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Blog on Demand: Political Inactivity 
13th-Mar-2008 03:59 pm
earth, hhgttg
And back, to the Blogging on Demand meme, which is proving remarkably fun for me. matgb wants to know:
Given your strong views, why you're not more involved politically, either parties or issue groups.
The short answer is: I have no time. The self-deprecating but somewhat honest answer is that it's easier for me to be strident and opinionated in words at the pub and in a livejournal than to actually do anything - I'll just say things loud enough and someone else will do the doing, right?

The wordy answer is that: I cannot trust any one party or issue group to accurately represent me as an individual and to cater for my concerns. One day I may agree with the Lib Dems' official line on how "homophobic bullying is wrong, mmkay?"  but that doesn't mean I agree with their policy on Iraq or ID cards (please note: I'm not saying I do or don't. These are merely Hot Topics right now.) However, 'being involved' in the Lib Dems would, to me, sign me up to all and every Lib Dem stance whether I agreed (or knew enough to have an opinion) or not.

Later on Blogging on Demand I may talk about religion, and how organised groups appear to me, who subscribes to none. Members of any one church are, by being members, endorsing every official line that Church takes. This is why, I suspect, so many people call themselves 'non-denominational', because no one organisation does it right for them in terms of, oh I dunno, evolution and the gays, for example.

The first "issue group" I was "involved" with was the RSPCA, of which I was a junior member back when I was yay tall. Of course my first 'issue' was animal rights. You didn't think I was a vegetarian at thirteen because I was well versed on the sociopolitical ramifications** of large scale meat production, did you? Anyway, I used to read up on all sorts of animal issues in the magazine, and it was fun and educational, but it was a very biased fun and educational thing. "This is good. This is bad." All what you'd expect from a magazine published by an animal rights organisation, but when I was just coming into adolescence, I began paying attention to the tone things were taking, and I didn't like that this authoritative voice on what is moral and immoral actually had dissenters in other areas. As I became an adult, I never voluntary joined another issue-inclined organisation, because I wanted to make up my own mind.

I believe very strongly in making up one's own mind over every issue individually. Not subscribing wholesale to a full set of opinions and lines set forth by The Man, even if he's a man you chose.

[I can almost hear the comment notifications arriving, and I'm tempted to leave it there just so the most commented post on my front page isn't the frivolous chocolate picspam.]


I appreciate that's it's not like that for anyone who belongs to an issue group or political party. I understand the power of working together, and sometimes it may be necessary to bend to the whip on minor subjects so one can have a larger collective voice on the important (to you, the individual) things. I understand that being a member of a political party doesn't mean you check your independant thought at the door, but freethinking is the most important thing to me ever, and I am not willing to compromise it in any way. I'm going to vote in the election this year for Red Ken, cause I like his smile the candidate who best represents my views this year and looks more likely to deliver, regardless of party.* When the General election rolls around, I'm going to vote for the candidate/party combination that best represents my interests, priorities and views at the time, regardless of which party that is. I doubt it'll be the Tories, but that's beside the point. I will not feel pressured because of my involvement with a party to vote for that party.

And really, with Issue Groups  - what the hell would I choose? Gay Rights campaigning? Then who would fly my flag for truth in the media? Feminism? Then what about my strong anti-racism views? What about freedom of thought and expression? What about animal rights? What about global warming? What - and here you may imagine me clasping my bosom*** dramatically - WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?  If I become more active in trying to assert my right to marry who I like, who's going to write blog posts to ensure they get a thorough education in biology?****

But mostly because I have no time.

*Though, yes, initially I voted for Ken because he was an independent. Shut up and don't expect me to be rational.
**I love when I can use 'sociopolitical ramifications' with only a minimal sense of irony.
*** Heee. 'Bosom'
**** Yes, yes, I know. P.Z. Myers. Not the point.
13th-Mar-2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
**** Yes, yes, I know. P.Z. Myers. Not the point.

He wouldn't do it as well as you.

Yes, I said it, with full knowledge of the implications, and I stand by it.
13th-Mar-2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
You think very much like me on this matter.

I think that if you become a member of a political party, it almost seems to become a matter of pride and loyalty to "toe the party line" rather than make your own mind up. When the party makes a blunder, you might find yourself making excuses for them rather than condemning them, because presenting a unified front serves the interest of the party.

I never want to have my ability to think for myself compromised in that way.

And I don't have the time either.
13th-Mar-2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
I'm curious: do you have the option as a voter to register to join a party, as we do in the US? (I'm assuming you do.) And once you are a member, are there any sort of primaries where you get a say in who represents the party?

I'm asking because there are a lot of places (like NYC) where you pretty much have to be a member of one of the parties to have any say in who's elected, since one party controls everything and the primary is tantamount to the general election. Which means people like you either have to join the party despite having reservations, or be deprieved of a voice.

I'm also asking because it seems that Gordon Brown got to be the new PM because the party said so and not because anyone cast any votes for him in so much as a primary. Was there at least some sort of rank and file Labour member vote?
13th-Mar-2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
*looks askance at matgb*

Thing is, the Prime Minister is appointed by the Queen. It's not an elected position.

She usually appoints the head of the majority party, who as head is tied by predominant party opinion. He's elected by the party, but in effect the vote is tied to which party is most popular. It's much more of a team effort than just electing a president.
13th-Mar-2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
Several people have become Prime Minister in much the same way that Gordon Brown did. John Major became PM after Margaret Thatcher was deposed as leader of the Conservative party, although at least in that contest there were several people standing for the job.

As for who gets to vote for party leader, that depends on the party. Until recently the Conservative MPs decided who got to be the leader, and the wishes of the members was not accounted for.

People in the UK very rarely think about the individual they are voting for an election. When this does happen (as with Martin Bell ousting Neil Hamilton in 1997) its pretty big news.
13th-Mar-2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
do you have the option as a voter to register to join a party, as we do in the US? (I'm assuming you do.)

Not as you do in the US, no. In fact, the US system is weird compared to the rest of the world, I don't know of any other significant country that does things the way the US does when it comes to party membership.

The reason I asked Debi the question is because during the time I've known her I've gone from non-mmeber but supporter through member through to activist and then eventually party staff (although I've left that job now). My party staff job I got through a friend of hers.

Over here, there's no federal matching funding system or "recognised/funded parties" in the way you have. Funds for party and campaigning activities come from the members, and the right to vote in candidate selection elections also come from being a member.

Thus there's a minimum membership fee (my party has a minimum of £10 ($20)), and a larger recommended fee. That goes to fund staff, some campaigns and most importantly internal candidate selection elections.

The "big two" also raise money from big money donors. Mine doesn't, and it's party policy to pass a law to restrict maximum donations (as there have been a few too many corruption scandals). This might be why 90% of our activists are strongly for Obama—he's the closest to us we've seen in one of your likely winners for years.

And once you are a member, are there any sort of primaries where you get a say in who represents the party?

Yes—I just got back from a selection meeting for the local council election, all the local members met up and chose candidates for the three seats in our area being contested. This wasn't hard to work out—there were three seats and three volunteers, one sitting for re-election anyway (and we like him) and two seats where we can't win so it's just a name-on-paper job.

Although we have "safe" areas in the way you describe, there are less of them—our district boundaries are determined by a non-partizan commission which is under orders to get the districts to be contiguous and following natural communities where possible. Their secondary objective is to make as many 'contestible' as possible, so we have far fewer safe seats (some of your congress districts are insane, I looked at maps once, ouch).

Of course, it's a crappy electoral system and we should replace it with the Irish one like we nearly got around to doing 100 years ago.

Gordon Brown got to be the new PM because the party said so and not because anyone cast any votes for him in so much as a primary. Was there at least some sort of rank and file Labour member vote?

There would've been if anyone else had got enough nominations. Labour rules are to have a leadership election then you have to a) be an MP and b) get 10% of the MPs to nominate you. As the party leader is the equivalent of the Senate or House Majority/Minority leader, this makes sense. If you get nominated, then all the members get to vote. Brown fixed it and the guy trying to run against him couldn't get enough nominations, 91% of Labour MPs nominated Brown.
(Deleted comment)
13th-Mar-2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
(C/P as my other comment him the character limit anyway)

@ Debi: I understand. It's where I was 2 years ago (well, 2 and a bit, I joined end of Feb 2006). But: being involved' in the Lib Dems would, to me, sign me up to all and every Lib Dem stance whether I agreed ... or not. No. Really, no. I can (and sometimse do) speak for them. But most of the higher ups know I disagree with a fair few policies, and think others don't go far enough. A well known activist/Cllr once said "I didn't join the Liberals to get told what to do", and that definitely applies—policy comes from the bottom up, the leader gets to say what he thinks, but then we can vote him down if we don't like it. So if he knows we won't like it, he tends to not force a vote. That rebellion on Europe last week? The only real news there is it doesn't happen more often.

I've been involved in getting some party policies changed. I've also been on the losing side of a conference vote on one of my pet favourite policies. There'll be another vote at some point—we'll win that instead.

If you can find a lib dem member (or even MP) who has subscrib[ed] wholesale to a full set of opinions then I'll actually be surprised. Put three Lib Dems in a room tell them to come up with a solution to X. You'll have 4 policy documents with 5 solutions by the end of the day.

Three of them will mention land value taxation, and at least one will want to legalise all drugs, regardless of the actual issue. Meh, I digress.

Um, I'll stop typing now shall I, this is a ramble and three quarters. Sorry.
14th-Mar-2008 07:33 am (UTC)
Wot he sed. As last week proved, even a three-line whip in the Lib Dems doesn't always take. I'm mainly in the lib dems on environmental grounds (the Greens = nice thoughts, but no real idea on how to achieve them), education and personal education. I was recently surprised to find the party was in agreement with me on defence too. I disagree on LVT which is an accountants nightmare and so not a vote-winner by confusing the public. The other advantage I like is tthat if I don't like something passionately enough, I can give the relevant spokesman an earful all the way to mounting a private members campaign at conference (by finding another 19 members who agree with me) to overturn the policy - an internal democratic process stripped out from the other two main parties.
13th-Mar-2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
I was going to say I won't join a party for the same reasons. I did, at first, but now my refusal has more to do with my not trusting either major party than not agreeing with everything that party stands for. I'm pretty comfortable joining a group whose views I don't entirely support, as I don't believe that joining a group means you automatically subscribe to everything that group says. I like diversity of opinion in one group. I guess, for me, being part of a group has more to do with identity than beliefs.

And right now I'm comfortable enough to remain an independent. And until the Democratic party cleans up its act, or until I meet a third party I like, I'm going to stay independent.
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