Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Fixing Democracy

Have you seen the film 51st State? It's very sweary and not for the faint hearted but there is a clip in it… if you've seen it, you will probably know what I'm about to say. Robert Carlyle instructs Paul Barber to "take care of him", him being the chemist Lawrence. Barber interprets this as kill Lawrence as in "take care of him" but Carlyle really means for him to be looked after and kept safe.

Well, "fixing democracy" is a bit like "take care of him". I mean… fixing as in making it work for all of us so we are all engaged and invested in it, not fixing where Governments, foreign states, social media analytics and the mainstream media manipulate the vote and stifle democracy. Let's be honest… that is exactly where we are today. Our democracy… what democracy? It is beyond broken. No band aids, quick fixes, it requires life threatening surgery to restart the country's heart.  A re-ignition of engagement. We saw the start of it in 2017 when record numbers of young people registered to vote but we need to engage EVERYONE in the process.

The disengagement is no coincidence and the blame certainly should not fall entirely on the heads of individual voters. There has been a systematic and sustained attack on democracy specifically designed to disengage people. If politicians wanted democracy to work, they would not constantly undermine it by changing the goal posts. Boundary changes, voter manipulation, false propaganda, preventing 16-18-year olds voting and the ridiculous voter ID trials are some of the underhand tactics employed to obstruct democracy.  Trying to prevent voter fraud, which is virtually non-existent, by trialling a system of Voter ID that turns away over 4,000 legitimate voters, including an ex-candidate, sums up the ineptitude of this Government. It’s not about voter fraud… more about finding ways to stop democracy.

Democracy is a thorn in many a politician’s side. It is NOT anti-British and unpatriotic, nor are you an enemy of the state, if you challenge the Government. In fact, it is deeply patriotic and very British to care about the plight of fellow citizens and NEVER should it be acceptable, nor should we allow, any of our citizens to suffer at the hands of merciless politicians elected, YES…ELECTED by us. It is our responsibility, individually and collectively, to ensure OUR elected representatives don’t get away with anything that undermines our communities, our democracy and our country. Orchestrating voter apathy and restricting legitimate participation is implementing a covert dictatorship. We have a track record of allowing politicians to blame everyone but themselves. The only way to change it… VOTE but… wait… we can’t VOTE!

Elected members MUST shoulder some of the responsibility … actually… MOST of the responsibility. I am sick of hearing their fake disappointment at voter apathy. I don't blame people for not voting. I love politics and am actively involved at grass roots level, but I can completely understand why some of my fellow residents won't vote. We have politicians who use local elections to elevate their own position in politics and don't give two hoots about the residents and their issues. We have MPs claiming ridiculous amounts of money on expenses for a second home when we have people living on the streets and WORKING people relying on food banks to feed their children, all while the House of Commons lavishes in champagne and subsidised bars!!

If you want people to believe in democracy, you must level the playing field. If there was a will to change democracy, it would be done. I hear so many times "why should I vote, they are all the same." During the recent campaign, I was asked "Is Jeremy Corbyn just an illusion that will change when he gets into power?" My answer was a genuine person who remains committed to his convictions over his whole life against the establishment, can NEVER be an illusion. It led to a great discussion about Hillsborough, Orgreave, Jimmy Savile and injustice. They are the things people want to know. When will we redress the injustices of our society? When will MPs be held fully to account? But what drives me totally insane, is our politicians telling us, if we criticise the Government, we are an enemy of the state, a risk to national security. Really? IT IS OUR CIVIC DUTY TO QUESTION THEM!!! The whole essence of a democracy!!

The pure beauty of a democracy is allowing everyone to have an equal voice. Debate is healthy. We all have opinions based upon our own beliefs and moulded by our life experiences. Everyone holds an idea worth listening to and considering providing it does NOT cause injustice, inequality and a divisive world. Time for change…

We need a total change in attitude from both sides of the divide – the elected and the voters, or non-voters. In my opinion, we need the strong will of a political leader to break away from the years of destruction, to fix the whole system from the inside but also restore the faith in that system. It will take a huge effort which will raise a lot of opposition and the undermining of that effort… sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Here’s what I think we need to do:

1.    New voting system. Make every vote count – First Past the Post is past its sell by date. It was traditionally sold on the basis it provided strong and stable Governments. Clearly it no longer does!

2.    New Voter registration system – why can’t we have automatic voter registration based on national insurance numbers. We all have them and they are unique.

3.    Allow 16 – 18-year olds to vote based on their national insurance number.

4.    Postal votes are great but as I found recently… if you change address… you can change the details on the system, but you must physically apply for a new postal vote at the new address. Ridiculous bureaucracy! Online voting should be explored – security encryption does work… don’t believe the fear factors!

5.    STOP the constant changing of the boundaries!

6.    Compulsory engagement. Other countries do it… we should too. Fine people who do not vote.

7.    Elected members should have a duty to restore faith in the system and that should make blatant lying in public office a criminal offence and they should face sanctions if they are persistent absentees.

8.    Elected members must be made accountable. We all have a duty to do this.

9.    EDUCATION! EDUCATION! EDUCATION! It is a total myth that politics and constitutional matters must not be taught in schools for fear of indoctrination. I would swear if I could right now!! I am a strong believer radicalisation occurs when people, especially the disenfranchised young, believe they don’t have a voice and are not being heard. They are not equipped with the full knowledge of options and alternatives. Let’s face it, the UK Government and Establishment have legitimised hate and division yet ask our teachers to implement strategies like Prevent!! To stop radicalisation from any part of the political spectrum, we need to educate our children, not just with knowledge but with the ability to critically analyse and challenge views. You never know, it may also inspire children from all backgrounds to represent their communities.

10. GET INVOLVED!!! Don’t moan… act. Politics is not a taboo subject. Engage in conversations but play nice! If you want your voice to be heard… make it so! Don’t leave it to others. Question your elected members, nationally and locally. Challenge them – make them work for their money!! Highlight the issue and push for change. Personally, inactivity or apathy of individual elected members, should be met with sanctions and fines, especially non-attendance! And… expenses should be capped at an annual figure per MP. If they can’t live within their means, they need to learn how to budget better!!

I hope it’s given you food for thought and you will get involved not just at the ballot box…

Back to the day job…

Beyond the Lies is all set to be published. I am just finalising the book cover. Once its agreed, I will post it to my social media.

I have my place for my PhD. The next chapter in this crazy life! For too long our children have been let down by schools in ICT/Computer Science training through lack of resources, poor teaching practices and politically motivated changes.

This Government has introduced Computer Science but phased out ICT which effectively means lots of our children may not receive any computer training after the age of 14 unless they meet the strict criteria to take the new GCSE. How does this prepare them for the changing world? I am on a mission to change this. To make Computer Science engaging and available to everyone especially as I was told at 15 I was not smart enough to take computer science and have just graduated with Distinction in MSc Information Technology. This is my field of research:

Have a fabulous week… go do whatever makes you happy… if it’s legal mind!!

Much love