Why are journalists (TV or press) so poor at asking UK politicians the right questions? Sometimes it takes a forum like ‘Question Time’ on TV, for voters themselves to ask the right questions to the politicians on the panel. Even then, the politician has to represent all the views and ministerial portfolios of their party, in a quick two minute answer.
General Election Result
From the General Election result in the UK on Friday 9th June, two things were very clear if you look past the spin. Firstly, the country is incredibly divided – witness the 2 main parties respective vote shares. And the resulting number of marginal seats all over Britain.
And secondly, a 7 week electoral campaign period was worse than no campaign at all. Clearly, no party had enough time to deeply communicate its ideas, policies and vision for the UK to the voters. Following a 7 week campaign and the carrot of free tuition fees (under Labour), British youth turned out in record numbers to vote – the record turn-out being a victory for democracy. But did the youth really understand what they were voting for, being novices on; the election process, the party policies and the globally inter-dependent World we now find ourselves in. The same could be said about many veteran voters.
The basic electoral system in the UK needs to switch to a proportional representation system, instead of the first-past-the-post. After all, if it’s good enough for a Brexit referendum and local government elections, it ought to be good enough for general elections too. Some examples of the problem: (1) The SNP at the 2015 general election polled roughly 50% of the vote, but gained 56 of 59 seats! Equally UKIP gained about 4M votes (80% of the population of Scotland) but only 1 seat in the UK parliament.
More generally, people’s vote in a safe seat with a huge margin, is essentially worthless. However, their vote, if it happens to be in a highly marginal seat, is massively influential.
U-turns in office
Politicians need to formulate clever and effective policies that fix big problems and are easy to communicate to voters. Once formulated, the party in office shouldn’t then be doing U-turns on those promises.
If any kind of coalition government is formed, U turns are inevitable, in order for coalition compromises to be reached. The best chance of avoiding coalition outcomes (policy U turns) is to have proportional representation.
Where’s the honesty in the debate?
The level of honest debate in UK politics needs to massively increase, if we are to heal the social divisions and cure people’s cynicism of politicians. In life outside politics, you can’t make sensible decisions based on lies. So why do voters tolerate so much spin from politicians, on something as important as running the country?
Politicians don’t create jobs, except indirectly in state-owned enterprises and government departments. Even then, they take no enterprise risk and put no personal investment into those enterprises. Politicians lie in taking the credit for job creation and what’s worse, take the public’s appreciation away from business start ups, large businesses and not for profit employers – the ones creating tax receipts, jobs & futures for the citizens. Maybe we need a series of fines that politicians have to pay personally (to charities or food banks) when they are caught out in a lie?
Honest debate isn’t just about avoiding lies. It’s also about making realistic assumptions. Can any party realistically govern in a hung parliament situation, let alone negotiate Brexit? How much tax can really be collected from the super rich? How much can social services be cut, before the social fabric is lost forever? Are some benefits better provided by charities. rather than by central government (charities are apolitical and experts at grant making)? Is trying to create a balanced annual budget by trimming public spending (often labelled as austerity) inherently evil and uncaring, or is the problem more about the taxes collected not getting through to the people who need it most? Can nationalised utilities and local bodies really run things like companies and schools better for the voters? Can a free health system with massive staff shortages cope without some kind of rationing of its services? Can a home country really become independent and still expect to side-step their share of the national debt/keep the Barnet formula subsidy/keep using the old currency? Will massive public borrowing for big infrastructure projects really pay off tenfold? How likely is it that workers ,will move to other parts of the country where the job vacancies are?
A final thought. The World is growing more complex and more inter-connected far faster than political systems and career politicians can adjust to those changes. As the complexity rises, voters go to the polls armed with less and less understanding of what they are really voting for – they focus on party values rather than manifesto implications.
The only real solution to that trend is voters choosing to educate themselves on; economics, global trade, technology, law and international trade.
Is freedom now a zero-sum game?
In the distant past, there were new lands to explore and colonise. Phase one – human freedom was on the rise.
Then came space constraints, leading to wars over resources, nationhood, human conquest and slavery. Some problems like global warming, wealth distribution inequality and global pollution grew to become almost unsolvable. Phase two – overall human freedom grew, but much was offset.
Now, as the Internet of Things grows in prominence, will its freedom to operate, come at the expense of human freedom per se (Phase three)?
If we continue to obsess about Phase two shortcomings, then by the time we collectively think about Phase three, Phase four will be upon us…
The evolution of political representation:
- Working people gain their own representation.
- Women gain their own representation.
- Children gain their own representation.
- Gay people gain their own representation.
- Trans-gender people gain their own representation.
- Cyborg people gain their own representation.
- AI systems gain their own representation.
21st Century Champagne socialists favour a world in which everyone has equal access to the resources they require in order to flourish, rather than one of equal distribution.
Meanwhile, 21st Century conservatives (with a small c) favour a world in which everyone has equal opportunity to build the resources they require.
What’s the difference? Incentive. Building resources in an efficient way requires it. Having resources to share, skips over the incentive problem of creating them in the first place.
What’s the problem with both views? One problem is resource sustainability. In a World that wasn’t over-populated, Adam Smith and Karl Marx could conveniently ignore the environmental impacts of their theories.
Then there’s the policy confusion problem (too many targets). Having equal access to all of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is arguably a redundant problem, if too many people are grasping just for the first need (basic food and shelter) and the nation’s too poor at governance to provide them all with that first need, let alone the others (high quality healthcare, crime prevention, free access to museums, foreign aid etc). Does that mean 21st Century socialists should concentrate on the basics first, or continue concentrating on securing equal access at all Maslow levels? Meanwhile, building resources requires skill, energy and materials. If the government policies aren’t smart or cohesive enough to encourage people build just the first of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that’s a problem also.
What to do? If good government requires the governors to do the greatest good for the greatest number, use the Maslow model as a foundation for your policy priorities and skip the vanity projects!
Follow the middle road, to make rapid progress in a cooperative setting.
Turn hard left to rapidly terminate forward progress.
Turn hard right to rapidly terminate forward progress.
So it is with UK politics.
A close vote (52/48) suggests to me a mass of people wavering between the 2 choices, not a mass of people at either extreme. When the media report the result, it’s all too easy to think voter views are hugely far apart, just because it was a binary choice, not a reading on a scale.
On referendum voting day, I think most clear-thinking people voted in spite of the referendum campaign exaggerations, not because of them. Also, the campaign did little to increase people’s opinions of the Westminster politicians.
Since a referendum is the purest form of democracy, a small bunch of people not liking the result and then campaigning for a second referendum just insults everyone who voted.
I didn’t vote Leave but I understand that it’s entirely possible to love the various cultures of continental Europe, but hate the bureaucracy of Brussels and Strasbourg. Labelling this group of Leave voters as racists, suggests the accuser doesn’t know what the word racist actually means.
Sadly the bureaucrats of Brussels seem to have learned nothing from the Brexit result and simply carry on regardless. A timely reminder of why bureaucracy is so maddening.
We’d plan tax reform BEFORE income distribution undergoes the full onslaught of machine automation.
The UN would fund and deploy aerial nano-bots that fly around the World destroying unregistered guns.
Religious opinion leaders would MODERNISE religious doctrine to accommodate future technological change.
We’d REFORM things in society before the flat part of the (technology) exponential curve turns into the steep part of the exponential curve.
Government social services would MANAGE people’s expectations in a honest way upfront, not make excuses in a patronising way afterwards. Prevention is usually cheaper that cure.
We’d APPOINT lobby groups to represent the animal kingdom and not pretend that humans and corporates have all the votes and all the freedom to act.
We’d ENCOURAGE people to self-learn to cope with global changes in progress.
The day AI takes over human medical research, is the day we surrender control of our destiny.
Flash trading of financial futures is split-second trading on our own futures.
Gene therapy (GM that removes cruelty and indifference) was never needed so desperately on a mass scale, as when there is human suffering, rainforest deforestation, ocean pollution and global warming.
Politics and credit – the art of stealing opportunity from the future to buy votes and gadgets in the present.
The borders we sit behind are insignificant compared to the technology, fame and entertainment we seek.