tuition fees (Liberal Democrats), and then goes on to agree to raise them to a maximum of £9000 per annum. There are examples across the spectrum of promises being broken: Labour and their promises of electoral and House of Lords reform; the Conservatives and the Lisbon Treaty, to name but a few. Politicians regularly break promises because of the workings of the political system under which they operate. This is not a necessity, and can be entirely avoided with the restoration of Direct Democracy.

The UK is politically stagnant. Bereft of original ideas and opportunity. An astounding proportion of MPs are either Etonian or just generally white, public schooled and male. Millions of people live in constituencies that are regarded as ‘safe seats’ where many do not even bother to vote as it is simply wasted. There is due to be a referendum on changing the electoral system from First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) to a form of Alternative Vote (AV) where candidates are listed in order of preference. While broadly in favour of this as it will be more representative, both systems are inherently flawed, with FPTP restricting us to only two real alternatives and AV allowing candidates that no-one particularly wanted being elected.

The Referenda Manifesto sets out an alternative to both of these systems. The reason democracy became ‘representative’ was a matter of logistics. How, with a population of over 60m could so many people cast a vote directly? The answer is they, practically speaking, could not. Only Switzerland stands out with its frequently held referendums as the nearest exception to this rule.

We believe that with the reliable technology at our disposal today, and the great advances that have been made in communication, it is now possible to return to an age of direct democracy. No longer shall MPs be lobbied by business interests, trade unions and wealthy donors to vote to according to their benefit. No longer, will backhand deals be made across dimly lit, cigar-laden rooms.

Proposal

Our proposal is simple:

We use the mechanisms of representative democracy that are already in place, to gradually build up support for our cause, reinvigorate interest in political life and make people responsible for their actions.

• Using the internet, if voted into power in a constituency, each constituent who is eligible shall be registered with a unique constituent number, and chose their password and other memorable security information, in a fashion similar to those seen using Lloyds TSB, Halifax or HSBC internet banking, for example. • Alternative arrangements shall be made to register a vote via a method similar to telephone banking for those unable or willing to use internet banking. • Smartphone apps can be created allowing people to vote in a simple, accessible manner, providing a summary of the arguments, and links to sites that offer more detail for those who want it. • Finally, people should be able to come to their local Referenda office to register a vote, and plans will be drawn up for people to also have the opportunity to vote by visiting their local post office.

Each motion that is brought before parliament in the current fashion, shall be made public (excluding exceptional circumstances) one month before the vote until 2 hours before the vote is due in the House of Commons. During this time, each constituent will have the opportunity to register their vote. The result is simple: if over 50% of those who have voted are in favour or against, then the Referenda MP for that constituency shall vote accordingly.

For those who use the internet/apps to register their vote: arguments for and against each motion shall be available on the website for users to make a best informed decision. A panel of experts from each subject are can also have the opportunity to register what they believe the right outcome should be if there is an overall consensus. Ultimately, however, the decision shall belong to each individual in the constituency.

If citizens do not feel they have the knowledge to make an informed decision, they can have the option of allowing a panel of experts in the given field to vote on their behalf.

The Referenda party is not politically affiliated, but rather is a coming together of individuals across all backgrounds – cultural, religious, racial and political – with a shared believe in restoring real liberty to the sensible and overwhelmingly good people of these islands.

Criticisms will vary of these plans, but do not be fooled. Everything will come back to one central argument: do you believe that you as an individual, should have the opportunity to cast your vote as much as any other man or woman in this country? Or would you rather have some elite do it for you because they supposedly know better than you do? For Referenda: all humans are born free and equal. But to parody George Orwell: currently, some humans are born more free and more equal than others.

Criticisms

There will be many criticisms of these plans by those elites which have a vested interest in the status quo, but the heart of our belief is that the people of the United Kingdom are an intelligent people. We are not stupid, and we do not need to be told right from wrong by people who often have very little life experience outside of parliaments and their own small cluster of acquaintances.

Here are a list of just a few potential criticisms Referenda may face:

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[-] 2 points by Demoskratos (2) 2 years ago

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• Exclusion of the old: as many elderly do not have the knowledge of or access to the internet, the opportunities for them to register their votes are minimal. Referenda accepts this is a problem, but only a temporary one. The internet is widely used across all age groups now up to retirement age, and increasingly those above this age. In a generation or two, people who do not have knowledge and access will be almost non-existent. In the mean time, support groups could be established to offer assistance to these people, and by giving access over the phone and in Post Offices, this should help reduce this risk. Ultimately, however, the question needs to be asked: just how much representation do these groups have at the moment? The answer: very little. So any action shall certainly not make the problem worse. • National Emergencies: What would happen if an emergency situation happened like the country being attacked for example? In this situation, the MPs would have the ability to form a council to address any action immediately necessary to protect UK citizens. Similar to existing arrangements, before returning to normal operations as soon as was possible. This is why it would be important to keep a number of MPs to make such decisions as a last resort, as and when necessary. • Internet Failure or Security Breach: What would happen if the internet crashed or secure user information was compromised? In this situation, as above, MPs would have the responsibility to vote on their constituents’ behalf if the matter was urgent. Where possible, votes could be suspended to be resumed as soon as possible though. Each MP would have to explain their decisions, however, and if their explanations are deemed unacceptable, each constituency can have the opportunity to replace such an individual if the majority is in favour, as always, through a direct vote. • Media: People believe everything they read in the papers or on television. Referenda recognise that people have to form their opinions from somewhere. We believe, however, that by having direct democracy, our media outlets will have the responsibility to upgrade the quality of their writings, and report according to their best informed opinions rather than the politically polarised outlets which exist at the moment. If the media were to make irresponsible recommendations, which then were voted in favour of, the consequences would partially be attributed to the outlets themselves. We believe that the British public would then have the sense to not follow recommendations from just one particular media outlet. The risk to the media would be to go bankrupt as few people would buy and listen to a product they no longer trust. Additionally, by putting responsibility back in the hands of the public, people will then realise that ignorance is dangerous, so a positive impact on the general awareness of UK and world issues would likely incur. • Extremist Views: What if views considered to be extreme under the current system were voted in favour of? Referenda holds an inherently positive view of the British people, and believe that if people are responsible for their votes, the vast majority of decisions will be sensible. However, if such a situation were to arise, for example, the restoration of capital punishment, the abolition of the Monarchy, or declaring war, then it would be hypocritical to prevent such actions. If this is the case then even representative democracy is not functioning in this regard as it clearly does not actually represent the true views of the British people. The responsibility of schools to bring back the teaching of politics, debate and current affairs would be all the more important. If there were to be votes such as a declaration of war which could impede on the right to life for many of our citizens, then a few key safeguards could be put in place to prevent this – again ,if approved by the public. An example of this could be the right to vote for stopping an existing war or preventing entering a war as advocated by MPs currently such as Iraq, but not to declare war. Referenda is wary of any restrictions on the right to vote for certain issues though, as this ultimately is contrary to our position of restoring real democracy to the people of the UK. • Few people voting: what about if only 10 percent turnout is recorded on an issue that then affects the rest of the population? Referenda believes that if people chose not to vote then they can have little complaint of the outcome of that vote. Once again a key theme of our manifesto if to raise education levels and pubic awareness. Such examples, would encourage people to read up on these issues to register their vote in the future. If something was deeply unpopular, however, then provisions can be made that if over 50% of a constituency demand a repeat vote, then it could then be re-run within a certain timescale, if this was an agreed mechanism as voted by the people of that constituency. However, voters will have the option of allowing their MP or expert panel member to vote on their behalf, if they feel they do not have the expertise to make an informed choice, if they so see fit. • Putting motions to Parliament: How would issues be put up for debate in Parliament? MPs will still exist in parliament and put motions to the House as they always have done. Depending on what residents of each constituency wished for, however, their MP could submit a motion based on the most popular one submitted as selected by a pole on their website. The reason it is suggested each day-to-day motion is not always voted for, however, is that many issues which are very important but not at the forefront of public awareness such as farming subsidies as an example, would still need an opportunity to be voted on.

Summary

Our primary goal is to increase public participation in the democratic processes in the UK, and dampening the influence of the elites that currently control the system. We believe in the cause of Direct Democracy, and also strongly believe that by allowing the UK public more of a say on issues which affect them, this will have strong connotations for increased public awareness of current affairs, and thus an increase in the educational well-being of our country. We also believe this would go someway to addressing cronyism and lobbying by various groups which negatively impact our democracy. Additionally, we believe out proposals would help bring an end to the polarised two-party political system we have, while avoiding many of the disadvantages of the Alternative Vote.

Realistically speaking, we believe that the opportunity to have a direct say on issues affecting the country is of great appeal to everyone, regardless of political background. Funding requirements would not be excessive, only to support the creation of a secure voting registration system, and to increase public awareness of our movement. Why would anyone want to vote for a different political party where someone else votes for them, when they can vote directly themselves? Referenda is unique.

This manifesto shall be made available to the public. I am under no illusions it is far from the finished article, and nothing may come of it. However, I believe the fundamental idea is sound. I offer those who have the time, means and intellect far surpassing my own to take up this cause – if you agree with it – and do with it what you like. We can continually improve it until we are in a position to start gathering support from the public.

Referenda is not a band of revolutionaries. We are not Marxist, Thatcherite or any other political background. We do not believe in armed struggle or violence of any form. We are avid democrats with the goal of restoring liberty and democracy wherever possible to the UK public. We are you. We are I. We are everyone.

Christopher E. Leishman,

20/02/2012

c.e.leishman@googlemail.com