Improving politics

Politics is rubbish.

Nobody likes it. Even people who are obsessed with it – like me – don’t really like it. We just like being made to feel angry, smug or superior.

Almost everyone else is bored, disgusted, suspicious or utterly disenfranchised by the whole sorry mess.

But I have an 8-point plan to make it better. See if you agree.

1: If you break more than 10% of your manifesto pledges, a general election is automatically called.

Sometimes promises need to be broken for entirely unavoidable and unpredictable reasons – wars, natural disasters, etc. But 10% gives you some leeway. Break more promises than that, and a new election is called – you may be kicked out.

2: Pay MP’s a lot more.

My brother is an absolute arse, and a mid-level manager in a moderately sized publishing business. But he’s paid £50,000 a year more than George Osborne, who has responsibility for raising and spending hundreds of billions of pounds in our name.

If we want good people to be in charge – clever, talented people – we have to pay them enough to do it. Otherwise all we’ll get is power-crazed imbeciles, who are easy to corrupt because they don’t earn very much; or feckless, independently-wealthy buffoons who have too much money, too much sense of entitlement, and not enough brain or chin. I blame the parents, who are also cousins.

Double their salaries. We’ll get better people to do the job.

3: Give MP’s and Lords an actual job to do.

Did you know that MP’s and Lords are the only civil servants to have no job description? Literally none. Once elected (or ennobled), they don’t have to do anything at all, and many don’t.

Some of them think their job is to attend MP’s surgeries, some think it’s to be in the House of Commons voting all day. Which is fine, at least it’s active. But many of them think their job is gardening, managing their stocks and shares, and occasionally opening local shopping centres.

Even active, qualified, intelligent MP’s fail us. Micheal (now Lord) Heseltine has sat in the Lords since 2001, and only made his first speech in March 2012. He earns £300 a day, has a wine allowance, can claim expenses of up to £155,000 per year, and pays zero tax. And he did nothing at all for 11 years.

Benefit scroungers? Physician, heal thyself.

We need to tell them what their responsibility is, and sack them if they don’t do the job.

4: State funding of political parties.

Politics is for sale right now. It’s not illegal, but it’s very wrong.

So instead, every year we should spend £1 per year from each UK citizen – dirt cheap. That’s £583,000 per month to split between political parties.

Each month, we hold an official opinion poll (they happen all the time anyway, so it costs nothing extra).

If the Tories get 35% of the vote, they get 35% of the money for that month. Next month they may get 27%, or 41%. Their income depends on their popularity – it’s an incentive to do things that people actually want!

It also means small parties can survive – if the Greens get 5% in the opinion poll, they get 5% of the cash. At the moment they get almost nothing because who would give to a party with almost no chance of influencing policy?

It’s a fair system, and it avoids corruption. No party (or individual) can buy their way into power by having deeper wallets. And no other donations or spending will be allowed, absolutely none. No more corruption.

5: Ban politicians from having a second job.

Most MP’s have more than one job. What, running the country isn’t keeping you busy?

I think they should have one job, and do it.

And cabinet ministers should be unable to take any job in a business that employs more than, say, 50 people for 5 years after leaving office. That way they can’t be retrospectively bribed (i.e. “just change this policy for us, and we’ll give you a nice directorship and a £1m pay packet the day you leave government”).

If they’re all so smart, they should be able to make a good living in a small business, or start their own. But no more conveyor belt from Downing St to Wall St.

Yes, Tony Blair, I’m looking at you!

6: More votes for people who know what the hell they’re talking about.

This will be controversial, but I think it makes sense. I’ve known people who want to vote for a party because they like the leader’s hair. No idea about the politics, or what that leader will do to the country. Don’t know. Don’t care.

I still want those people to have a vote, but I want people who do know and care to have more of a vote.

So before polling day everyone has to answer 10 multiple choice questions as part of their voting slip. Simple stuff, like “what’s the foreign secretary called”. If you get 100%, your vote scores 100. If you get 10% your vote scores 10.

It’s fair. If you don’t take an interest in how your country is run, why should you be able to contradict the votes of people who do? And if you don’t like having a low-scoring vote, watch Newsnight!

7: Local citizen observers.

I’d like to see an independent observer from each constituency, whose job it is to sit in on meetings with their constituency MP. It’ll be like jury duty. The observer would be trained and advised by a judge or senior civil servant, and would then be independently responsible for watching what’s done in our name, and reporting it to the media if the MP is being an utter shit.

If the MP is meeting lobbyists – business, charity, or union – the observer can make sure it’s all above-board, and no special favours are being requested or offered.

Observers should only be allowed to serve one term, maybe a year. Any longer and they risk becoming institutionalised or corrupted, just like the MP’s are.

8: Specialist MP’s.

Any idiot can stand for parliament, and they do. Many of them get elected, and end up running (for example) the NHS without knowing what a tonsil is.

I want MP’s to remain political. But we need experts too. So I’d like to see at least 1/3 of MP’s having to have a specific skill or trade. Doctor. Engineer. Scientist. Teacher. Not more lawyers and economists, it’s that sort of Surrey-landowner crap that has got us into this state. I’m not blaming the current government, this has been going on for 100 years. But it means we don’t have anybody in power – or even close to power – who actually knows what’s involved in setting up a manufacturing business, or running a hospital.

Of course we’ll still need diplomats and lawyers and economists. But we’ve got to find a way to push for a broader range of real-world skills within parliament, or the whole economy will continue to be slanted towards the stuff those 600 MP’s know about – and frankly, all most of them know is asset-stripping. Sell stuff the don’t own, create giant monopolies which hoover up tax money and provide a worse service (Virgin trains being a prime example).

All of this would be more expensive. But you get what you pay for. Our politics currently costs us nothing, and what have we got? Worthless politicians!