Tag Archives: democratic reform party

Process versus Principle: Why can’t I vote for my beliefs?

“It’s ironic isn’t it?” Phil asked me.

I raised my eyebrow in question.

“We live in an economy designed for choice and yet the choices we make in politics are those nobody wants to take – least of all, the young.”

Phil Badger is standing in the 2015 General Election in Lewisham Deptford, for Democratic Reform. He is a Goldsmith’s Politics graduate who works at the Royal British Legion, and is standing for democracy, social justice, jobs, and affordable housing. He is the candidate I choose.


When I asked Phil to tell me more, I expected the standard argument of every politician – a justification of his own opinion, with reference to a couple of well-known supporters. Instead, Phil answered with a question – “why can’t I vote for what I believe in?”

On the campaign trail residents asked an equivalent question – can they really vote for what they believe in? We found that people often search for the best funded candidate; those people who are backed by the biggest celebrities, and are most likely to win. Yet it is well documented that politicians have lower transaction costs in representing people like-minded people. By electing the elite, and the vested interests, we perpetuate our existing problems, and make the prospect of genuine reform more unlikely. These problems lie at the heart of democracy’s present weakness, and Phil’s identification of them ensures that he prioritises constituents over vested interests.

As Phil said, irony is everywhere in British politics. Whether it be the difference between equality in principle and practice, the sometimes absurd assumptions of the political elite, the difference between our reputation for corruption and the media reports, or simply those actions and policies which contradict one another – if British politics were a mug, it would be overflowing with oxymora. Phillip’s most unique selling points are his ambitions to localise politics, increase transparency and autonomy, and open Parliament enough to provide all people with opportunities to propose ideas. Indeed, Democratic Reform’s manifesto speaks of such decentralisation that we create “modern Greek city state[s].” Furthermore, Phil’s website shows that he practices what he preaches in putting everything online. Arguably, such practices will challenge oxymoronic political language.

We are among those countries with a claim to be the birthplace of modern democracy, and yet only 44% of 18-24 year olds felt inspired to vote in 2010. Voting apathy, a trend that may have been further induced by Russell Brand’s call to boycott the 2015 election, is not an idle concern. Indeed, non-voters have been increasing in number since the mid-nineties.


Since 2003, Freedom House has ranked the UK at a level that cannot improve in political right and/or civil liberties. Yet, combine the pessimism and low voter turnout with the way our electoral system (First Past The Post) works (not to mention recent changes to the registration process, which further reduce the number of registered young voters), and we have an almost inevitable result that 2015 MPs will have no mandate to govern the young.

Of course a Democratic Reformist government would implement Proportional Representation, and massive constitutional reforms designed to bring process and principles in line. Yet even without such reform, global expectations and hopes may be of influence. India’s Aam Aadmi Party was founded in late 2012, and based on an anti-corruption campaign, won 67 out of 70 seats in the 2014 Delhi elections. Likewise, Spain’s Podemos Party is founded up on anti-corruption and inequality. Founded in 2014, this party is already Spain’s second largest party in members.

Imagine if that happened in the UK. Imagine what would happen if the non-voters voted. Imagine what would happen if voters put principles before process. That could happen by voting for Phil. He is passionate about electoral, political, and socio-economic reform. He wants a top-down system to be renegotiated. He wants the young to become active, and he wants to engage in a continual conversation with voters – not just during the election.

Phil’s ability to assess different opportunities, make judgements, and choose the best timing to act, gives me hope that such imaginations could bear fruit. In fact, responses on the campaign trail are quite unusually positive. So perhaps hope is on our side. The question is, will the young act on Phil’s vision for democracy? Or will they act on Russell Brand’s vision for a revolution?

The silent majority

A couple of years ago I found myself launching a new political party called the Democratic Reform Party. And although at the start there was no single idea on which it was founded (we stood strongly against the principle of single issue parties), the central principle on which the party came to argue was the existence of an unrealised cognitive surplus, which democratic reforms could redress through the employment of new technologies in order to make the creative generation of new ideas a key pillar of a new and revised democracy.

In 2010 and 2011 I spoke to thousands of people, often over the Internet, and also campaigning in cities like London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Worcester. Practically, the experience taught me a great deal. And it also reinforced a lot of what most people only guess. One of those things is the existence of a silent majority. The people most willing to talk and work for change are neither the educated, nor those who’re bristling with ideas. I’ll warn you now, for a democrat this may sound terribly elitist. But those most intellectually able to affect real change are most often those who refuse to act, due to a lack of time, and also a lack of confidence. Those who push most, talk most, and politically speaking shout the loudest, are all too often the principled, but uneducated. The calls you hear from these people, often used to berate all politicians as if they were another species, are in fact so often quotations of what politicians have in the past coined up that it makes you cringe. And they almost always shout about it being “common sense”, which of course really means that they simply don’t know the counter-argument, and have decided to get angry about it rather than open a book. Now I am of course hugely generalizing here. Speaking to thousands in the greater scheme of things is merely a drop in the ocean. And then you have my subjective take on the whole experience to boot. But my point is this: if in addressing so many people I ended up talking to an oversized minority (from day to day life I’m sure you know that the type to take any opportunity to rant about political, economic and philosophical issues they don’t understand is not the majority) then is the majority too quiet? Will the majority ever speak up, or is it always the minorities doing the talking? And what does this mean for democracy? Is it something we could change? Is it even something we would want to change?

As you can probably guess, my take is that if creativity, the generation of ideas, discussion and debate formed a central role in the state then we would be effectively channeling the input of this outspoken minority, and giving a chance to the majority that they might use more occasionally. What’s your take?