The indications are growing of attempts by members of various political parties to form a new one that will somehow solve all of the problems that their current party does not address. Perhaps they will call it the Heineken party and then some people will have the confidence to vote for party candidates irrespective of who they are and what they are personally capable of. One of my own concerns about this is not that I think that any of the existing political parties are working well, but rather the democratic system lacks the mechanisms for us to hold our representatives to account and instead we get to vote for a party which has selected the prospective MP for our constituency. Many party members are so committed to the success of their party that they fail to understand that local people deserve the best candidate, not the one who satisfies the internal political machinery. It seems hard to imagine what would happen if all of the political parties with their defined rosettes were disbanded and instead every candidate and every elector was asked to take part in a questionnaire to identify ones politics. That instead of choosing a yellow, red, blue or green rosette that we were obliged to spend a few minutes reading what the candidates actually believed in. This would then give us a much stronger connection with our representatives who when they got to Parliament would then spend several days working out who they were willing to collaborate with and in due course which group of collaborators was the largest and therefore capable of running the country. Every time a set of challenging decisions was about to be made the need for MPs to consult their constituents if they had not already made their views clear would be so refreshing.
Clearly such a diverse and complex way forward in Parliament is hard to imagine, after all the binary party arrangement which was formed in the 16th Century only began to change 118 years ago when the Labour Party was formed to enable ordinary people’s views to be heard in a coherent manner. It is only in the last few decades that a diverse range of parties has begun to appear in the House of Commons. Even most Councils are dominated by political parties, however in many parish and town Council settings the individuals willing to stand and make decisions on behalf of their neighbours do so without any party agendas. I have met a range of town and parish councillors and it is clear that many are much more open to new ideas and finding creative solutions to problems in their communities than Councillors and MPs whose parties set out the criteria and parameters within which they should operate. In one sense this explains how the occasional attention seeking rule breaking individual such as Boris Johnson can emerge with such vigour. However just as the people behind the Heineken idea are from the main parties, so occasionally the parties do demonstrate a willingness to look outside of their own comfort zones.
There was an attempt in the early stages of the coalition government to require a non party based approach to the role of Police and Crime Commissioners. Although this was then rejected by MPs who believe that Party dominance is the way to improve society, Sussex MP Nick Herbert, one of the designers of the post stated six years ago “Police and crime commissioners will be important public servants …. Although police and crime commissioners may stand for a political party, the public will expect them to represent all the people in their area impartially, without fear or favour…. commissioners are there to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate” and the coalition manifesto stated “We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives”
It became clear early on that these checks and balances were superficial and lacked any teeth and this was confirmed a couple of days ago by Labour Councillor Emma Daniel who was part of the Police and Crime Panel that is supposed to hold Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne to account and tweeted the above statement. Perhaps what our nation needs is not yet another new political party but a way of diminishing the power of all political parties through some form of meaningful electoral reform!