To run or not to run

Now this feels weird.

It started with a tweet, like so many things in my life today.

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And of course a bit of banter arose and a hashtag was suggested #LloydDavis4MP but then I started to talk to other people about it and realised that they were taking the proposition seriously, being encouraging saying things like “Oh yes, I think that would be marvellous” So I’m writing about it here so that I’m quite sure that I’m not being blindly selective and only telling people who I know would be supportive but also to better understand what I might do next.

Because I’m up for it, I think. It fits very well with making social art and building community, which is what I (and others) see myself doing. I’m just not sure how.

I see our current national political system suffering from similar issues to those faced by other large organisations – that large-scale centralised bureaucracies do some things extremely efficiently but mostly at the cost of the people who are supposed to be served by them as well as the people who spend their time trying to run them. I think that working out what it might mean to run this country (or any country) in the next century is something worth putting time and energy into.

The expenses row shows just how vulnerable the system is to abuse of trust. I’m quite sure, from the gobsmacked faces and embarrassed shuffling that most MPs considered they were playing the game as it’s supposed to be played and that from their perspective, the goalposts have been moved. Yes, they knew it was probably wrong, but everyone seemed to be doing it and it’s easy in that situation to tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing. Very easy, that is, if the only people you talk to about it are other people who are engaged in the same activity.

So there’s a choice for those of us who see that change is needed. I could write about this over and over and work out what I think and tell other people what they should do or should believe and engage in endless conversations about policy and designing a better system, or I could say, y’know what, I don’t think it’s possible to stand outside a human system and tinker with it, design a desirable future state and then implement it – that’s the process that got us into this mess and innumerable messes before. I think we have to participate in our democracy in a much more active way.

Which brings me to our current parties. I joined the Labour Party in 1983, soon after the second Thatcher election victory. It felt like a grim time. I was a 1 in 10, a number on a list. The economic base that most people at that time had believed would be with us forever, manufacturing industry, was being swept away, restructured or sold off. I instinctively disliked the hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative style of the Tory party under Thatcher – I preferred the being hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative in my *own* way, and on the side of people more like my family and friends, so I joined the Labour Party Young Socialists (which for those unacquainted with the history of such things, means what the press at the time dubbed “The Militant Tendency” though that wasn’t what I thought I was getting into at the time). And then throughout the 1980s I took part in political activity that didn’t work. At a local and national level, we lost again and again. I wasn’t forced out of the party over Clause IV or for being a member of a party within a party or anything like that, the reality was that when my son was born in 1991, I had just been made redundant and I needed to spend more time on caring for my own family than fighting for others. I have voted in every election I’ve been entitled to and on each occasion I’ve voted Labour or spoiled the ballot paper where there was no Labour candidate. And perversely I’ve always lived in Conservative constituencies – the only time that the candidate I voted for has won has been in District Council and European elections. But now I’m done with combat and dogma of whatever flavour and you should judge me on what I do and say today, not the things I went through on the way.

And now I feel quite distanced from any of the parties. They don’t seem to live in the same world as the rest of us. They seem to be still trying to play the same game and the game has become more important than the original function.

Those of you who’ve seen me at Tuttle will, I hope, have seen me being of service to the group, to the community. The more that I’ve done that, the more I’ve let go of trying to run it, or make it go in a particular direction, the more successful it has been and the more I’ve enjoyed being part of it. I’d like the opportunity to try that out on a grander scale. And representing local people at a national level seems where there’s most improvement to be made.

We’re all quite exercised about how public servants should act with integrity and honesty – my definition of integrity is simple – you do what you say on the tin – you are open and clear about the principles that you apply when making decisions and you do what you said you’d do.

So the idea of standing as an independent candidate is quite appealing, running on a ticket of integrity and true service. And I’m attracted to serving Bromsgrove because I lived there, I know and love the town and because they seem to have had a rough deal with MPs for a while. I’m open though to doing something elsewhere or accepting that I’m completely wrong about the whole thing and should just get on with something else.

And of course, I have some interesting ideas about how my knowledge of the use of the social web could support both a campaign and the day-to-day business of being a sitting MP.

I’m very interested in what others think on this. Are there qualities that you think I’m lacking? Can you see a more suitable way for me to contribute to this issue?

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24 thoughts on “To run or not to run”

  1. I think it would be an incredibly worthwhile and interesting thing to do. I can’t think of anyone better placed to be the voice of the community – and what else is an MP supposed to be?

    Like you, I’m a long-time Labour supporter, although not for so long and never as a member. I also feel that they’re just playing the same silly little inward-looking game, as are all the other parties, all reacting to public outrage in predictable but meaningless ways.

    I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change our politics. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know. I can’t vote for you, but I’d love to help make sure others do.

    I really hope you go ahead with this idea.

  2. ah, if only all politicians thought like you… but even if they do at the start they soon seem to be corrupted. four legs good, two legs bad etc. I don’t think there is a party that is pure any more, it is a case of voting for the lesser evil to keep a worse one out. Better to join the party you like best and reform by example if that were possible. Very hard to turn voters to new parties. If you do stand then I wish you well, you talk sense.

  3. To run.

    If the ballot box remains right now the key means through which established political structures are listening – then the more debate around it, and the more exploration of positive constructive alternative possibilities, the better.

    Though I think the key is to complete the sentence “running on a ticket of integrity and true service.” with “…service to…”. Who are the constituency you will seek to represent?

    I also think it’s key to recognise that you offer not only experience of ‘the social web’, but experience of convening people in physical space – community building that weaves online and offline. And I would love to see more MPs taking on the role of convenor, facilitator and where neccessary advocate, rather than claiming a role of ‘representative’ without being able to give any substantive content to that claim.

    Not to run?

    You ask if there are other ways to contribute to the issue. I’ve jotted down those that occur to me below, but none I think mitigate against the good-ideaness of throwing your hat into the electoral ring…

    * Support those who are running to understand new ways of organising, campaigning and operating in the electoral and parliamentary arena.

    * Use campaigning skills on a single-issue campaigning basis.

    * Work to convent, support and equip constituents to hold their many candidates to account through social media tools – ensuring that the next election places power 100% in the hands of the electorate.

  4. Suggest you need an Un-Party or something like that. Independents etc. tend to be marginalised by the mainstream.

    How about a grouping for Independents?

    I also am given to understand that if we think expenses are shocking over here, then MEPs are on the *real* gravy train. Maybe I should look into a reasons why they should get the gravy after all, or maybe I’m just one-eyed… :$

    I like Europe, but I feel there is a bigger issue here about getting our Political institutions in general to act as though they understand a) who voted them in the first place, and b) who pays their bills. I think many have (or had) forgotten this!

    Enough ranting already

  5. One of the things that has really struck me over the whole expenses debate is how so many politicians have allowed themselves to become so disconnected from the people they serve.

    It seems to me that you are well placed to build a deeper, long lasting connection with the community. Integrity, transparency, two-way conversations… – I guess these are things which in some ways are naturally (?) enabled by social media and I’m sure there are lessons you’ve learned from what you’ve brought together so far that would keep you and your community more closely coupled than most politicians are today.

    In any case – whether you won a seat or not – what a fascinating subject / process (i.e. standing for parliament on an independent slate) to document, share with people and open up what is (lets face it) usually a pretty non-transparent / cards-close-to-the-chest process.

    Good Luck
    @JimAnning

  6. Go for it, Lloyd. Untainted, you’re ahead already. Just be you and run! You don’t need a party platform, imo, just you and your belief. Let’s see what you can do.

  7. You’d make a first rate candidate period.

    Here’s my concerns for what they’re worth. The whole expenses thing just doesn’t wash with me. In Singapore they pay top dollar for the their politicians and they get the best. In the UK I’ve read time and again how MP’s should ‘try living on minimum wage’. Well I don’t want my MP’s scraping by. I want them well-paid and well-humble.

    I don’t think there’s any way of knowing the future. Why not run on ‘let’s see what the first issues I can address are’ ticket. All those promises are a waste of words. Get in there and blog what you see and listen to the constituency.

    Erm, I could go on but I can see nothing more healthy than a transparent, socially integrated attempt for the position by one of the nicest people I’ve come across. Go for it and make a few mistakes on the way, just warn everybody there is no perfect human being and doing your best would be with my blessing.

  8. only gonna happen if people around you who have met you actually contribute their time to making it happen

    i don’t know what the procedure is, but i would suggest you only venture into it if you have a critical mass of individuals who are committed to seeing it through :)

  9. Hmm. I’m not sure the question is ‘to run or not to run’ – surely part of running a socially open campaign would involve leaving that to the electorate themselves to answer?

    Maybe the thing to do is to start seeding groups of the politically engaged / party disenchanted in the neighbourhood, and begin a discussion across the constituency as to exactly how and on what terms people want to be represented.

    On the one hand, it might lead to them enjoying the process, feeling that it’s valuable, and looking to extend it to being represented by a socially open / locally engaged / non-affiliated candidate – ie you. On the other, it could just lead to an authoritative change manifesto for more traditional candidates.

    Both good outcomes; and the terms of each decided by the electorate, rather than by the candidate, which is no bad thing – a further local re-empowering!

  10. I suppose it depends what you’d be trying to achieve.

    If Kirkbride lasts until the general election – whenever that may be, you’re looking at persuading a naturally Tory constituency to (potentially) throw away their vote on an independent, a techno-geek, a ukelele-playing ex-loony-leftie, with the risk of costing Cameron a seat, and letting Labour back in. (A by-election might be a very different story though, with no such risk – and people much more likely to ‘have a laugh’, as it were.)

    So I think winning would be an extremely tall order indeed. But if you’d be in it for the experience of being in it, to turn it into a book / blog / case study, that’s a completely different question. And it’d be a lot of fun to watch.

  11. I’m going to be the lone voice of dissent here. Not because I don’t think you’d make a great MP – I don’t know you well enough to make that judgement.

    Firstly, how easy would it be to smear you?
    Is there a photo anywhere of you smoking something that *looks* like a joint?
    Have you ever been arrested? Cautioned?
    Ever been a day late paying your taxes?
    Do you know the names of all your one-night-stands? How do they feel about you?
    Are you friendly with all your exes – or are there still bitter recriminations there?
    Do you have any friends who have gone to jail?
    Are all of your former co-workers happy to have known you?
    Have you ever left an obscene message on someone’s answerphone – even as a joke?
    Is your CV 100% accurate? Has it been for every single job you’ve ever applied for?
    Your finances – any odd sources of income? Any tax issues?
    …and all the same again for your partner.
    …and your parents.

    People who play at politics know how to find the little bits of dirt that we all have and turn them in to a liability. If you’re standing against everyone – you’ll attract ire from everyone.

    Secondly, on a practical level – you may have the money to place a deposit – but do you have enough to walk round an convince 20,000 people that they should abandon their tribal instincts and vote for a guy they’ve never heard of, who has some very strange policies (“Social Media? What’s that?”)?

    I hate to say it – but would it be better to lend your considerable talents to helping an existing party? While I appreciate that you don’t want to become tainted and jaded with elections – spending a campaign or two seeing how the professionals do it could be enough to both crystallise your mind and give you enough experience to fight a decent campaign.

    T

  12. The deposit was raised from £150 but it’s still only £500 that needs to be raised, if it’s thought to be a worthwhile investment.

    Why not? It worked for Screaming Lord Sutch.

    Well, at least up until he hanged himself.

  13. @Terence: I think this is precisely the problem. Politicians are held to some absurd standards on the one hand – smoking weed, honest screw-ups on their taxes, having the odd shag – while their actual job performance doesn’t seem to enter into it. That’s an overstatement, of course, but not by much.

    I think the point is simply to run, and the see what sort of campaign is possible, and what people might engage with. It might be that Lloyd stands and doesn’t win – it’s likely in fact – but at the very least, he will have brought the talents that turned a ramble through East London into the thriving Tuttle club to the political process. We know that it will be an honest attempt to find a way for political candidates to get involved with the electorate.

    I’m in for helping with the deposit, for one.

    Screaming Lloyd Sutch anyone?

  14. I think you should think very carefully – and hard – and then go for it. Being outside a party would mean that you would have to work very hard to show people what you could provide the constituency – there are no easy hooks to hang your policies on. It might mean also that you would have minimal influence in Parliament (sorry! Being a realist here…) and it could be quite lonely.

    But you could also do good, and you might be able to influence around things you know and are good at.

  15. Lloyd – the LAST thing you’d want to be is an MP regardless of which party you stood for. Stick to being an observer and commentator – much better!

  16. Hi Lloyd, I don’t know you well enough to know whether you’d be a good MP, but I think that having the desire to run gets you a lot of the way there. I think the current system is broken because MPs have become more and more detached from why they should be there in the first place. They seem to consider that it is a good club to join, rather than a vocation. The expenses stuff has merely highlighted this.

    I think that there should be more MPs who wish to genuinely represent their constituents and unfortunately it seems that none of the parties can provide many of those – so more independents it is then.

    Some of the comments in this debate have been very interesting regarding how much influence you could have as an independent, or even how easy it would be mobilise enough support to get you voted in in the first place.

    In fact Justin Souter hits the nail on the head: “Suggest you need an Un-Party or something like that.”

    I think what is required is an Alliance for Independent MPs. Not a ‘Party’ and certainly no manifesto or whip – but an alliance that helps people mobilise support, generate publicity, research the issues and topics as well as the time-consuming and expensive tasks of printing leaflets and putting them through letterboxes etc.

    I think if something like that is in place then you and any other potential independents would have a much greater chance of being elected or at least making people sit up and take notice.

  17. I really love the idea of you running for election. And I think that whether or not you get elected is by the by. What counts for me is that you would illustrate a different way of doing things – a more open, transparent, inclusive way of doing it. I can very much imagine you holding Tuttle-like meetings where people get to talk about what’s important to them, meet each other and form their own communities of interest.

    There’s real value in doing things differently just because you can, because you never know how that might shift people’s expectations, might fire up others to do something similar, might draw more people into participating in democracy. I love the idea of an alliance of independent candidates, too, because it says that yes, anyone can do this.

    MPs get away with all their nest-feathering and their bad policies because, on the whole, the public lets them. I think it’s about time the public stopped seeing MPs as ‘other’ from them, and started to think that perhaps they to could have a say in how our country is run.

    So I say, go for it. I’ll support you anyway I can.

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