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These Election Candidates Think You Should Get to Vote on Every Issue

Could direct democracy fix the UK's broken politics?

by Ben Gelblum
07 May 2015, 10:40am

Bez campaigning with the Reality Party

As voters head to the polls in a very uncertain election, one thing seems certain: a lot of people are going to be pissed off at the results and feel like their democratic muscles haven't been properly flexed. With a national debate about the nature of our democracy likely on the cards, I spoke to some candidates standing today who argue that public voting should be something that happens more than once every five years. If people could vote on every issue individually, it might make TV an endless barrage of swingometers and David Dimbleby might keel over from exhaustion. Maybe E4 would go off air forever, leaving fans of the Big Bang Theory shadows of their former selves. More importantly, these guys reckon it would also fix Britain's broken democracy.

Bez, 51, formerly of the Happy Mondays, is standing for the Reality Party in Salford. As well as halting fracking, they want instant referendums via social media and a consultation on compulsory voting.

How's the canvassing?
Bez: Great response. We've helped 60 people, many homeless, who'd never voted before, to register, as well as people staying in a couple of homeless homes. I'm hearing some horrific stories as I'm canvassing. It's unbelievable the suffering that benefit sanctions have caused round here. I met someone today disabled with multiple heart attacks, who's worked all his life and been sanctioned. People are going hungry.

What's wrong with the current system of democracy?
We don't live in a democracy any more. The greatest example of that is TTIP [The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership]. In the 1970s we had a referendum about Europe, but at the moment our sovereignty is being given to corporates and we have no say. TTIP will allow any country that tries to make decisions to protect its people, to be sued by corporates if it interferes with their profits. On his last day in power, with no debate, David Cameron added an extra clause to the infrastructure bill preventing local communities objecting to nuclear dumping. All this is being done without public consultation.

How do the Reality Party want to increase democracy then?
We live in a digital age. There's nothing stopping us having instant referendums. On your phone you could have a yes or no button and a few days to make a decision. With social media we want debates about the consequences of decisions and more involvement of people on decision-making. And we have to end lobbying – it's legalised bribery.

After the election is over we will carry on defending our country for future generations. We are not being consulted, they are taking our democracy away form us. I consider this to be the most important election of our time. Democracy has never been in such crisis.

Lucy Hall, 25, is an independent candidate for Bermondey and Old Southwark. She would let constituents tell her how to vote on every bill with a phone app.

VICE: What's your big idea?
Lucy Hall:Constituents would vote through an app and website on every bill parliament debates. I'd vote for the people that vote me in rather than my party. Democracy was born in Athens and it was direct democracy. The state got too big to enforce it, but now we have technology to enable a more direct form of democracy.

What would be the point of an MP then?
The role of MP would be as representative, and to inform and educate constituents. When you look at a bill on the app, there would be an "ask your MP" button and I would be able to answer questions.

So your opinion wouldn't count?
I would be vocal about what I thought was best for the community. People would be able to discuss that with me. But I am one person – why should my views override everyone else's? Simon Hughes is the Lib Dem MP here. He abstained on same-sex marriage on grounds of his religious beliefs. I thought, fair enough but you're making a decision on behalf of 75,000 registered voters, based on your personal religious beliefs.

So if elected, all your votes would be decided by constituents vote for on your app?
Exactly.

Even if you don't agree?
The idea goes hand in hand with political education. The right information, more often than not, will provide the right decision. My overriding belief in democracy trumps everything.

I see. Thanks Lucy.

Phil Badger, 26, is standing for the Democratic Reform Party in Lewisham Deptford. Their "Online Parliament" hopes to include everybody in debates and policy.

What political experience do you have?
Phil Badger: After studying Politics I worked with Nick Dubois, Conservative MP for Enfield North until I got very frustrated.

Why's that?
The more time you spend in Westminster the more party politics takes over. Careerists in safe seats spent a lot more time in Westminster power-playing, while those who had to win their votes, spent a lot of time in constituency representing their constituents to secure their seat. MPs represent a party whip more than their constituent and that's something we need to change.

How could it change?
We are signed up to the European Union which has a principal called subsidiarity. That means power should be devolved to the lowest possible level. We need parliament to let go of power and let people with local knowledge make decisions themselves. It's the only way to change things and get people involved in politics more than once every five years.

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What's the big idea with the Democratic Reform Party?
Government should be a simple business model. It provides a service. And you can't serve the customer without knowing what they want. We want everybody to participate in our Online Parliament.

What's that then?
It's a tool which allows people to make suggestions in an open setting, to determine policy democratically. At present there is no party that does this. They make policies behind closed doors.

What's the difference between this and a focus group?
A focus group can be dismissed. We have to move away from the idea that only party whips determine policies. There's great ideas out there, but parties don't want to hear them. We need to bring the public and new ideas in.

If elected would you be bound by an Online Parliament? What if the fox hunting comes up again in the next parliament. Say you really loved foxes – would you vote with your heart or according to what most people want in your Online Parliament?

The Online Parliament would collate people's knowledge and opinions on fox hunting. It's up to me as a representative to find the best balance of what's best for the constituency as well as their views. It would be difficult, but representing people is morally better than being told by a suit how to vote.

There is a great demand for representatives to step away from party politics and digital is a great tool. The demand for new digital platforms for political activity like e-petitions demonstrates that.

Whoever wins this seat and others, we hope to see using more local consultation with our Online Parliament, so that they represent voters, not just their party whip.

Okay, thanks.

@BenGelblum

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