Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Labour Sells Votes?

Last night's London Evening Standard accuses Labour of "selling votes" to choose the next PM. Apparently, party chiefs have put the word out that you get to vote on the party leader and deputy-leader and, in a one time, first of its kind special not-to-repeated offer, have the "privilege" and "responsibility" of choosing the new premier. The Labour website puts it this way

Join the Labour Party by direct debit

Being a member of a political party means a lot and in the coming months our members will be asked to elect a new Leader and Deputy Leader for the Labour Party, and, for the first time in history, the next Prime Minister. Never before has the membership of any political party had such power to shape the future of British politics, nor such a responsibility to the people of Britain, and the history of our movement. It is a responsibility and a privilege.

Opposition MPs, meanwhile, condemn this as demeaning the electoral process (and as highlighting the party funding crisis). The LibDems, not wanting to be left out, insist that whoever succeeds the PM should call a snap election to get a mandate from the people rather than the Labour party (apparently ignoring the precedent set by Anthony Eden, Alec Douglas-Home, James Callaghan and John Major).

Labour party members will get 1/3 of the available votes for choosing the PM, with the balance being split equally between parliamentarians (MPs) and unions. Surely, rather than demeaning the electoral process, this presents a fantastic opportunity for those with an interest in one candidate or another to make their case and influence the outcome; likewise it presents an even better opportunity for those of a mind to make their vote one of protest and have it count in a completely different way. There are only a few hundred thousand Labour Party members, so flood their coffers with funds and make your vote count.

In the land of Radio, there were complaints that Radio 4's annual Christmas repeal a law contest had been hijacked by the pro-hunting brigade. What a surprise. An online, public vote that gets won by a campaign that's shown its ability to organise, just as the anti-hunting lobby has.

And in TV-land, Big Brother 417 is on (I'm reminded of the poster in Demolition Man showing an elderly boxer under the caption "Rocky XXXVII" or something. Those with long memories will remember talk of an e-government enabled general election, driven by the huge traffic that votes for Big Brother ejections.

So now, all we have to do is combine the election for PM, the campaigning capability of special interest groups and an online/text voting system like Big Brother's and we might be able to put together a killer online government application of a kind never before seen anywhere in the world. And the entry fee is only £36.

  • So here's my action plan for an exciting leadership election: Make the election online and dynamic so every vote cast (via web, text or phone) can be seen on a web page; the only qualification for entry is a valid debit card and an address that matches the debit card
  • Split the £36 per member entry fee with £5 going into a prize fund, winner to be chosen at random, £25 to Labour party funds and £6 to opposition party funds (in the ratio of seats held in parliament). Why £36? well, that's the current fee and it seems like a reasonable number
  • Make room for two votes - (1) who do you want to be Labour party leader (only existing MPs eligible for votes) and (2) who do you expect to become Labour Party Leader. All those who get (2) right enter the prize fund draw, getting over the need for a "game of skill" qualification
  • Make the £36 fully tax deductible for individuals, the same way that GiftAid is

I can see a million entries right away. What do you think?

Sit down that person at the back that suggested we put all the candidates in a house for a couple of weeks and watch them interact. That's what Parliamentary TV is for.

[composed and posted with ecto which seems to be causing some format problems that I need to work on]

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