We should have open primaries for elections


by David Lammy MP    
8:38 am - July 2nd 2008

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I think the Obama-McCain contest means that we have the chance to see the best of America in this election year.

During these last few months, as I spent time in Chicago and Wisconsin in February during parliamentary recess and then on the doorstep in Crewe and across Greater London in April and May, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what, if anything connects these events. What do they have in common? What direction do they point us in for the future?

There is something about these two outsider candidates that connects with people, whether that is with rural communities in Iowa, casino workers in Nevada or students in Wisconsin.

Now switch to Crewe and the issue of who does politics also comes to the fore. This time in the shape of the ‘Tory toff’ stunt, which began as a practical joke and mutated into a campaign theme.

And the reality, I think, is that the Crewe campaigners picked up on something: people do feel that politicians are out of touch with their everyday lives.

As with the US, people do feel that Westminster is made up of a small elite, that spends more time talking to itself than the rest of the country – and in a coded and managerial language that only it understands.

But the real problem with the Toff campaign was that it picked the wrong target. Because the issue is the political class, not the upper class.

The danger, in a world where Westminster has created its own industry of think-tanks, lobbying firms, PR agencies and media outlets, is that we lose the rich diversity to a generation of politicians who have emerged not from the professions, the business community or the unions but from within Westminster itself.

It’s dangerous because people struggle to find the connections with this political class that seems to operate in a different world. And the result is that people begin to channel their efforts into other spheres of politics where they feel they will be listened to.

At best this is single issue campaigns – climate change, poverty action groups, human rights. At worst people drift away from the managerial mainstream to the extremist fringes of politics. This is where people are offered simple answers to the problems they see around them – whether it is the BNP or extremists using religion as a way presenting the world in terms of black and white – good and evil.

And a distant political class is dangerous for a second reason. If parliament becomes filled with an elite that hasn’t seen and experienced the lives that people lead across Britain, then it will suffer from the blind spots that comes with.

Lessons from America
So the first lesson that I draw from America, but also from the events of this year, is that we need to find ways to break open politics beyond the usual suspects.

· So we should be starting early, involving young people in politics not through talking shops that can seem patronizing, but through ideas like young mayors who have real budgets to spend in local areas, as they have done in Lewisham.

· We should be closing the gap between the public and our Party by experimenting with open primaries, so carrying a Labour membership card in your wallet isn’t the be all and end of all of whether you can take part.

· And as the party’s finances recover, we should be doing everything we can to make sure that the financial costs of running for parliament aren’t a form of selection by the back door, whether that means bursary schemes, loans or other mechanisms.

· We should give back the power to political parties so that they can take positive action to make parliament more representative of the ethnic diversity of modern Britain.

· We should be creating more opportunities for political talents to emerge, which do not depend on the patronage of a few people at the top of a party. I’d like to see more local areas elect their own mayors, creating new ways for people to make a difference and make their name.

· And we need new ways for ordinary people to make their voice heard in Westminster. Five years ago around a million people marched in London against the war in Iraq. And whatever people’s views about the war itself, we need to recognise that people need somewhere to channel their views and concerns. So more direct democracy and new forms of accountability all need to be part of the mix.

Whatever the policy mechanisms we use, politics – and especially progressive politics – cannot assume people’s trust. It has to earn it, through becoming as open, as inclusive and representative of the wider public as it can.

The good society
Over the last decade both New Labour and the New Democrats got into the habit of defining themselves through what they were against rather than what they were for: Not the Old Left, not the New Right, but New Labour was the formula.

Some of that was political pragmatism, and some of it was a genuine search for new ideas after the lows of the 1980s. But the use of triangulation, of defining yourself against your own party, of a managerial language which drains the values from policy also became a habit – a reflex –which alienated people in the party and left the public disorientated.

So in 2008 we need to be much clearer about the kind of society that we want to create.

The narrative of the last ten years – a strong economy and strong public services – needs another ingredient: a good society:

It means:

  • A planet that is livable for our children and their children
  • Housing conditions that you would expect to see in the fifth richest country in the world
  • A flourishing public realm with quality public spaces for people to enjoy
  • Stronger social bonds in communities – between different generations, between different cultures
  • Better quality of life for adults with busy working lives and more help for parents having children for the first time
  • A safer, more fulfilling childhood for children who face greater commercial pressures than ever
  • More structure and new opportunities for young people wondering what the future holds for them in life and in work

These are issues which go to the heart of inequality, but which will never be addressed by a new round of public service reform or even changes to tax credits.

They are about the places where the social, the personal and the political all meet. And the truth is also this: they are issues that only a Labour government can address.

———————-
This is an extract from a speech made to the Fabian Society this week, published with consent. The full version is here.

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About the author
This is a guest article. David Lammy is MP for Tottenham and has served as a Minister in the Department of Health and Department of Constitutional Affairs. He is currently the Minister for Skills. His website is here.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Our democracy ,United States ,Westminster


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Reader comments


1. Mike Killingworth

Sunny, did you get my e-mail? Mr Lammy and I seem to have been thinking along very similar lines…

I’m sorry to heat that Mike, as David Lammy appears in this piece to be trying to satisfy all of the people all of the time while contradicting himself simultaneously on several fronts.

He singularly fails in his conception of politics when he describes climate-change, poverty and human rights as ‘single-issues’, when the truth is that they are each all-encompassing perspectives which draw together and influence the wider political debate.

He describes the feeling that Westminster is a small elite – introspective and insular – as a member of it himself, in a speech to one of the groups most instrumental in sustaining it. He then mentions the ‘Tory Toff’ campaign in Crewe!

David Lammy is an example of the problems he identifies – he is what is wrong with our politics.

If Lammy believed in what he said he would resign.

“so carrying a Labour membership card in your wallet isn’t the be all and end of all of whether you can take part.”

What would be the point of being a member?

I don’t know, I don’t think primaries are a suitable situation to ask for in the UK. Is the general election not a “primary” style process where each constituency votes on a party? Or are you talking about the selection of MPs for constituencies, in which case I have to ask if any of that really is going to inspire anyone?

I could perhaps see the idea for primaries for party leaders being a solid one, but then I go back to the point above about why it is you’d be a party member other than to be a minor funding source.

I dunno, I guess I’m just not sold on the idea working all that well in this country, but I could be swayed.

“So more direct democracy and new forms of accountability all need to be part of the mix.”

A wholesale reform of democracy will be needed to achieve this, solving the politician/people issue isn’t even half the problem.

I mostly think that primaries in this country would be a very bad thing, more money wasted on an electoral process that is already heading in the wrong directions in terms of spending, Candidates should be knocking on doors talking to people not cranking out adverts and leaflets like there is no tomorrow.
The one argument I can see for them is that they are so vital in America because the parties there are much looser coalitions than here. Pretty much without the primaries the of picking candidates (presidential ones especially) would be even more bitter and ugly than they have been show to be by the democrats this year. So if primaries were part of political parties becoming less monolithic and central spending then they would be an unwelcome side effect of a very welcome change.
I worry that this year we may well see the damage the primary fight does, if it comes to pass that the democrats have blown their electoral momentum.

5. Mike Killingworth

[2] I was only thinking of primary elections, Thomas, the rest is just warm words.

[4] If the Donkeys had selected their Presidential candidate by any other method, it would have been Hillary Clinton. Perhaps, like Nick Palmer MP, you are so disgusted by her defeat that you actually want the GOP to win the General Election?

thomas: The topic of primaries itself does seem to be a bit of bandwagon jumping on what was a public relations success in America, as if it’s instantly transferable over here. In that sense I completely agree with Tony above.

In fact what I’d like to know more is why an MP that makes statements like:

“And a distant political class is dangerous for a second reason. If parliament becomes filled with an elite that hasn’t seen and experienced the lives that people lead across Britain, then it will suffer from the blind spots that comes with.”

Can vote for a bill that gives blind power to parliament to stigmatise and condemn people to detention without charge.

How can an MP that says:

“Whatever the policy mechanisms we use, politics – and especially progressive politics – cannot assume people’s trust. It has to earn it, through becoming as open, as inclusive and representative of the wider public as it can.”

Wishes to earn it by voting to removing the need for juries at inquests?

Why exactly is an MP that voted for 42 days writing on a Liberal site essentially extolling the virtues of consumerism and how, if this government gives us a shiny house and some cosy benefits we’ll all suddenly be much happier about rising bills, stagnating equality levels and more illiberal legislation than you can shake a stick at.

“Come on, ignore the fact you’re being made to have ID cards and tracked by the state in as many ways as we can fit in under the HRA, here’s an open plan appartment with new kitchen!” (Lammy has always been loyal on these subjects of illiberal measures too)

To be honest, thinking about it more, it just makes me sick that you, Mr Lammy, have the audacity to come on here and act as if we’re that stupid.

OPEN primaries seem a bit too far… Would you fancy letting a bunch of NuLab people voting for who is the best Liberal?

And I don’t think there’s any way of picking “people who voted Conservative” (for example) and getting them to choose the Tory candidate without HUGE privacy issues…

Mike, apologies, glad to hear it.

Lee, it’s not just a bandwagon being jumped on by Mr Lammy, it’s also a deliberate failure to understand the political culture of the country and the structures which already exist and therefore a method of undermining the organic nature of our democracy.

Lammy is smug elitism personified – I can’t see him pushing for any effective electoral or constitutional reform and this seems to read like he is angling for a seat in the House of Lords.

Sure, the caucuses could offer some lessons for the political meetings of most constituency parties and regional conferences, but we already have our equivalent process to primaries – it’s called parliament and it is practical politics, not the flim-flam of an advertising executives wet dream.

Thomas: I agree with you on ‘single issues’ – the way we do politics is central to tackling issues like climate change. In the speech I argue that there is one great challenge of our age it is for politics to be a place where people come together to make collective decisions just as we become more different from one another as individuals in society. That lies behind improving our quality of life, ending child-poverty in this country, leaving the planet in a proper state for our children and their children.

Lee, Tony, Jenny: my view is that there need to be different ways of getting involved in politics and different levels of time and commitment. If people want to vote in an open primary then that is great; if they want to get more involved in campaigns in their local party then even better. We need to be less prescriptive about how + where people can get involved.

Lee: the point I was making here is one about who does politics. Westminster has created its own industry of think-tanks, lobbying firms, PR agencies and media outlets so we have politicians who have emerged not from the professions, the business community or the unions but from within Westminster itself. This limits the experience and range of perspectives that we have in parliament – and people see that. In America there are more routes for outsiders to emerge through, which allows a wider range of voices in debate and that’s something I think we should learn from.

David: you haven’t answered my point, you have patronised me, and you have spelt my name wrong. I think this is the sort of thing that stops people engaging in politics, not whether or not they can vote in primaries.

Primary elections are completely unnecessary if you have the only fair and sensible electoral system, the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. That system automatically includes its own primary, to whatever extent people wish to make choices as between candidates of the same party.

See my article “14 reasons why only STV will do” at http://peezedtee.blogspot.com/2008/04/14-reasons-why-only-stv-will-do.html

“In America there are more routes for outsiders to emerge through, which allows a wider range of voices in debate and that’s something I think we should learn from.”

So when these outsiders said that 42 days was unnecessary, that it wasn’t liberal, that it may be in contravention of the ECHR, that it could make it harder to gain a conviction, that it could galvanise the terrorist community, that it would be a bureaucratic nightmare and that it will prejudice against muslim men…you still ignored it and voted for the 42 days legislation anyway. Way to follow your own thinking there David, or did this epiphany come after you helped sell our liberties down the river?

The *first* problem is that people like you don’t bloody well listen, as is clear by the fact you’ve ignored the points made by people in these comments. People don’t have a problem with the thinktanks and the PR agencies, they have a problem with MPs doing what the grand leader says despite what is best for the the people of this country.

I’m *really* looking forward to seeing how you vote on the finance bill should the legislation remain in aiming to retrospectively tax cars and therefore most likely affect the poor and working class in society. Then perhaps we’ll see just how much you listen to these “outside sources” you claim are so important to involve. Of course unless they’re only worth listening to when they say what you want to hear…which is precisely why thinktanks, PR firms and the media operate as they do isn’t it?

David, if that’s what you think, why do you say the direct opposite in your speech?

Why don’t you come here and describe your own personal experience, rather than prescribing what you think would be good for other people.

How did you get involved in politics?

How do you divide your time between making speeches to think-tanks closeted in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Westminster village and knocking on doors in your own constituency?

What struggles have you faced personally, and what advice can you offer in overcoming the difficulty of those circumstances?

You seem to be picking the nits of a particular audience by playing to their particular prejudices, which is dull conservatism at its worst. Why are you incapable of offering any intellectual vigour in your analysis – or do you know better than to bite the hand that feeds you crumbs of comfort?

“At worst people drift away from the managerial mainstream to the extremist fringes of politics.”

It would help greatly if the mainstream wasn’t so “managerial” and dominated by the kind of power-dressed, Folletted clones who have never held down a meaningful job outside politics in their lives.

“We should give back the power to political parties so that they can take positive action to make parliament more representative of the ethnic diversity of modern Britain.”

Where I live, that would mean biraderi politics for the rest of my life. Quota systems and “positive discrimination” are not the way forward regarding candidate selection any more than open primaries are; and if anything help to reinforce why so many people that don’t have the knowledge or interest in politics that you or I possess drift off to the kind of extremist parties that offer simplistic solutions for dunderheads. You want “more” democracy? You want “better” democracy? Start with implementing a fairer voting system such as the Single Transferable Vote then, rather than the kind of platitudes that wouldn’t be out of place coming out of the mouth of a Lambeth social worker in the 1980s.

“whatever people’s views about the war itself, we need to recognise that people need somewhere to channel their views and concerns”

Tell that to Brian Haw; or for that matter, to the nine peaceful protesters hauled away by police (including a four-year-old boy) at a “public” meeting at the Carlton Highland Hotel in Edinburgh on Monday.

By the way, those open primaries of which you speak could be a double-edged sword. I’m sure you and some of your NuLab colleagues would just love it if large numbers of non-Labour Party members were to wade in and vote either for a left-winger (like McDonnell) or a total incompetent (like Blears). The system of primaries, caucuses, and electoral colleges needs to stay on the other side of the pond along with carjackings, executions and Michael Bolton.

What a bunch of alienated grouches we seem to be today! A serving Labour minister with a future stands up and says managerialism and triangulation are bad, New Labour is basically over, that Labour needs to be a movement again – gives tentative respect to the Iraq war marches, and says more public service reform and tax credits won’t solve the challenges of a liveable decent society. And he gets monstered.

Look, it’s a lukewarm speech, made by someone looking over his shoulder, worried about getting squished, concerned for his career — and even saying this much may put him in danger. But it might be the start of something bolder, and much more in line with the future that Liberal Conspirators would want than what we have at present from Labour.

So let’s give him a bit of credit. (Not too much yet, but a bit.) Otherwise the next Labour politician who thinks about shifting in this direction will think twice.

By the way, I rather like the idea of primaries – whether open or (as in the US) available only to registered sympathisers. Less than 2% of our population belong to our moribund parties at the moment, and opening up the process a bit – provided it is regulated to prevent the process from becoming money-dominated, and leaves significant roles for the party — would tend to bring in fresh air, permit mavericks instead of party bureaucrats to flourish a bit more, and provide a context in which political conversation could be opened out. I thought that was what this blog was all about? Or maybe it’s just Bitterness Village.

We’ve got plenty of reasons to be bitter, but if we just bitch instead of looking for the seeds of change, we’re not even worth the paper we’re not printed on.

Jennie, my apologies. On the primaries issue, I accept that there is no way of sifting people, as you point out. But I think we have to trust in the process – and they do give independents/floating voters a chance to have their voice heard and i think that’s important.

Thomas, my own experience is part of why I am interested in opening up politics. I grew up in Tottenham in the 1980s where you could not fail to see the effects of politics – and Thatcherism – on people’s lives. My first experience of representing people was as a barrister here and in America. I was then involved with the GLA and entered parliament 8 years ago through a by-election in Tottenham following the death of Bernie Grant. What I found was that culturally Westminster is a long way from Tottenham and I think that is a problem. That’s to do with who works there, the language, the way it relates to the rest of the country. We can’t change all of that overnight, but we need to make a start.

“But it might be the start of something bolder, and much more in line with the future that Liberal Conspirators would want than what we have at present from Labour.”

I, and others I know, don’t care one iota about what people *say*, especially when what they say brings absolutely nothing new, revolutionary, or purposeful to the table. What we care about is what people do, and I will have tremendously more respect for David Lammy should he stand up and stand with his supposed convictions when it comes to legislation such as the finance bill and when the counter-terrorism bill returns to the commons.

Until then he’s just talking. And worst of all he’s talking in that managerial lofty way that supposedly alienates voters.

“Otherwise the next Labour politician who thinks about shifting in this direction will think twice.”

If a Labour politician can’t take people criticising how little they are “shifting” while saying we, the people, need more a voice then they’re a hypocrite, simple as that. Any Labour politician wanting to abandon the “old ways” would start embracing what they are saying, and if they did that they would be very unlikely to earn much ire from the liberals or the left.

“would tend to bring in fresh air, permit mavericks instead of party bureaucrats to flourish a bit more, and provide a context in which political conversation could be opened out…..We’ve got plenty of reasons to be bitter, but if we just bitch instead of looking for the seeds of change, we’re not even worth the paper we’re not printed on.”

It’s been said in these comments, and in past articles, that you don’t need primaries to let “mavericks” in, and in fact “mavericks” will still fail to win under primaries because they’ll be severely outfunded. If you’re going to stipulate severe funding restrictions (and thus affect turnout negatively in the short term at least) then you don’t need to go all the way to primaries, all you need is a proportional system of voting like STV. If people knew that their votes weren’t going to be wasted if they weren’t placed on one of the big three (or in safe seats, if they don’t vote solely for the current holding party) then the chance for independants and real voices of local politics could get a chance.

The system, from top to bottom, stinks of unfairness and pointlessness. From priorities of debates in parliament, to the powers that government hold, all the way down to how little actual constituency representation an MP needs to do in a system where people elect parties by proxy, under a voting system where what people actually want isn’t delivered in parliament.

We are not simply bitching, we’ve made it clear for the last bloody decade what it is we want as people and Labour, despite promising, has never delivered. People like Lammy sit here as if it’s some new idea to listen to the electorate and that he is somehow bohemian in his ways, ignoring his record of voting and sitting on his hands while the amount of power and liberties the British people have has slowly dwindled.

Here are a few things David Lammy could do to turn this (my) resentment against him around:

– Make and show commitments to getting electoral reform on to the agenda in the house of commons before the end of this governments term.
– Vote against the finance bill after listening to the people’s concerns over issues like the 10p tax rate (assuming the bill remains talking about retrospective taxation)
– Recognise the much bulkier and more vast argument against 42 days legislation and support the rebellion against this legislation rather than supporting the PR men and the policy writers to the hilt regardless of the realities of the situation.
– Tell us (as someone above said) how much of his time is spent actually communicating with his constituents compared to sitting around in Westminster making wet speeches
– Listen to the people and get together with supposedly like minded MPs and get rid of Brown by the powers they have. Or is it still eluding Westminster that this is the only chance you have in Labour of even competing in the next election?

I expect absolutely zero of the above to be done, even the easiest two on the list, because for all of his words I don’t see substance…an issue currently a real problem with Labour. Please, Mr Lammy, feel free to prove me wrong.

Hmm, now unless David is in the process of replying to me personally, it would appear my questions are easier to ignore than tackle. How apt.

David, what do you think is the correct bar of qualification for prospective candidates to pass in order to show their ability? Does this in itself not create a restriction and raise the exclusivity quotient of membership to this particular club?

I spent some time in the States during the Potomac primaries in February. The thing that struck me was the popular engagement with the process and the democratic energy that was unleashed.

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece on what would translate into the British political context and, like David, I concluded that more open selections were vital for the party and the democratic process:

http://www.labouroutlook.com/thereadingdesk/2008/05/what-can-labour.html

Let’s be brutally honest here, local parties in an period of shrinking party membership (not just the Labour party but other parties in the UK and across Europe) can be dominated by self-selecting cliques. By no means is this true everywhere but when some constituencies have memberships approaching 200 or so, it is quite clear that 30 or so people can effectively control the process.

More open selections, perhaps on the basis of identified Labour ‘supporters’ (we have that data from voter-id or trade union membership lists) would at least mean that the candidates would have to demonstrate that they can campaign and politically engage.

All the parties have to re-think political engagement. Why not place the Labour party in the vanguard?

This would be part of a broader re-think about how political parties relate to the communities they represent and could engender more accountable and responsive political representation. That is a prize worth seizing.

Anthony Painter
http://www.e8voice.blogspot.com

I quite like the idea of primaries whether open or the US style. I’ve found the Democratic nomination season really quite inspiring and, having just comeback from 2 weeks in the States can say that it has politically engaged people in away we only dream of here. My partner’s rather laconic nephew is one of Obama’s 1 million small scale donors and I can’t imagine him doing the same for John Kerry, for example.

I also quite like open lists for PR like they have in Finland, so that the electorate get to choose the candidates they like from each party and not just the party – therefore encouraging parties to put a broad range of candidates up and not just ‘safe’/lowest common denominator candidate.

For me inclusion and diversity are key to increasing people’s engagement in politics and I think the US experience has shown that out.

Clearly, David is talking from his experience as a member of the Labour Party and as a member of the Lib Dems my experience is different (N.B. Lee Griffin, in the Lib Dems conference reps also vote on policy not just candidates and our Leaders so there is more of point ot membership). I sometimes think in the Lib Dems being part of the party elite would be a hindrance to getting selected!!

I’ve been involved in mainstream political activism for just over 4 years now, so I am not from the political elite and have private sector career far removed from the westminster bubble. However, since I have been involved I’ve increasingly felt that when it comes to decisions about candidates, political parties may actually get in the way. I think political parties of all hues are rather ‘conservative’ in their choice of candidates and if not prejudiced themselves (and some of them are, even the Lib Dems have misogynists in their membership and I don’t imagine that the Tories or Labour are devoid of them either) they almost take on their perception of how voters might be prejudiced. Along the lines of ‘Of course, I’m all for more women in parliament but the people here, well, I’m not sure they’ll go for it”. When in fact, fielding female candidates leads to a 2% increase in turnout!

Members of political parties are not representative of the electorate, not just demographically but not in many, many other ways as well; I remain unconvinced that they pick the ‘best’ candidates to be our elected representatives and I think if we had more open systems to choose whether via primaries or open lists it would engage people more and lead to more inclusive politics.

There are no guarantees that primaries will increase the legitimacy of a candidate, in fact there is a strong argument that could be made for prejudices not relating to political ability creeping in. We see this in American politics all the time. “his wife said this”, “When he was a war veteran he didn’t do that” and other such rubbish.

The *true* way to get the right and representative candidates for the job are to untie the choice for the party you wish to have legislative power in the country from the party affiliation of the representative in your constituency, and to therefore open up, along side proportional voting, the idea that the all round popular candidate is the person that will win not someone that manages to creep enough votes, sometimes in a very crowded field. Of course this is completely unrealistic, but then so is having a primary situation in any meaningful area that doesn’t already resemble a primary in this country.

Has anyone considered that the public does not want to have a primary vote for every single MP, especially given if you’re all about fairness a primary has to be held at least once a political cycle…and how realistically this is, for all intents and purposes, a much more costly version of a general election? I don’t know that people will be enamored to the idea of voting so much, especially if their vote in a primary doesn’t make any difference because the MP they’re voting for has absolutely no chance of winning the seat off of the incumbent?

“Lessons from America”?

There are plenty of lessons Labour should be learning from the UK. Why aren’t they?

Lee,

There are plenty of prejudices not relating to poitical ability that have already found their way into political parties who choose candidates – why are you assuming that the public at large is more prejudiced than political party membership?

One great example in political party is voting for your mates; I always find it hilarious that for all a political party members perceived belief that it should be the policies/experience/nouse/media attratvieness that counts soooooo many of those criteria just fall to the wayside when they happen to know one of the candidates. It happens at ward, constituency and national level.

To be fair, I think it’s pretty much a function of human nature but you’re more likely to be able to vote for your friend (and influence the outcome massively) if you are one of 100 than if you’re 1 of 40,000, aren’t you?

25. Mike Killingworth

As far as open primaries go, I don’t think there’s much evidence from the USA of people crossing over to saddle their opponents with an unelectable candidate. Yes, they spend horrendous amounts of money there – but states and even congressional districts are far larger than our constituencies and the parties would probably cap expenditure anyway.

David Lammy was elected as a leadership loyalist so I’m not too bothered about his continuing to be one. I agree with those who see in his remarks a desire for a more decentralised Labour Party. (Well, it could hardly be less so…) It may be worth bearing in mind that even if Labour are reduced to 120 MPs or so after the election, Lammy will be one of them, and in those circumstances a shoo-in for the shadow cabinet.

“why are you assuming that the public at large is more prejudiced than political party membership?”

I’m not, I’m just assuming it’s no better while also being less informed on political ability. Is this not a safe assumption to make? Believe me, I’m all for the public having more say, but let’s start on fair voting rules and proportional representation and work up from there, eh?

Primaries, to me, have this huge danger of being a beautiful plan that the media can get on board with because it sells papers, and pollsters will back because it’ll generate them even more money…but don’t actually provide any meaningful benefit to the fairness of parliament or the representation we have. We *know* that proportional representation would at least increase the fairness if nor also the quality of the representation we feel we have. Let’s go with what we know, not with what a system that makes us feel excited the ONE time that a different nation’s political parties manage to use it to engage with voters on a major level.

I don’t want to get back in to old arguments, but if the primaries had been between John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich then you would not have seen the hype over the primaries that we saw. Candidates, in every case, are the key to the success of a system.

Some interesting thoughts and ideas, but…

So the first lesson that I draw from America, but also from the events of this year, is that we need to find ways to break open politics beyond the usual suspects.

That’s a good start, the question is how…

So we should be starting early, involving young people in politics not through talking shops that can seem patronizing, but through ideas like young mayors who have real budgets to spend in local areas, as they have done in Lewisham.

Not bad… but what about everyone else – where’s the thinking about devolving power, generally, down to local level.

We should be closing the gap between the public and our Party by experimenting with open primaries, so carrying a Labour membership card in your wallet isn’t the be all and end of all of whether you can take part.

Carrying a party membership card is no surety of being able to take part in anything particularly meaningful these days, never mind opening out selection contests to the general public.

If you want to look at explicitly party issues then the starting point has to be closing the gap between the leadership and members not looking for ways to make membership even less meaningful that it currently is.

And as the party’s finances recover, we should be doing everything we can to make sure that the financial costs of running for parliament aren’t a form of selection by the back door, whether that means bursary schemes, loans or other mechanisms.

Okay – so can we start with the abolition of the £500 election deposit which effectively puts a tariff of £300K+ on any political party that wants to try to break into the mainstream and which, as I recall, was increased from £25 on the pretext that it would curb the number of allegedly ‘frivolous’ candidates standing in elections.

There’s more to democratic pluralism than simply shoring up the position of the existing mainstream parties and, in general elections, the election deposit as much as anything else creates what amounts to a closed shop that excludes parties without either mass membership or wealthy benefactors.

We should give back the power to political parties so that they can take positive action to make parliament more representative of the ethnic diversity of modern Britain.

And so we end up with a party and maybe even a parliament that is statistically ‘representative’ of the general population but otherwise pretty much unrepresentative on any other meaningful level because its stuffed to the gills with ‘a generation of politicians who have emerged not from the professions, the business community or the unions but from within Westminster itself’.

We should be creating more opportunities for political talents to emerge, which do not depend on the patronage of a few people at the top of a party. I’d like to see more local areas elect their own mayors, creating new ways for people to make a difference and make their name.

If we’re learning from the US then there’s much more to their system than simply elected mayors. Not only is there, typically, a much broader range of opportunities for democratic engagement both electorally and representationally – many politicians get their start in the US running for things like their local school board – but there’s also much less central party control of local political agendas and the Federal nature of the US vests much more power and authority in local political institutions.

That’s the key issue here – Westminster needs to let go, stop trying to micromanage everything and devolve power down to the lowest level necessary to get things done.

There’s no great shortage of models and idea, from the US civic model to the democratic centralism of the Workers Party in Puerto Allegre to Colorado’s ‘taxpayer’s bill of rights’ all of which do more than simply put up figureheads.

And we need new ways for ordinary people to make their voice heard in Westminster. Five years ago around a million people marched in London against the war in Iraq.

…and were roundly ignored,,,

And whatever people’s views about the war itself, we need to recognise that people need somewhere to channel their views and concerns. So more direct democracy and new forms of accountability all need to be part of the mix.

Direct democracy and accountability are great in principle – providing that these tie into structure that have a meaningful degree of power and authority to effect changes and tackle issues. There has to be a devolution of power to go with new channels or else what’s the point of having them.

I think it would be wise to wait and see the result on turnout in the US Presidential election before we jump to the conclusion that has been inspiring, otherwise we risk colouring objective measurement of the state of their democracy with our personal prejudices.

I think it is all too easy to be swayed into hyperbole about US elections by the sheer scale of their country and population.

This speech to the Fabian Society disproves Lammy’s loyalist credentials unless he is making an inadvertent miscalulation in attacking Labour’s record on social mobility – surely he must be in the wrong party to be deliberately exposing the divide between their aspiration and achievement from a position of government, and it beggars belief that a serious politician would undermine their own argument in this way after suggested he himself has been a beneficiary of the process.

david, the best way to give floating voters the chance to have their voice heard is, as others have said, STV. Anything else is simply a method of adding more expense to the current system, which is expensive enough as it is.

Thomas, Jennie, et al – it seems clear that Labour aren’t really interested in people having a say, they are only interested in votes for Labour. Expediency, as ever, is what really counts – not principle.

This seems clear from their eleven years in power and a substantial Commons majority, with no significant benefits.

The lessons I alluded to earlier include those from the Power Inquiry and the Electoral Commission on, for example, research into turnout. Can David Lammy honestly say such lessons have been taken to heart by his party and acted upon?

I strongly doubt he is that ignorant or naive. I don’t believe it is cynical to say that he is telling us what he thinks we want to hear, rather than what he really believes.

“I strongly doubt he is that ignorant or naive”

You might very well think that, thomas…

“I don’t believe it is cynical to say that he is telling us what he thinks we want to hear, rather than what he really believes”

He certainly hears what he wants to hear, 42 days is obviously too much of a contradiction for him to respond to.

33. douglas clark

It is difficult to deny what David Lammy has said about the incestuous relationship of media and politics. Although you’d have to read between the lines to see that. Why is that?

Should it not be obvious to anyone outside the Westminster Village that there is a symbiotic relationship between the overall body politic and the overall media?

Why are we kidding ourselves?

We may stand against 42 days. We may see it as an issue. But David Lammy takes the opposite viewpoint, ré his vote in the Commons. So who, or alternatively what, is pulling his strings?

David Lammy, who I have never heard of before in my life, is apparently the Minister for Skills.

That is an admirable role. It also a government position.

I have been involved in letter writing campaigns to MP’s. 42 days, Iraq Interpreters, stuff like that. My MP is also a small bore Minister. I have concluded that it is a waste of time writing to an MP that is also a Minister, as they will only re-iterate a government line. They are banal in their responses, they are committed solely to projection of government propoganda.

Which becomes ironic, does it not? David Lammy was asked this @ 17:

Why exactly is an MP that voted for 42 days writing on a Liberal site essentially extolling the virtues of consumerism and how, if this government gives us a shiny house and some cosy benefits we’ll all suddenly be much happier about rising bills, stagnating equality levels and more illiberal legislation than you can shake a stick at.

Which I’d have thought was a point worth answering, but there you go David Lammy, there you go. Unlike a politician to fail to attempt a reply.

Can I suggest an explanation? It is not that 1984 is around the corner. It is that New Labour is The Ministry for Truth?

“It has to earn it, through becoming as open, as inclusive and representative of the wider public as it can.”
“And whatever people’s views about the war itself, we need to recognise that people need somewhere to channel their views and concerns.”

Mr Lammy,

If you truly believe in openness to the public then why did you and many of your colleagues vote so strongly against investigations into the Iraq War? I’m aware that this is a rhetorical question as it is somewhat implausible that you will detail your rationale here, but you must be aware that legitimate public cynicism arises from such curious closings of rank.

35. douglas clark

BenSix,

Frankly I swear a lot more than you do. But the overall point you are making about David Lammy MP is completely legitimate.

I’d also like to hear the explanation for why David Lammy MP, voted the way he did. I suspect we are about to get snowed, BenSix, prepare to duck….

“More open selections, perhaps on the basis of identified Labour ’supporters’ (we have that data from voter-id or trade union membership lists) would at least mean that the candidates would have to demonstrate that they can campaign and politically engage.”

I didn’t see this, assume it got stuck in a moderator queue…

I once again have to question how it is that it is the system of selecting *candidates* that is to blame for poor representation if someone that supposedly can’t campaign and politically engage is still elected to the house of commons? The problems in all these scenario’s being brought up are problems with the voting system we use during the general election.

It’s strange, actually, how quiet people in support of primaries have been about how much the proportional representation system was used and how it was that which allowed Obama to remain in the race during the “everyone knows who Clinton is” time period and to eventually come out as the winner. After all, it is not the primary process that has gifted the US with Obama as a presidential candidate, it is the factor of PROPORTIONAL DELEGATE ALLOCATION that did so.

Take *that* strong positive and bring it back to the UK if anything, not the show boating and media circus.

“I suspect we are about to get snowed, BenSix, prepare to duck….”

My windscreen wipers are primed and ready.

David: you haven’t answered my point, you have patronised me, and you have spelt my name wrong. I think this is the sort of thing that stops people engaging in politics, not whether or not they can vote in primaries.

Bloody hell Jennie, one would think you’d have a slightly higher tolerance than that! At least give him some credit for engaging?

If you truly believe in openness to the public then why did you and many of your colleagues vote so strongly against investigations into the Iraq War?

Look, can we get over that vote already? It happened years ago. This isn’t an SWP site and frankly I’d rather that if a minister from government came on to a site and engaged his audience about something he has written, then we at least constructively discuss those points rather than bring up the entire Labour history and ask him about his voting records point by point. FFS.

39. douglas clark

Sadly, this is not where we stand.

I had a go at a journalist once. Banned.

Their space.

Sunny agrees with Ms Madeline Buntings’ right to be protected.

I do not.

I think that if someone is wrong, they should be called on it. MB was obviously wrong but Georgina Hendry gave her protection.

Lee Griffin,

You are right. The electoral system is all. Proportional representative systems have no problems with turnout or political engagement…..I’m amazed we didn’t spot it sooner.

There are bigger and tougher questions here….

I’m sorry, Sunny, but I think that if MPs want to really engage with public opinion the very least they need to do is treat people as if they matter. That was a transparent and unapologetic dismissal, and I thought I was actually rather polite about it.

I don’t think that if you post something on a blog inviting comment, you should be surprised if you get negative comment, and if you invite discussion, then discussing things is a given, isn’t it?

I also note that my answer was picked out, possibly because it was an easy one to type off a flip reply to, but others’ more substantive points were ignored. This is another example of the kind of thing that really pisses people off (as is obvious from other comments on this thread).

We are all forever saying that Dorries’ blog is not a proper blog because she doesn’t allow or engage with comments. Are the standards to be relaxed for Mr Lammy just because he’s posting here?

We are all forever saying that Dorries’ blog is not a proper blog because she doesn’t allow or engage with comments. Are the standards to be relaxed for Mr Lammy just because he’s posting here?

Not really, but its not always the case that ministers get involved in blogging conversations, and even then in most discussions we get involved in, not every point gets answered.

Plus, Nadine Dorries MP is outright dishonest in many ways. I thought David Lammy’s speech wasn’t bad at all. Of course its impossible to include specifics in every speech in the same way I can’t include specifics in every article I write.

I agree with the commenter above – this level of cynicism just makes any conversation even more difficult. Surely if we want more ministers to engage with online discussion then some level of civility (and on topic discussion) should be maintained?

If we are supposed to give credit for David Lammy engaging where his engagement is entirely selective and on his terms then we are being complicit in the inversion of representative politics, and guilty of the underlying criticisms he tries to address in this speech – yet again Labour is actively encouraging the things it complains about.

Words and actions, words and actions.

If David Lammy’s speech is to have any validity, then it shouldn’t have come from a member of the government and ideally not from a member of the Labour party. If he is not prepared to put his career on the line by only voting slavishly in line with the whip then there cannot be any complaints about his lack of credibility when it comes to raising issues regarding his party’s policy failures.

Why has he run away when we start getting down to the nitty-gritty? Is he scared of getting his hands dirty when it doesn’t suit him? His behaviour does nothing for the reputation of politicians for cynicism, at least not for this member of the audience.

I am thankful that he initially seemed prepared to engage where he felt some points could be scored, but it is increasingly clear by his non-continuance that he was more interested in scoring points than following his own advice and living up to his own ideals. So my gratitude is for his willingness to confirm the reservations I hold about him and his party and is an admission they are well-founded.

“some level of civility should be maintained”

Indeed, but I would respectfully suggest that it needs to come from both directions, and if it doesn’t come from the OP then commenters are perfectly entitled to respond in kind.

“There are bigger and tougher questions here….”

Like what? I never suggested that PR was the solution to all our problems, I stated that it was the real cause of the momentum we saw in the US Primaries, not the primary system/situations themselves. People are sitting here claiming that a Primary style situation for selecting MPs/leaders/whatever will suddenly get people on board, I am simply saying I don’t think Primaries get people on board unless the candidates are good/inspiring, the incumbent is someone we want to get rid of, and if the people feel their votes aren’t being wasted.

Unfortunately while we all hate the incumbent here, no candidate (picked by the public or otherwise) is likely to be as inspiring to us as the First Woman vs First Black race in the US, and people are going to continually think their votes are wasted given such a tiny percentage of us have any chance of affecting real change, and when those of us do it’s to a party that is no different than the current one.

“Surely if we want more ministers to engage with online discussion then some level of civility (and on topic discussion) should be maintained?”

If Ministers wish to engage they should do so through the tough and easy. I wasn’t asking anything particularly tricky yet I have been completely ignored by the man. He has painted himself as someone that has a vision for change, to take in to account the views of people outside the Westminster village and yet when called on that with recent votes he didn’t even have the dignity to say something like “I voted with the party because I believe in party politics, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t see scope for changing the way government decisions are made in the future and would be interested in hearing more ideas on how we can achieve this”

I wouldn’t have sat happy with that response but I would have respected it, instead he’s chosen to simply sidestep the issue because it doesn’t suit him to answer it. You surely understand, Sunny, that coming on here and saying about how you’re all for listening to the people and to (one assumes) the experts requires someone to call him on his 42 day vote given it is one of the most prominent examples in recent times of mass objective, independent and expert opinion AGAINST a legislation yet still getting government ministerial support?

I simply don’t believe we should be getting on our knees, laying down the red carpet and showering ministers or MPs with rose petals should they “grace” us with their presence. This isn’t parliament, it’s not Westminster, if they have something to say it actually needs to be backed up as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know David Lammy, this is my first instance of seeing or hearing from him, and unfortunately I’m not impressed. He has every chance to change this view but he seems intent to not take it. However I certainly don’t feel we’ve been (on the whole) uncivil towards him.

I’ll be interested to see how he votes (if the bill even gets to a vote) or stands on the bill in November on public submitted bills/legislation.

Look, can we get over that vote already? It happened years ago. This isn’t an SWP site and frankly I’d rather that if a minister from government came on to a site and engaged his audience about something he has written, then we at least constructively discuss those points rather than bring up the entire Labour history and ask him about his voting records point by point. FFS.

I think it just reflects the disconnect between the electorate and the political class; the feeling of lack of influence we voters have. Every time a government Minister spends any time directly engaging with us we want accountability on everything.

We’re starved of that accountability in a lot of ways for up to five years at a time so is it any wonder that the ignored speak loud and forcefully when they’re finally heard?

Surely if we want more ministers to engage with online discussion then some level of civility (and on topic discussion) should be maintained?

Deference?

49. douglas clark

Lee @ 47, Leon @ 48,

That is the fundamental frustration of the disconnect that exists between us and them. Hopefully Mr Lammy will return to the fray and explain to us why party political expediency is the only game in town within the Westminster village?

There seems to be an inability to do what is right for reasons that are completely opaque to outsiders. One example is the lack of a public enquiry into 7/7. There seems to me to be absolutely no reason whatsoever for the Governments decision to refuse it. Yet refuse it they did. Nor can I understand their frankly deplorable and minimalist response to the issue of Iraq Interpreters. I mention these as two issues where I happen to think that bloggers have the superior moral ammunition, but perhaps not the firepower to effect change. In other words, the government has taken an utterly cynical position for no good reason. Just because they could.

To be fair, I doubt David Lammy expected to stir up this hornets nest, but he is experiencing something real. Folk think they are being ignored, or disrespected by politicians and they do not like it one bit.

Final point. If we want to effect change in the political process, the right to call an election should reside with the electorate, not politicians. So, to take an example, if Mr Lammys constituents felt that he was not representing their views, then, subject to a quite high bar on spurious challenges, say 25% of the electorate, his seat should be subject to a re-election. Mr Lammy should be unconcerned at that proposal as 90% + of the electorate hate elections. However, there is another level to this arguement. It should be up to the electorate to call a general election, within term, not the bloody politicians. Who let us remember, are supposed to represent us.

Very good point Douglas re: calling an election, another thing to add to my wishlist ;)

Sunny, Labour politicians continue to fail to publicly acknowledge the difficulties they have caused themselves – and us.

David Lammy and your colleagues:

Stop treating voters as an afterthought (eg Scottish Elections 2007) – but don’t pander to them, defend your principles.

Stop lying.

Stop the excuses.

Stop taking money from companies and their proxies in the Westminster village to represent them in Parliament – if the company is in your constituency, do your job as MP and represent them in Parliament. An additional £60k pa on top of an MP’s salary and expenses really does not help the cultural distance between Westminster and Tottenham.

Stop abusing the expenses system – new kitchens and plasma TVs bought with taxpayer money really don’t help the cultural distance between Westminster and Tottenham.

Try living in the constituency you represent (probably most applicable to London constituency MPs).

Drop the plans to increase state funding for political parties and learn how to live within your means, like the rest of us have to. By the way, if membership has halved over a decade, and donations have significantly declined, that’s got to tell you something about what people think of you.

Improve the say of party members in policy making.

Stop spending shedloads of taxpayer money on projects that will not work (eg the ID card scheme) and are solutions looking for problems.

I could go on but that’s a start.

52. douglas clark

Lee @ 51,

Ta. I know that there is not a politcian out there that would vote for it!

Perhaps David Lammy, MP would care to re-engage with us, the dirty, filthy, electorate?

He has been conspicous by his recent absence.

Which says a lot about how politicains choose to play with thee and me. As in, not at all.

Which makes Mr Lammys original post a nonsense…..

So, a challenge.

Engage Mr Lammy, try to do what you claimed was your ambition. Otherwise be known as yet another politician who couldn’t argue there way out of a wet paper bag.

This is annoying.

Sunny, there is no point in getting senior politicians to engage with us, if, frankly, they don’t engage.

Whoh – let’s just be a bit careful about wielding the idea that politicians are disconnected from ‘the electorate’ as stick to beat David with – in many respects we can be, and are, as disconnected as anyone in the Westminster Village and we’re getting above ourselves if we forget that.

By stepping into the political blogosphere, David is addressing what is, almost overwhelmingly, a politically literate audience – much the same audience that politicians have traditionally addressed by writing for and giving interviews to the broadsheets and the Today programme.

What blogging has added to this, which many politicians have yet to come to terms with, is that blogging creates many more opportunities for that ‘upmarket’ audience to answer back, far more than the traditional and often heavily filtered method of writing letters to the editors of the Times, Groan and Torygraph.

Lee asked:

Why exactly is an MP that voted for 42 days writing on a Liberal site essentially extolling the virtues of consumerism and how, if this government gives us a shiny house and some cosy benefits we’ll all suddenly be much happier about rising bills, stagnating equality levels and more illiberal legislation than you can shake a stick at.

Because, as Clinton said, ‘its the economy, stupid’ – the only thing in that package that genuinely hurts the government’s standing in the wider electorate, i.e. amongst the mass readership of the Sun and the Daily Mail, is rising bills, and only then if these rise faster than income, house prices and other factors which directly impact on the public’s sense of their own financial well-being.

Sorry, but out here in the real world, if you try to explain to most ordinary voters that introducing an explicit presumption against granting bail to individuals charged with murder in all buy exceptional cases amounts to the effective disapplication of habeas corpus and a very serious attack on historic rights and civil liberties, what you’ll more often get by way of reply is ‘why should I give a toss, they’re only murderers after all – what about the rights of victims?’

If the name of the game is getting people to vote for you – which, of course it is – who, as a politician, are you going to be most keen to get onside with? A small number of politically literate bloggers or 6 million or so readers to the two biggest tabloid newspapers in the UK.

If you’re a politician, do you court the votes of the senate or buy the support of the mob with bread and circuses?

It ain’t that difficult a choice given how our democracy currently functions.

54. douglas clark

ukliberty @ 52,

I do not accuse Sunny of any of these things? What are you on about?

If I were to assume, wrongly perhaps, that your aggression was directed at the very silent Mr Lammy, then perhaps you’d have a point.

Mr Lammy has become what I expected, a silent assasin for government policy. In other words, an apologist.

Perhaps Mr Lammy has doubts, but he fails to express them. Perhaps Mr Lammy is a liberal at heart, but there is no evidence, so far, that he is.anything other than a psychophant?

This is becoming a classic example of us – non politcal folk -versus them, idiots, and their chums.

Douglas, what are you on about? I didn’t mention you in my post. I mentioned two people by name: Sunny and David Lammy.

Perhaps Mr Lammy has doubts, but he fails to express them.

Maybe they all have doubts. It’s a great pity they don’t do something about them.

I can only recall one MP who resigned as a matter of honour in the last decade or so. Yet there are a few who have expressed qualms later on about decisions made at particular times – it’s a shame they were less honourable than Robin Cook.

If we want to effect change in the political process, the right to call an election should reside with the electorate, not politicians.

Excellent point. I’ve long believed the right of recall for parliament and even individual MPs should be something the people should own. It’d take politicians attention to our wishes to a whole new level.

The only problem is the people that are in place to bring in laws to make that reality are the very people who’d lose power if it happened. How likely is the turkey going to vote for Christmas?

in many respects we can be, and are, as disconnected as anyone in the Westminster Village and we’re getting above ourselves if we forget that.

Speak for yourself mate. Outside of my work the majority of people I know or am related to aren’t into politics at all, most don’t vote, and a lot have little interest in it. I’d say I’m pretty damn grounded really!

Unity: I am not talking about the public, though thanks for highlighting the opportunism of Lammy’s speech, I’m talking about a man talking about the insular nature of Westminster and how it should supposedly break out of that *not* breaking out of it when the opportunity rises, such as with the opinion and advice around 42 days.

You cannot stand there and say you want to stop the incestuous nature of Westminster while having completely ignored the expert and objective opinion on 42 days, the two are just completely contradictory stances.

And his speech was just another example of mindless spin, as you say directed at the masses to placate a mood. If there’s something I dislike more than politicians not engaging, it’s ones that pretend to engage with the popular words of the day, especially with zero substance behind those words.

I don’t think it is much of a surprise that Mr Lammy has disappeared considering the growing vitriol of the opposition to him, nevertheless he did bring it upon himself by criticising his own party’s record and then failing to appreciate the incoherence of his argument.

We should leave it there and draw our own conclusions.

My view is that Mr Lammy is well intentioned, but he is also urging the juggernaut speeds faster towards hell. He just doesn’t ‘get it’ and I am forced to reiterate my original thought that it is people like him who are what is wrong with our politics.

Do we need a more representative cross-section of society in parliament – emphatically yes.

Do we need a more representative cross-section of society trained up in the arts of legal debate and filtered by insider selection before being allowed to speak on behalf of the public – emphatically not.

All his mistake seems to be is that he hasn’t every single point levelled at him.

and then, a whole heap of criticism is being levelled at him for what the Labour party has been doing. May I suggest that David Lammy is not only a small part of the Labour party, but those are off-topic diversions.

Call me an idealist but my only hope is that if a minister floats an idea and wants to discuss its merit, then he/she can come here and discuss that without getting abuse for alll the other baggage and then being told this is why the electorate doesn’t listen to them.

I’m neither a card carrying member of Labour and I’ve been very critical of the party in recent years, with the HFE bill stuff as the only real good development among a whole host of bad ideas. But even I can see that a minister is unlikely to spend their whole day here responding to every single question and follow-up questions regarding an issue. By all means state where you disagree, but its hardly a reason to stomp our feet and declare this is why our politics is so disconnected.

60. douglas clark

thomas,

The fact that, when challenged, Mr Lammy retreats from debate, tells you all you need to know about poitics…..

Mr Lammy is quite content with being allowed to speak here. What he is incapable of, frankly, is engaging with us.

It is to Sunnys credit that he has pulled in a poliician, It is a shame that Mr Lammy cannot, in fact, debate.

61. douglas clark

Sunny,

Call me an idealist but my only hope is that if a minister floats an idea and wants to discuss its merit, then he/she can come here and discuss that without getting abuse for alll the other baggage and then being told this is why the electorate doesn’t listen to them.

Call me an idealist too. If David Lammy want’s to engage with us, then, frankly let him get down and dirty with us.

So far, he is incapable of it.

Sunny, please don’t play that game, we’re not all abusing him so there’s no need to lump us all together like that.

The points raised are valid and the reasons for bringing them up understandable. I know you’d love for this place to get a rep for MPs dropping by and giving it a higher profile as a result but you must concede this is a public forum and people will treat it as such.

63. Mike Killingworth

I have to agree with Sunny – some of the comments could have been more felicitously phrased… I don’t think we can expect a Minister to pop in here every few hours, or to answer all the points in detail. Our part is surely to encourage them to make a considered, substantive response rather than a bland “thank you” note…

David Lammy makes for an interesting comparison with Lynne Featherstone.

Perhaps it would be advisable for more politicians to avoid the contention of party political arguments in favour of actually engaging in policy discussions in places like LC, otherwise discussion will revolve around the percieved success or not of the government, for which all opportunities to hold ministers to account must remain our overriding matter of democratic concern.

With this in mind it is remarkable that Mr Lammy was so willing to enter into a discussion of an issue which demonstrated his own political failure.

I don’t expect Mr Lammy to spend his time here answering everything, however I feel insulted that when questioned on a pertinent point of his speech and his apparent double standards, he felt it respectable to respond to two other people in the debate but not myself. Talk all you want about MPs not having the time to come here and debate, but my ire is that when he WAS here to answer he ignored perfectly reasonable questions.

66. douglas clark

Lee,

Which is what is admirable about Lynne Feathersone. She, at least, had the bottle to argue her POV.

All credit to her for that.

Whereas David Lammy does not. It is frankly pathetic for a government Minister to run away from an arguement. Which is what new agenda ought to be about. The failure to engage speaks mountains, I think.

Douglas: I was thinking earlier about this very thing. I can’t tell very often that Lynne is an MP, or rather I forget that she is in that position of influence. I think that is the sign of someone who is engaging and respectful as you don’t really think about the person you only think about the subject you’re discussing. In all honesty it doesn’t take much time to do that, as Lynne has shown.

68. douglas clark

ukliberty @ 56,

Perhaps we are not so far apart. Your post @ 52 is to the point. I agree with it’s sentiments.

69. douglas clark

Lee @ 68,

I agree, obviously.

It is a joy to see an MP entering a thread and making a non party political point.

Compare and contrast, I think…

I agree with most of the comments. However (as a constituent) I invited Joan Ruddock to write for this site (http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2008/06/27/my-mp-just-doesnt-get-it/) and I’m guessing that she might be put off though (lol). But that is beside the point – connect, connect & connect. get over my own disconnection and convince me. I’m glad the OP connected with this site & look forward to his replies. If David Lammy doesn’t reply, then…

We need to hold these people to account though… Joan, are you there?

71. douglas clark

So,

Sunny, where do you want to take this?

Frankly, I can see Leons’ POV:

The points raised are valid and the reasons for bringing them up understandable. I know you’d love for this place to get a rep for MPs dropping by and giving it a higher profile as a result but you must concede this is a public forum and people will treat it as such.

It is pretty clear that most of your audience would love that too. If if the politicians at least listened to criticism. Which it is clear that David Lammy does not.

If you are to attract politicians, then they ought to be willing to argue their POV in the comments. I know I keep going back to it, but the complete failure of journalists to argue their case, or admit their errors, is not a role model for politicians to follow. David Lammy is a case in point. His refusal to debate Lee Griffin, for instance, is a kick in the teeth for consensual democrats. Which is what we now have come to expect of politicians. An inablility to debate.

David Lammy has essentially told us. In the sense that ‘told us’ is an allegedly superior position. Which it is clearly not.

Mr Hundal, I have said it before, and no doubt I’ll say it again. You are far superior to cheap hack politicians, and if you ever stand for Parliament, you’d have a lot of willing hands, myself included. Please, don’t get dragged down into a popularity contest. If MP’s want to comment here, let them. But they ought to take the criticism along with the accolades.

This is really interesting. Lammy did more than I expect of any Labour politician right now. (Which shows that I don’t expect very much!) In return, he got met by a primordial scream of frustration and increasingly ad hominem savagery from Liberal Conspirators. I think a fair bit of this comment was justified, but I found myself repulsed and disappointed by the way in which it was expressed, and I suspect it’s the kind of thing that makes politicians run away from engaging and stay in the Westminster ivory tower.

But I understand why it happened. Because when so much frustration gets bottled up, and so much pretense comes into the mix, and when our supposed leaders are so far from where they ought to be, steam starts coming out of our ears.

The sad truth of the present moment is that our politicians need to be schooled by us. I have to say, though, that there are better ways of schooling them than the point-scoring I’ve seen in this thread. We’ve failed to engage with this guy as a human being, we’ve treated him as the object personification of something (New Labour) he is trying to get beyond.

He deserved some of this, and he needs to get bolder, and so do some bigger beasts around him — otherwise they’ll be gone from power forever — and probably, we need new and better people in Labour’s leadership. But there’s a way of opening conversations up, and a way of closing them down.

This thread feels like a moment of venting to me, and maybe that was what was needed here. But we all need to get real about building something different and better, and soon.

In return, he got met by a primordial scream of frustration and increasingly ad hominem savagery from Liberal Conspirators.

Please, again this pathetic attempt to curtail debate. If you really believe that’s what happened you need your head seeing too.

Ah, I need my head seeing to. Glad to see the ad hominem tactic can transfer from original poster to ordinary commenter!

I respect your point of view, Leon, and I don’t think you were going for anyone’s jugular particularly above. But I think — with, perhaps, a little rhetorical exaggeration — my characterisation was justified, and I’m clearly not the only person who thought so (there are three or four commenters above who aren’t comfortable with the general barroom tenor of this “discussion”)

75. douglas clark

Frankly Picasso you are too subserviant. This thread, contrary to what you said here:

This thread feels like a moment of venting to me, and maybe that was what was needed here. But we all need to get real about building something different and better, and soon.

seems to me at least about expressing frustration about our political process. You have seen intelligent folk argue that David Lammy doesn’t have a clue. I’d largely share the position that many commentators have made. I’d vote Labour if, and only if, they stood against the erosion of our liberty. Which they have singularily failed to do. In fact the opposite is true.

Why shouldn’t we scream and shout? Labour is our supposed home, yet they treat everything as a triangulation. It is utterly and completely pathetic. Fortunately I can vote SNP. I take it you can’t?

“We’ve failed to engage with this guy as a human being, we’ve treated him as the object personification of something (New Labour) he is trying to get beyond.”

I’ll keep repeating this until I’m blue in the face. While I may have been on the side of aggressive with my discussion, the questions I asked weren’t unreasonable and were more than slightly pointed at the “human being” side of the politician. The engagement stopped there, it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of avenues where I can’t be contacted separately either if he wanted to make a final statement. These kind of things clearly don’t even get considered unfortunately.

“But we all need to get real about building something different and better, and soon.”

So to get this debate back on track, what (aside from the mention of primaries, which I’ve already made my views known on) did David Lammy actually suggest in a constructive way that anyone can actually do to make things different and better? Please highlight in the article where it is he has done more than pay lip service to change. The only point of worth he seems to make in his whole speech is that 2 years is a long time in politics, but he does nothing else but look over the presidential nominee races with some form of rose tinted glasses.

The fact is two years is only a long time if you’ve got the ability to do more than stand up and say two years is a long time, but then perhaps Mr Lammy has bought in to the campaign of Obama fully and believes if he talks the same and walks the same that he can generate some enthusiasm. The trouble is if all that’s happened in two years is people getting enthusiastic for Labour off of the back of big words and little progress then nothing has really changed other than Labour saving itself.

Picasso, I’m not sure how you’d categorise my comments, but I try to ignore the style except where it is at the expense of substance.

Personally, I’ve been trying to point out the disconnect between Mr Lammy’s message and the method in which he has been putting it, the first of which is at odds with Labour’s record, the latter of which is consistent with they way Labour has alienated the electorate.

In other words there are at least three levels on which Mr Lammy can be attacked (in my view) with complete validity, depending on how you wish to define your case.

The way I see it (and am waiting to be proved wrong) the Minister for Skills demonstrates a perfect example of how to fail at his job (so the irony of his job title is quite funny) and provides ample ammunition for anyone not to vote for his party at the next election – in fact his lack of engagement leaves us no other option to hold them to account.

Going back to the original question of how to rebuild faith in the political system and enthuse participants, the simple way would be to ignore any fancy initiatives and get on with the job of doing the job properly – y’know, like answering questions, like providing facts, like speaking truth to power, like treating people as individual humans rather than herds of cattle.

Is that too much to ask? Well, of some, but not others.

78. douglas clark

thomas,

I’ve rarely agreed with what you have to say, but I do now! Excellent comment.

Picasso, fight fire with fire mate, you want to drag this into an idiots domain then I’m going to call you on it.

the questions I asked weren’t unreasonable and were more than slightly pointed at the “human being” side of the politician.

Omg, he didn’t answer a question! String him up!

I think Picasso above is spot on. Not having all your individual questions answered (thomas even asked him for a life history that he got a short version of) is hardly a signal for all of you to leave politics because the politicians aren’t responding enough.

No I don’t ask for deference either. We all have dicussions online and sometimes due to work or other commitments we don’t reply to everyone. Hell, on CIF I never manage to reply to all the questions or abuse thrown at me.

Further more, as other Labour MPs have found to their cost, some of what they write is twisted out of context and used for front page Daily Mail headlines. So any politician also has to be careful how candid they can be on an online forum.

I’m sorry but I’m not sympathetic to any of the haughtiness being displayed here. Yes, I do want politicians on the left to engage more with what could be their biggest advocates. To me this is about creating a better conversation and a more vibrant progressive alliance.
But if it means that every time a Labour MP dips their toes into the water people start sulking because not every single question has been answered.. then obviously any engagement isn’t going to progress.

I’m not exactly getting precious over it Sunny, but at the time there were only three people having asked questions to him, two people got answers, one didn’t. The one that didn’t asked a question that went to the heart of his speech, are we meant to believe it’s because he simply didn’t have time, or because he doesn’t want to confront the hypocrisy present? I think it’s pretty pathetic how much defence people are trying to give to the guy regarding “time” and “commitments” when that is pretty irrelevant to the instance I’m talking about.

I also find it highly ironic, I might add, that when David Davis lays down the gauntlet on 42 days we all shuffle our feet and wonder whether or not it’s a bit naughty to say nice things about the fact. We bring up tenuous (at best) links to his civil liberty record and beat him with it so as to make ourselves feel better about not supporting the only politician to make a visceral stand against 42 days that has clout.

Then over comes Lammy, a Labour MP, and he makes a speech about listening to people outside Westminster, about listening to the people, and brings up a load of content that is essentially a Labour rallying call. Yet when we do *exactly* what others of us have done to David Davis except with more relevance, and pull him up on a poignant example of clear conflict between his actions and what he is saying…suddenly we’re part of the problem?

Oh for goodness sake!

Sunny & Mikeare quite right!

Have you read yourselves? Really, if I were an elected representative I’d be making a special note to myself never to bother to engage with Liberal Conspiracy…if you spoke to me like that then I wouldn’t want to engage with you either.

He’s a minister and god knows I’m no apologist for anybody in the Labour party, nu or old, but I rather suspect that LC is not on the top of his to do list.

The fact that he responded to anybody is quite amazing and I was pretty suprised. I don’t feel deferential to him, but I know how busy my day was todayand how I didn’t have time to join back in thedebate until now.

What do you expect him to do? Do you think you’re the first people who’ve brought up 42 days to him? What’s he supposed to do? Go: ‘oh yes, you’re abosolutely right guys, I’m so glad I came on LC because up until this moment I’d not really thought about my response to 42 and now you’ve brought it up, I see that I’m wrong all along’.

Lynne is very good online but she’s not a ministerandbeing an opposition politician and therefore perhaps does not get harangued as muchasagovernment minister might. she is someone for other politicians to aspire to, for sure, in terms of her online engagement, but I’ve not seen any other govt minsiters engage online yet, so David is well aheadof most of them.

He shouldn’t have spelt Jennie’s name wrong and he apologised (as someonewhoregularly gets their namespelt wrong I have muchsympathy). But apart from that he gets to respond on what he feels like…you’ve all gone off topic, why should he be any more disciplined?

Good grief!!

or because he doesn’t want to confront the hypocrisy present?

I’m sorry, highlight the hypocrisy to me again.

We bring up tenuous (at best) links to his civil liberty record and beat him with it so as to make ourselves feel better about not supporting the only politician to make a visceral stand against 42 days that has clout.

Why don’t you take that up with Jenny and others who have been vociferously against him? I’m not shuffling my feet – my view is that the broader agenda should be supported, hence I hope the campaign is successful and that a vote for him OR the green candidate (who I support) is a vote against 42 days.

and pull him up on a poignant example of clear conflict between his actions and what he is saying…suddenly we’re part of the problem?

The context is important here. David Lammy is making a speech to say this is how he would like the govt to progress. Standing in his way is the PM, a whole load of civil servants, a whole bunch of interest groups, academics and the opposition. So its basically him writing a comment article saying this is the direction he’d like to see… he hasn’t promised the govt will go down that path because he’s not the only one who will make that decision. In fact the MPs rarely do – civil servants usually end up deciding more in terms of policy.

So rather than screaming that the policy and the rhetoric don’t match up (which is a valid point more generally but not in the context of this article), it would be better to debate the merits of what he said. I think you were trying to, I don’t think everyone was. If Gordon Brown came here saying he’d introduced all these changes and he wasn’t clear why they didn’t work in the way he had hoped, then I’d expect him to be chastised on the point you made (rhetoric v reality). This is simply a comment piece.

No I don’t ask for deference either. We all have dicussions online and sometimes due to work or other commitments we don’t reply to everyone. Hell, on CIF I never manage to reply to all the questions or abuse thrown at me.

The thing I object to here is the ‘tarring with the same brush’ debating tactic being employed. A small number of people asks questions and one or two support or attempt to communicate why they’re asking and suddenly we’re all one borg like horde of abusive trolls!

And yeah I’d choose your words very carefully before linking terms like left and Labour politician together…:D

Sunny, that’s a bit unfair.

I didn’t ask for a life history, I tried to give him an opportunity to answer why he felt particularly qualified to introduce this subject and validate the relevance of the particular solution he was promoting – if you notice he failed to take advantage of the most pertinent opening by avoiding mention of any personal struggles he may have faced, thus disengaging his own story from the subject at hand.

And we are talking about engagement with the representative process!

This inescapably leads one to question both David Lammy’s representative ability as well as his engagement with and support for the process (the seriousness of these complaints mean the furious nature of subsequent comments shouldn’t have been surprising, nor should they be discounted).

I take the point about being careful how candid one is, but that shouldn’t preclude honest diplomacy and a demonstration of relevance to the debate – in fact aren’t those both measures of good politics? If a politician fears press coverage it indicates they are hiding something worth covering.

So isn’t this proposal to introduce wider use of open primaries just flash gimmickery and a distraction from the real meat of politics? I’d welcome Mr Lammy’s response at this point.

“If Gordon Brown came here saying he’d introduced all these changes and he wasn’t clear why they didn’t work in the way he had hoped, then I’d expect him to be chastised on the point you made (rhetoric v reality). This is simply a comment piece.”

That’s funny because that’s exactly the point I was going to raise as an anecdote but decided against it lest it be seen as too frivolous an example ;) Obviously I was going to raise it in an opposite direction. I don’t see anything, other than this speech, from David Lammy that suggests for one moment he is really going to challenge the government on change.

He hasn’t made any impact on policy (clearly, very few have I’ll grant that also), he has stood up for “outside people” having more of a say yet not once spoke…even objectively and without siding…about the need to consider the vast amount of opinion from outside westminster on 42 days. He allegedly doesn’t even reply to his constituents when they write to him all that often (perhaps they’re not nice enough to him, and perhaps he’s too nice to write like David Clelland does).

So, am I not allowed to call him on this given the context of his “comment piece” or shall I expect a standing ovation on this site for the scheduled speech Nadine Dorries is making on individual liberties and the steps towards full-term abortion? ;)

Sunny @85

So he is in the wrong party to have any credibility on the subject while social mobility is declining under Labour?

Heh good piece Sunny:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/03/civilliberties.communities

For me, liberty should be the ability for the politically weakest in any society to stand up and challenge the strongest; for the most marginalised groups to have as many rights as the most visible.

90. Sunder Katwala

I declare an interest, as the Fabians hosted the speech. We host a lot of speeches and debates. This struck me as candid and one which opens up space for a discussion we need – not just in the Labour Party.

I think its a bit of a shame that we’re having a discussion about how to have a conversation or debate, and much less the issues at stake. I thought Picasso’s comments were good. I think we could if we wanted to caricature my friend Sunny as sounding a bit like a 1950s broadcaster (have you anything else to add Minister) but the general point about wanting to open conversations, not close them down is important if we are interested in broader, plural progressive movements, including with people we can make common cause with without necessarily agreeing on everything.

So I suggested Sunny might be interested in the speech, because I think it gets into some issue of what building liberal-left alliances could be about. Sunny wanted to run something from it, and clearly, David was keen to make some effort to engage in the space once that was happening. (I didn’t know he planned to do that). I think some of the response sets the barriers to online engagement rather high. If you can’t answer every point, why are you just pretending. Who could ever meet that standard? (Like Sunny, but never quite as actively, I try to get back to lots of people on CommentisFree, etc, but not always and never everyone).

However strongly people feel about particular aspects of the government’s record, I think there is a danger of solipsism in some of the discussion.

Without wanting to generalise/caricature it too much, I think this captures one of the interesting issues about political engagement (on blogs) but actually about our political culture more generally.

We all get to have our say. No thought need ever go unpublished. The right to reply is extended ad infinitum. We tend to cluster around people who are like-minded. And so we can’t see why we aren’t getting what we want.

The politics of articulation are stronger than ever, but the politics of aggregation matters too. The politics of building alliances depends on that. What I am not sure about is how many people want to build alliances if they involve any degree of compromise or trade-off at all. But the pure politics of self-expression are barely politics at all. They certainly don’t do much to deliver social change.

A lot of the tonality of politics generally and perhaps online politics in particular is ‘since I am obviously right, why aren’t the useless, incompetent bastards listening to me’. There is something consumerist and anti-political in this. I will leave the professionals to deal with what they are paid for when I’m too busy to bother. But then, if I am affected, the test of whether politics works is whether I get what I want when I do bother to engage. If I don’t, then politics is broken. But several hundred thousand people marching to not ban hunting doesn’t necessarily mean it will not be legitimate for Parliament to decide otherwise. They have a right to a voice, but not necessarily a veto.

So we are also losing that the meaning of politics is a collective endeavour to make collective decisions, and one by which disagreements are expressed, and compromises brokered. Compromise is a dirty word. But I never get everything I want, because your views count too, and in the end we share a society, and politics is how we do that. Clearly, a right that only wants the market to be dominant is interesting in diminishing the scope for politics of this kind. The liberal left has its libertarian and individualist side too, but needs to be more careful about balancing principles of equal citizenship, fairness and collective provision with that than the minimal government right.

Even the strongest political disagreements can be with opponents who honestly hold a different position from our own. I think recognising and talking about this is one of Obama’s strengths. McCain too to some extent. He is good at having a principled, substantive disagreement in a way which accepts the integrity of his opponents. At first, I thought this could contain excessive elements of being all things to all people, or riding a slightly simplistic anti-politics wave. But over time it has struck me as more sophisticated: a call for engagement in a collective political process. And, if elected, he has a task of engaging people in how political change is delivered.

I don’t think we are going to see the politics of personal destruction this time around. (Yes, there will be some of that: I think McCain will be damaged if he does not disown it in a credible way). To some extent, that tends to happen when the substantive differences are so small that the argument has to be either competence or integrity, because of a wariness to say I stand for something different in terms of values and policies.

I am for a value-based politics. But unless we think the only way to have integrity is to always be on the point of resigning from any government, or political party, however small, or any campaign then there are always trade-offs. They might be awful sell-outs, but they are more than sometimes the noble art of how we decide things as a society. Even those issues we are most likely to feel involve very core moral principles – such as abortion – are ultimately resolved around shades of grey and questions of degree for the vast majority of us. I am against 42 days, and quite possibly have my doubts about 28 too. But I am almost certainly OK about 14 days or slightly more. I favour the current abortion laws as an important protection of women’s rights, but I wouldn’t now vote or campaign to increase the limit by four weeks from where we are.

“Why don’t you take that up with Jenny”

… I should maybe stop expecting people to spell my name right, as it’s clearly too difficult to manage.

Sooni (:P), you know what I think the main cause of the problem here is? This wasn’t presented as a speech that was given somewhere else and then written up here, it was presented as a blog piece written for the site. We have reacted to it as we would react to a blog piece.

If it had had a nice strapline across the top saying “This is a write-up of David Lammy’s speech to the Fabian society about PPC selection” I probably wouldn’t have even bothered reading it, never mind commenting on it, because I would have realised that it wasn’t designed for us as an audience, but was simply a Labour party fishing expedition.

Perhaps that’s a lesson for the future?

Sunder:
What I am not sure about is how many people want to build alliances if they involve any degree of compromise or trade-off at all. But the pure politics of self-expression are barely politics at all. They certainly don’t do much to deliver social change.

I think this is spot on. And this:

I am for a value-based politics. But unless we think the only way to have integrity is to always be on the point of resigning from any government, or political party, however small, or any campaign then there are always trade-offs.

… too is spot on.

thomas says:
if you notice he failed to take advantage of the most pertinent opening by avoiding mention of any personal struggles he may have faced, thus disengaging his own story from the subject at hand.

Oh right – he should have listed some personal problems he faced in life otherwise he’s just a typical lying politician who shouldn’t be bothered with. C’mon thomas, you’re better than that.

If a politician fears press coverage it indicates they are hiding something worth covering.

Erm – no. It can also mean a tabloid has an agenda to put someone in a bad light.

So he is in the wrong party to have any credibility on the subject while social mobility is declining under Labour?

Erm, yeah, clearly he should join the Tories because they’re really serious about the issue. This is the kind of tripe that makes it hard to have constructive discussions.

Lee Griffin:
I don’t see anything, other than this speech, from David Lammy that suggests for one moment he is really going to challenge the government on change.

But then you’re not party to what goes on behind the scenes. And not only that, you’re assuming thereis a direct linear, traceable line from what is said in a speech to related outcomes. The govt is a massive organisation – you can either believe he’s being dishonest or you can take in faith that he means what he writes above (don’t we all make that assumption when writing articles) and then debate the merits of what is being said.

And what Jo Christie-Smith said above.

Perhaps that’s a lesson for the future?

Jennie (apols for spelling) – what does it say at the end of the article??

Sunny, you’re wriggling to save face against these attacks which are taking the shine off what otherwise amounts to a big personal coup for you. I appreciate that the ingratitude expressed here is counter-productive to the institutionalisation of LC and the ability to latch on to existing and accepted methods of exerting influence, but there is a limit to which the ability to grow influence is restricted by being played for a pawn in a higher game.

I ask you, why is David Lammy a credible spokesperson for this subject?

Either we should support him or we should support the ideas behind what he says. We cannot do both because the two are incompatible unless he is trying to mount a leadership challenge on the basis that this speech crystalises his opposition to the way his party has lead our country and he is pushing for a major policy reversal.

Or doesn’t it matter that he is arguing against his own position? Doesn’t it matter that he, as a beneficiary of wider opportunities for inclusion, is complicit in the reduction of access to political office which he now calls for measures to address?

Mr Lammy’s terms of reference expose the flaws of his argument – he even describes the two US Presidential nominees as ‘outsiders’, although one has more then three decades experience on Capitol Hill and has previously contested the nomination, while the other was brought up in the family of the diplomatic service and has been groomed to stand for election to the highest office since that time.

I caution you against presuming to put words in my mouth in order to quickly dimiss what I said (first and third counter-arguments against me), as I think my criticisms are somewhat more serious than your straw man (de)constructions accept.

On the second point you raise you are projecting your own method of twisting the argument to your own benefit rather than effectively countering it: there is no such thing as bad light where truth is concerned – you are confusing ‘press coverage’ with ‘publicity’ (which returns me to my opening concern about which strings are being pulled by who on whom).

Sunder’s comment is a fascinating attempt to try to knot some of the threads here back together and of course nobody could disagree in the main. I think it needs to be added that this is a different medium so a different form of political expression needs to be found to prevent any breakdown in communication – the old axiom that freedom without limits is anarchy remains true and it applies equally to the way we behave in these discussions as it does to the format itself.

Furthermore we need to consider that politicians who’ve grown up and got into office without benefiting from the use of the greater access to debate afforded by blogs are unlikely to have fully adapted the expectations and responsiveness of the e-audience into their method of using it to approach and engage on an equal level. It is clear from this discussion that the purity of the debate remains subject to participants willing to pull rank and subvert the fluid (non-existent?) conventions by transferring external status on to individual interrelationships (also a by-product of recently developed real-world acquaintanceship).

Although I sympathise with Lee’s complaints I find myself unable to overtly support his categorical refutation of Mr Lammy’s legitimacy because he bases it on a side issue (42 days has little direct impact on political engagement and inclusivity, whereas social mobility does) in this instance and I have been careful to try to remain within parameters of the subject at hand which could be considered reasonable.

This is a place where the social, personal and polical all meet and our reactions are all defined by our response to the equality it affords us both individually and collectively. The truth is that this is something no party and no government can lay claim to having the sole right to address. (Apologiess for paraphrasing)

94. Mike Killingworth

[91] A very thoughtful contribution, Sunder, for which many thanks. “A voice is not a veto” – indeed.

As this thread is now a little long in the tooth, I’m going to give myself permission to wander off-topic as you did and (taking my life in both hands) make a few observations on your comments on abortion.

As I understand it, very few abortions are performed on foetuses after 28 days – there was a piece in the Grauniad about it, I think it was 2% or 3% of the total. What I’ve not seen is any breakdown of the circumstances which lead a woman who wants an abortion to delay seeking it. Intuitively, it strikes me that it would be because she didn’t realise that she was pregnant until she missed her period, which in turn suggests that she might have the kind of lifestyle which doesn’t involve pregnancy tests – or, perhaps, much contact with the health-care system more generally. It would be good to know more about this.

Sunny, you’re wriggling to save face against these attacks which are taking the shine off what otherwise amounts to a big personal coup for you. I appreciate that the ingratitude expressed here is counter-productive to the institutionalisation of LC and the ability to latch on to existing and accepted methods of exerting influence, but there is a limit to which the ability to grow influence is restricted by being played for a pawn in a higher game.

I was going to be accused of this sooner or later anyway, but thankfully Sunder, Jo and others have made the points I wanted to. I think you misunderstand the nature of this project (coalition building, re-energising the left), which is why I think Sunder does a great job of articulating the points. He gets it. But I will come back to this in another article because I’ve been thinking a lot about it anyway.

“If you can’t answer every point, why are you just pretending. Who could ever meet that standard? (Like Sunny, but never quite as actively, I try to get back to lots of people on CommentisFree, etc, but not always and never everyone).”

*sigh* still missing the point. It’s rather infuriating that even those that are willing to comment and engage here seem to be happy to ignore the realities of where the frustration was born from. The above is a simplification of where certainly my disappointment as come from, at best.

“But then you’re not party to what goes on behind the scenes.”

I certainly am not assuming that things don’t go on behind the scenes, however as this “comment piece” suggests supposedly Lammy is all about engaging the common person, about including sources outside Westminster. You assertion that perhaps he’s changing things from the inside is just more proof, in all honesty, that this idea of openness is (at least for the forseeable future of the Labour government) not going to take place. If Lammy was truly about openness then he would be putting forward at least ideas now as to how that can happen…ideas beyond trying to drain money from the pockets of the public to save Labour’s bacon…rather than continuing with *just* the back room dealings that he says are poisonous to the future of parliament and government!

I’m not unreasonable, if there was even the slightest of explanations about how he intended to take this forward, a modicum of strategy, or a shred of proof in what people outside Westminster see of him standing up for what he says, then I would support that. The trouble is there is no proof whatsoever that this speech is more than just empty words spoken by an on-the-up MP in a catastrophically on-the-down party.

“lthough I sympathise with Lee’s complaints I find myself unable to overtly support his categorical refutation of Mr Lammy’s legitimacy because he bases it on a side issue (42 days has little direct impact on political engagement and inclusivity, whereas social mobility does)”

There is more to political engagement than simply talking to people and getting them involved. One key aspect is showing the public you’re making decisions that are right. We have experts in this country for a reason, we have people in professional positions that have experience. If he wishes to ignore these people in favour of supporting a government then how can we not take his idea of “breaking out of Westminster” with more than a little bit of a pinch of salt? There are other areas (listed in comments above) that I also believe he is showing a contradiction, but the 42 days thing to me is a poignant example of saying one thing while doing another.

Sunny@96

Hmm, Jo and Sunder may have made the points you wanted to make, but are they the correct points?

If I ‘misunderstand the nature of this project (coalition-building, re-energising the left)’, why have you made the shift from calling it the liberal-left?

I don’t know whether you are naive or conniving, Sunny, but there is plenty you either aren’t telling or don’t know. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, so please enlighten us.

I note the recently arrested Conservative PPC for Watford, Ian Oakley, was selected by open primary.

Hi there Conspirators, please check out my post on Obama and progressive politics:

http://rayyanmirza.wordpress.com/2008/08/23/yes-we-can-barack-obama-and-lessons-for-progressives-everywhere/

Human rights is a single issue campaign? Since when? If this is what a ‘MInister’ thinks then goodness me, there is not a lot of hope/.

If we have anything to learn, it is we need to move away from representative politics. Because someone shares the colour of your skin and perhaps your working class background, doesn’t mean they represent you any better than some ‘toff’ does, once they’ve entered the Party they do not represent You they represent themselves and their political career. Until that changes, then a certain amount of people are not going to be interested.

Unless you are actually going to represent people in the way you would represent someone in the way you do in a legal sense. i.e. represent them. not what your Party wants you to do, and what YOU think is best for your constituents. We don’t need someone to think for us, why should one person do that anyway, it’s ridiculous, MPs ought to be a conduit, nothing more.

they don’t usually have any expertise either, at least there is a reason to have a Barrister or a solicitor, advising you and acting on your behalf.

78 Thomas, great comment.

I am increasingly becoming suspicious of the motives of people who will not speak truth to power or even expect much of a standard from them. I mean if this is what we can expect from politicians and we feel we have to be ‘nice’ to them ‘aw there there’ and cannot even criticise them, well it is a very sorry state of the world. ‘Hold their hand come now, they’ve come this far’.

If I wrote job applications the way MPs and Ministers wrote speeches, I don’t think I would be getting any of them. Why do we in jobs have to perform to higher standards?

People clearly have very low expectations of politicians. How depressing, i knew there was not that much I was missing on Liberal Conspiracy, there seems a little too much want to one day be Party member-sycophancy-going on here.


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