Monday, September 12, 2011
Building a New Free Market Scottish Party - Net Democracy
Also that all policies to be proposed at the party conference should first be put up for discussion online. I would prefer a moderator on the site - this may seem anomalous when I have run afoul of moderators in the past but the job of a moderator, when properly done, is to prevent a discussion running off topic; long repetitive posts, usually asserting without evidence; short "Yes it is/no it isn't" stuff; and personal invective. All of which clutters up genuine debate.
1 - should it be open to public view - I think it should. Seeing open sensible debate would be a refreshing change in British politics and bypass the political "pundits" who, particularly at the BBC, are likely to be an unreliable channel. It also has the very great advantage that seeing what is going on is the best possible advertising and anybody seriously interested is likely to stump up for membership.
2 - should people use their real names - I am agnostic on this. I almost always use a variant of my name online and think it adds credibility. Would you be more likely to believe the assurances of John Brown or Truthteller? However I would not lightly refuse to hear the latter and understand people can have real reasons not to be too public.
However I am inspired to take it further by Joseph Friedlander who commented
Indeed, if you could provide live nominating and voting processes and evolved not merely the constitution but the party platform and agenda online you might energize the party to a great degree because they would be fighting for what they had asked for, and come to agree with, not that which was pushed down their throats by indefatigable activists. Love to see you detail something like that in another post.
I would love to see that sort of thing spread to the US.I do not have the technical expertise to pontificate here but it is clear that it would not be technically difficult to arrange to register a single vote - 1 per member. Pretty much a combination of a well moderated discussion board and the government E-Petition site. At least for the present Such votes could be non-binding or subject to ratification by the party conference. Leadership does sometimes mean making decisions not just following a headcount. However when the leadership or Conference overruled the online opinion it would feel it necessary to give very good reasons why and would be held accountable as events either justified the decision or otherwise.
Alternately there could be a right for the party execuctive to use a block vote of 4% of the membership total either for any vote or merely for a vote against change. This would allow a truly popular opinion to outvote the leadership but not a small but active special interest.
In the longer term we may well see internet "town hall meetings" dominating government everywhere. On the other hand we may not. Right now I suggest first steps rather than the final destination.
Going back to the subject of a moderator - imagine a formal parliamentary debate without the Speaker. It would be bound to degenerate into chaos. The net is less subject to that because it is impossible to literally shout down the opposition. Nonetheless comments, particularly on politically correct sites do range from a long trail of answers answering nothing, to personal vituperation and obscenity.
I suspect both a light handed moderator and limitation to party members, required to maintain basic manners, would provide a much more reasoned debate than we see in normal discussion groups, or indeed Parliament or BBC TV "debates".
I have also previously proposed broadcast debates on subjects of interest. This is something a medium sized party could do and put online even though our government funded "due balance" broadcasters resolutely refuse to broadcast such balanced debates. If they proved popular some extraterrestrial broadcaster might take them.
Also a new party should keep in touch with its members with an, I suggest fortnightly, email to all members giving inside recent news. Any party that can do a quarterly magazine can easily do that.*
All of these are directed at reestablishing mass membership parties. I regard the hollowing out of parties and their declining membership, over nearly the last 50 years, as a very serious threat to democracy. I suggest there are 2 main reasons for this, reinforcing each other
- firstly that campaigns became ever more a matter of TV soundbites in which ordinary members served no useful purpose and even big donors a limited one as "contacts" in the TV industry became the route to power.
Secondly that when nobody matters except at the very top and no ordinary member can expect to have any role in deciding what the party is supposed to stand for this week why would anybody want to be a member. I remember hearing somebody on the radio saying that anybody who chooses to be a member is "personally ambitious, mad or has a family history of membership" (I was the latter in the case of the LDs). Supreme executive power should derive from a mandate from the people not some farcical TV "debate" ceremony.
The net give an option of rebuilding the sort of mass parties that used to exist. Fifty years abo the Unionist party had a membership well over 200,000. Now it is 8,500
Obviously all this also applies to UKIP in either the UK as a whole or for the Scottish Parliament.
*I did suggest this to the LDs for Scotland shortly before they expelled me but I assume nothing came of it.