helenic: (Default)

I've just sent the following email to all my candidates except Labour, Tory and UKIP (because I am not considering voting for them) through this handy website.

This got long. )



Feel free to nick any/all of the above questions - the observant among you will have noticed that I've cobbled together most of them from the Liberty Central list, the Power 2010 leaderboard, and the Pirate Party UK manifesto.

I'll be surprised if any of them answer all of the questions, but Denny tells me he'd be delighted to receive an email like that, so here's hoping.

I'd previously thought that Neville Watson, as a high-profile Independent and POC, stood the best chance of ousting Lammy in Tottenham, but as time passes I'm less convinced. I got a leaflet from TUSC (the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) through the door which was surprisingly credible, so I'm considering going along to their election rally next Tuesday to see what they have to say. Their candidate Jenny Sutton is on twitter (the only one I've found so far apart from Lammy) and seems very sound. I've heard absolutely nothing from the Green or Lib Dem candidates so far - in fact I'm wondering if there are any Lib Dems in Tottenham - so the answers I get really will be a significant factor in who I decide to vote for.

helenic: (Default)

For the last few days I've been helping [personal profile] denny with a secret project. This morning it became not-so-secret.



For each vote coming up in Parliament, I will put a poll on this website. Every voter living in Hackney South and Shoreditch will have a login for the site, and will be able to vote in the polls using their computer or their mobile phone.
Whatever the majority vote is, I will vote that way.

My partner [personal profile] denny is running for Parliament as an independent candidate, on a platform of direct digital democracy. This is very exciting! If he's elected, he'll use his communications budget to develop a secure site for the polls, based on authenticated individual logins and the electoral roll for his constituency. (Non-constituents may have a separate poll, but their vote won't be counted.) Many aspects of the idea will be refined democratically through the website, and engagement is very strongly encouraged. The hope is that other candidates will eventually want to stand on a similar platform - and in fact in the last few hours he's already had an enquiry or two along these lines.

The campaign is launching quite late in the day, so he needs all the help he can get. If you believe in the need for bottom-up democratic reform and think the idea has potential, please help spread the word. If you could post about the campaign on twitter, facebook, LJ or other social media that would be brilliant - his main chance of publicity is through word-of-mouth. In addition, he is particularly looking for:

- journalists and bloggers who might be interested in covering the campaign;
- magazine, newspaper or website editors who would like to run an article;
- people to print and/or distribute leaflets or sheets of stickers (an office printer will do);
- printers who might be able to offer a discount on print runs;
- people to design promotional materials such as leaflets, postcards, business cards (I'm doing my best, but I'm already very short of time - I can send you all the assets and resources you need);
- people to write to papers, journalists, MPs, Lords or other public figures, to call their attention to the campaign and ask if they're able to help.

He also needs donations to cover the compulsory deposit and campaign costs, but publicity is just as important at this stage - if not more so.

There's already been an exciting response from the internets so far today. Stoke Newington People ran an unsolicited article by Seamus McCauley, and blogger Jonathan MacDonald surprised us with a second. Twitter seems to like the idea. Online publicity is his main hope of success, especially if the campaign is covered in local and national papers, but of course it doesn't translate to support in his constituency, so he'll be canvassing and doing all the normal things as well. Any support you can give would be very much appreciated.


Edit: Wow. Thanks so much for all the responses and criticism; it's been a fascinating discussion. I'm sorry I don't have time to reply to every comment individually, but check this thread for my general response to people's concerns.

helenic: (sachiko: pensive)

Someone (probably [personal profile] denny) sent me a link to this list of independent candidates running in the next election on Your Next MP. 28 so far - one the ex-leader of the BNP - including only two women. Which is interesting in itself - why so few female Independent candidates?

Anyway, I idly scanned the list to see if there's an Independent standing in my constituency. And - what are the odds? - there is! Disappointingly, there's no information about him on the website (in fact, there doesn't seem to be any information about any of them on the website, which somewhat limits its usefulness). So I'm doing a bit of investigating.

Neville Watson is apparently an executive member of the Independent Network. His campaign page seems very community-focussed, which is good, I think, but doesn't tell me much about his more general policies. He talks about mental health support, alternative education, working with young people to reduce crime, providing farmer's markets for people to sell locally-grown organic produce, affordable low cost housing and energy conservation projects. He seems to be an active social worker with youth groups, managing the local football club, doing volunteer work prisoners and psychiatric patients. Which are all good things. He seems to be passionate, engaged and inspired on a local level.

But an MP isn't just a local leader - they're also an elected representative. And his campaign says nothing about his wider politics - nothing on how he's likely to vote in Parliament. One page of his site says both "he believes in equality and justice for all" and "a strong family unit is imperative for the development of our children", which leaves an amibiguous impression - does he favour the conservative idea of the family, or feminism and LGBT rights? Race politics are arguably more of an issue in Tottenham, and he addresses that to some extent, but there are a lot of gaps. How does he feel about civil liberties? The war on terror? Democratic reform? When you're voting for a member of a party, you can (to some extent) look to the policies of their party for anything they don't specifically mention. With an Independent, there are no such guidelines.

The current MP in Tottenham is David Lammy - a Labour minister whom I am inclined to distrust. His voting record goes against many of my principles, and he seems to tow the party line most of the time. On the other hand, I remember hearing from [livejournal.com profile] steerpikelet that he spoke very well at the Labour party conference, and the left seems to generally approve of him, although I'm not clear on exactly why. He's never responded satisfactorily to any of my letters - he leaves it late enough to reply that I have marked my letter "unanswered" on writetothem before I heard back from him, and I've only ever got form letters vaguely related to my question. (For instance, when I wrote to him expressing my concerns about police brutality and strategy during protests, I got a form letter six weeks later about Ian Tomlinson, which completely ignored my actual question.)

This election is the biggest opportunity Independents are likely to get for some time. (If the Tories get in, the current democratic system is rigged to keep them in for two or three terms - the yo-yo effect between the two big parties is well-established. Democratic reform is necessary to undermine that, and what are the chances of the Tories voting for something that will decrease their chance of staying in power?) The MPs expenses scandal combined with general disillusionment with the two-party system is going to give Independent candidates a better chance than they've had in years. Neville Watson, like David Lammy¹, is an Afro-Caribbean (important in a constituency with the racial demographic of Tottenham) family man (Tottenham is very Christian, and the last six MPs have been male). Lammy's expenses record isn't too bad, but it seems to me that Watson has a reasonable chance.

Locally, he may be as good a bet as the LibDem or Green candidates (or better - David Schmitz doesn't have much of interest to say). But in Parliament? I have no way of telling. Of course, I may well not be here anyway - even if we move in March, I might well be voting here as I'm not sure there'll be time to get on the electoral register of our new constituency before the election. So in some ways it's in my interest to vote for a national representative rather than a good local MP. But I'm not sure if that's missing the point.

1. And, apparently, the 2010 UKIP candidate, although he's not listed on Your Next MP so I'm not sure what's going on there.

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