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Home > Politics

Party of (Channel) Five

The future of democracy? Yeah, whatever.

7 January 2004

Dan Thompson, co-founder of the 365 Corporation, has announced plans to launch YourParty.org, a new political party, created from scratch, on the Internet. The party's entire manifesto will be decided by members who register online and then vote on what the party's policies should be.

It's a brilliant idea - or at least we thought it was when we first announced it almost two years ago.

Back in June 2002, The Friday Thing decided it was fed up with there being no proper opposition party in Britain and decided to set one up. We wrote an editorial outlining our plans for a party that would take all of its policies from its members - putting every single item of policy to the vote and then standing in the European elections on the resulting manifesto.

Following a flood of emails from people who wanted to join - including several offers of financial support - we were determined to make a go of it. But, not wanting to go off half-cocked, we decided to embark on a proper consultation process.

We spoke to political experts, to election statisticians, to sociology professors and to lots and lots and lots of ordinary voters. And pretty soon we discovered the fundamental flaw in our plan: it was rubbish.

The main problem with our proposal (and Your Party's and the no doubt hundreds of others that came before ours) is that it inevitably results in candidates standing for election on policies they themselves don't agree with.

Just look what happened to Steven Pound MP when he agreed to propose a new piece of legislation, as voted for by listeners to Radio 4. Poor old Steven is now forced to propose to the House that people should be allowed to shoot burglars. "The voters have spoken," he admitted, "the bastards."

And that's the second problem - the system is extremely vulnerable to orchestrated campaigns by bastards. By allowing the public to vote on every aspect of the party's manifesto, you can very easily end up creating a party with hang-em-and-flog-em law and order policies and far-left social ones, all led by Heidi from the Sugababes. No one would vote for it and even its own candidates would be unable to support its manifesto.

Fortunately for Your Party, none of that matters a jot. A quick glance at their website reveals the entire project to be just a ruse to secure a TV deal. According to the FAQs page, 'We are setting up a new television production company called TV Democracy with the aim of making television programming about Your Party.'

Well, at least it's a policy.

Update from the University of Nottingham:

Dr Richard Whitaker points out that the rules of the European Parliament explicitly forbid MEPs being contractually bound. He adds that, similarly, if Your Party succeeds in getting candidates elected to Westminster they will run up against the 1689 Bill of Rights.
And, he says, the clearest expression of this came in 1947, in the Committee of Privilege's judgement in the case of WJ Brown when it declared that "it is inconsistent with the dignity of the house, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any member of this House to enter into a contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member's complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a Member being to his constituents and to the country as a whole, rather than any section thereof."

Oops. That's the kind of error a dabbler might make.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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