your ideas. Vote for the best ideas. Change the
all the best ideas and clear information, to set
the political agenda for the future ...
information on why
voting system is not sufficient for the modern
can't have a Referendum on every issue.
opinion is poorly measured
need to represent all interest groups.
need our government to deal with difficult problems.
need our government to administer competently,
not just to rush
voting system is not sufficient for the modern world.
We need other, coordinated ways of making
it clear what we all want.
With one vote every 5 years,
we are trying to achieve three different things:
- We are trying to select a
good local representative;
- We are trying to select the
party which will be able to select the best administrators
to run the country; and
- We are trying to select the
best manifesto to represent what we want to happen.
It is not reasonable to be trying
to achieve all three things with one vote.
If we are voting for the best
administrators to run the country, or even for our
local representative to select the best administrators
to run the country, it doesn't automatically follow
that we are also voting for everything those administrators
say that they want to do. We might want a bit of what
this lot say, and a bit of what that lot say. We might
want some other ideas, from other people or from other
Just because we vote for one
lot - perhaps even because we think that they are
the least embarassing, and that they will be the most
competent administrators - that doesn't mean that
we are realy passionately want them to do everything
that they say they will do. That's too much.
And yet, when a government is
elected, it often starts saying that it has a mandate
to do such-and-such a thing.
Also, remember that our first-past-the-post
system means that a government with a majority of
MPs might actually only have got a minority of the
national vote. In 2015, the Conservative Party got
a majority of MPs (331), but only got 36.9% of the
national vote. [Even worse, with only 66.1% of people
actually voting, that means that only 24.3% of the
UK voted for the Conservative Party. That's not a
The system is not adequate for
the modern world.
We are all better educated and better informed that
we used to be, we think more, and we care more.
We have more to say, and we want things to work correctly
We should concentrate our vote
on selecting a good local representative, and trust
that our representative will be able to select (or
even be part of) a good government.
But we need another way of setting
out what the manifesto for the country should be.
We need another way of letting our government know
what we want it to do.
can't have a Referendum on every issue.
It is a crude tool, time consuming, and expensive.
Since the 1970s, referendums
have been used on quite a few issues, from joining
the European Economic Community (as it was then) to
the recent Scottish Independence Referendum, and it
looks as though we are soon to have another referendum
on whether we should stay in the European Union.
But the referendum is a very
A lot depends on how questions are phrased.
On the whole, a government only holds a referendum
when it is already pretty sure of the outcome. It
is just about bolstering the strength of public support
for what the government wants to do anyway.
And holding a referendum is
Manning the polling stations.
All the campaigning beforehand.
All of us taking time to vote. Well, some of us.
Talk Together is about achieving
everything a referendum could achieve, but with a
lot more detail, a lot more insight and learning -
not of whatever statistics politicians might throw
as us, but of what is actually the case, vetted by
balanced, independent research institutions. And it's
about achieving an overall manifesto of what the people
actually want to happen.
opinion is poorly measured -
Just look at opinion polls before the 2015 General
Well, we knew this before the
2015 General Election.
Opinion polls are not very accurate, even at simple
details like which Party is going to get more votes:
the Conservatives or Labour.
Opinion Poll organisations take
a sample of 1,000 people, and ask them how they plan
to vote if the election were held the following day.
For a start, as we saw above, only 66% of us bothered
to vote anyway, so what the other 34% might tell the
pollsters might be completely misleading.
And what if the pollsters don't
get a representative sample of the population?
It's sometimes compared to tasting a big saucepan
of soup. If you take a spoon from the top, you might
end up with more croutons and mushrooms, but you might
miss all the lentils at the bottom.
Having said that, public opinion
is very important to our politicians. They want to
get re-elected. To be fair, most of them want to do
the right thing. They want to do what we want them
to do. But how can they know what we want, if opinion
polls are so rubbish?
Our politicians can listen to
lobby groups. They can listen to people in their political
party. They can listen to their friends. They can
read the newspapers. But they can't actually find
out what we think - not all of us, together.
We can do better than this,
using information, inviting everyone to take part,
and by sharing information, clearly, succinctly, impartially.
groups, interest groups, pressure groups.
We can't just act according to the person
who shouts the loudest.
The bulk of interest group activity
in the UK is heavily tilted towards the better off
end of society, and scarcely takes into account the
interests of the less well off, even less of the very
poor1. We can't
just let the best organised or best financed or best
connected interest groups exert the most pressure.
We need to represent all interest
groups, not just those who are best organised, best
financed, or best organised.
It's excellent that there is
so much passion out there for different issues.
We all benefit from the great thinking and lobbying
which interest groups bring to important issues.
And, just because you want to
save the planet or the countryside, and so join Friends
of the Earth or CPRE, that doesn't mean that you don't
care about other things, too.
But you can't do everything
So, it's great that other people
are doing those things.
And we need to hear from all of them.
We need to pool our ideas and our energies.
We need to ensure that we are all heard.
We need to ensure that our government
knows what we want to happen.
Wicked Issues : the 'too difficult' tray.
We need our government to deal
with the difficult problems, too.
Not just the easy ones.
We don't just need soundbite-friendly
options, driven by ensuring that ministers are re-elected.
The nature of our political
system is that ministers and MPs think short term
- at the very most 5 years, to the next election.
But many things which need doing
which have a longer term impact. These are called
the Wicked Issues, because they often
require a bit of discomfort at first.
Like getting fit and losing
weight. It's worth it, but it takes a bit of effort
Ministers think that voters
are not prepared to put up with a bit of short term
effort, even if the long term effect is much better
for the country, and for all voters1.
But that's simply not true.
In 1997, people voted for higher
taxes, and for a government which would invest in
the NHS, because the NHS (for all its problems, is
a good thing).
We are not stupid, and we know
that good things can take a bit of effort.
We need to make that clear.
More generally, we need to
encourage consensual, less confrontational government.
Our system of government enables executive decision
and action, and ministers today seem actively impelled
to take action and to make news headline grabbing
decisions. Simmilarly, too much of the noise made
by politicians is about (party political) point scoring,
not about constructive government. We mostly don't
want or need this; we just need existing systems to
be competently administered.
Ministers are encouraged to
make an impact, to make their mark. In sound bites
even if not in sensible, constructive contributions.
And with average ministerial tenure (<18 months)
being much less than the time it takes for an initiative
to be full realised, or assessed, they move on with
impunity from hastily contrived catastrophe to ineffective
We need a different, quiet competence
from our ministers, not this brash, rash, rush for
headlines, marking their arrival like a puppy in a
We need a system which encourages
due deliberation, considering all the options, taking
counsel, drawing on advice, considering the impact
of a policy, and the assent (or at least the acquiescence)
required for a policy to work. We need our politicians
to take time to consider how a policy is actually
to be realised.
We need to enable government
to work with opposition politicians to deal with the
'wicked issues' by sharing both power and electoral
risk. And to do this, we need to take away the pressure
for ministers to rush to have an impact by doing any
old thing, by telling them what we want them to do.
It's not their opportunity for a headline or for career
advancement : it's our country.
We need this, as a first step
in increasing the respect which the public could hold
for our political class.
Who Governs Britain by Anthony King, Penguin
Random House (2015) p90
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2017 Talk Together