If ordinary people are to reclaim politics from the party elites, if they are to reinvigorate British democracy, they need to take action. This is how they – and you – can do so...
If you would like to be involved in our project and participate in developing these ideas, please email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
From your message, we would be grateful to learn:
a. The town or village where you live and the name of your parliamentary constituency. That will help us to plan events and meetings.
b. What you consider to be the government policies that most need redoing. That would help set the agenda for the writing of a manifesto.
c. How you would like to help. That could be either in thinking through issues or in helping to organise the process. The two tasks are equally daunting, and there is much to be done for each – for instance, in chairing meetings, setting up groups, taking notes, contacting and recruiting experts.
d. Whether you would support the principle of making a small contribution from time to time to keep the work going, a maximum of £50.
Our objective is to obtain a majority in the next House of Commons. The members so elected would declare that they intended to serve only one term. While I have described this target in The Independent as "near impossible", as indeed it is, I cannot see the point of aiming at anything less if the intention is to make a difference. The ideas below are correspondingly bold, but for now we need you to express an interest in order to organize local meetings of passionate citizens.
What next? It is easy to point to the failures of the existing system, but what would success look like? Our aspiration is that by the next general election, we will have achieved the following:
1. A group of candidates would have announced easy-to-understand policies for the problems people worry most about, such as unemployment, crime, immigration, care of old people, NHS, welfare reform, Europe.
2. It would have connected with the young and made them an integral part of the campaign.
3. It would have adopted a consultative style in policy making that it would carry through into government.
4. It would have staged primary elections in every constituency, 650 of them, to choose its candidates a year before the general election due to be held on 7 May 2015. This would have enabled its candidates to have spent at least a year working in their constituencies and become well known locally. Constituency primaries would have been big events.
5. It would have found a credible leader and candidates capable of running the departments of state if elected. In other words, it would have become a "Government-in-Waiting".
6. It would have achieved regular coverage in the national media.
7. It would have convincingly attacked the incompetence of the traditional political parties when in government.
If we are to be successful, candidates will have had to come forward by early 2014. How might this happen? It is to be hoped that they would make themselves known spontaneously as a result of participating in the first section of work that starts now and lasts until 2014. This is the drawing up of a full manifesto for government, constructed to the highest standards with the best possible advice. It would need to be a better document than that routinely produced by the political parties. It should be capable of being accepted by civil servants as high-quality work that could be swiftly turned into government policy. At the same time, the same body of work would have to be suitable for forming into a simple document that the electorate would find convincing and reassuring. These are very ambitious requirements, but again it doesn't seems as anything less would do.
This body of work would provide reassurance not only for the electorate but also, in the meantime, for people considering running for election.
It would help to answer the question posed by John Kampfner in an article on the crisis in public life that he recently wrote for the Financial Times. He said: "The current crop of MPs is drawn from a narrow social and professional background: think-tanks, political advisers and journalism. If more elected representatives had spent years as, say, brain surgeons, entrepreneurs or teachers, a calmer atmosphere might have prevailed. But why would a brain surgeon wish to enter such a tarnished fray?"
The plans described here are an attempt to answer that question.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Yours, Andreas Whittam Smith and the Democracy2015 Team
To find out more, go to independent.co.uk/democracy2015