Monday, 11 July 2016

Er...where's my voice?

It has been, to put it mildly, one hell of a time in politics.

As I write, Andrea Leadsom has withdrawn from the contest to be the next Prime Minister, leaving Theresa May unopposed; and David Cameron has announced that Ms. May will take over on Wednesday evening. He must have one hell of a good removals company - it usually takes months to move house, but he appears to be going with extraordinary expeditiousness. It's almost as if he'd been planning this months ago...

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the chamber, Angela Eagle has announced she will challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party. Just when we needed a united main opposition party the most, we find that once again we're back to the bad old eighties, and the Tories' capacity for holding onto power no matter the cost comes into play.

And while the chicanery and treachery continue in Westminster, all the rest of us are trying to get on with our lives, and I'm sure that I'm not alone in the feeling that we are being ignored: We've had our little fun with the referendum, now we're expected to wait for our betters to recreate the political landscape around them for their benefit.

Sorry, I'm not having it.

Dear reader, I'd like to make a suggestion. Maybe it's a daft one, and it's certainly something for the long term, but this seems like a time for ideas, ANY ideas, as our honourable representatives do not, at the time of writing, appear capable of finding their honourable bums with a map.

I'll start with a question: Who do you trust to represent you and voice your needs?

Another: Why do you trust them?

A third: When did you sign the contract that permitted that person to make decisions for you?

Now, we live, apparently, in a political system that relies on consensus and trust, in very much the same way that we trust that the bits of paper and metal in our pockets are commonly agreed to be money, and have a redeemable value (have you seen how Sterling's doing, by the way?).

Yet it strikes me that that consensus and trust have been severely eroded, not merely by the last few weeks, but going right back to 2003 and the invasion of Iraq. Last week, we saw the entirely unedifying spectacle of Tony Blair trying to explain away the dripping gobbets of blood that trail from his hands.

This erosion has become so bad that we must, in some way, rebuild it. Here's one way: a kind of Power of Attorney.

Let me explain. If you've got older or incapacitated relatives, you may well have one of these. In essence, Power of Attorney allows you to make decisions on behalf of someone else. It's a relatively simple legal instrument.

Why don't we apply this to voting? Currently, it's tradition and custom that allow our vote to count towards giving a politician our mandate to speak on our behalf. Yet tradition and custom are no guarantor of legality. Just because something is customary doesn't make it correct: Slavery was (is!) a custom; so is FGM.

Now, before you blanch at this, I'm not suggesting that everyone has to read and sign some massive wad of documents. Instead, I suggest that, by voting, you have in effect agreed to the putative MP being your representative. YES, I know that sounds remarkably like what we already have, but here's the catch: They are legally required to represent your views - and legally required to honour all commitments laid out in their manifesto. Should they not do so, then they are to be held in breach of contract, and therefore a new election, whether local or general, would be triggered.

By introducing a legal element to this process, we can achieve two good targets. The first is that political parties (or groups representing certain views in a referendum) would be held directly and legally accountable for the policies they claim to represent. Secondly, it invites the voter to be more closely involved in the process by actually reading what their party of choice stands for. You get more responsible politics and a more politically educated electorate at a stroke.

See? Not bad, is it?

Of course, it probably doesn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of being actioned, seeing as the last thing our politicians want is an educated electorate.