Tag Archives: westminster

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?

Glimpsing Obama

26072008964On Saturday, I was at Victoria station on my way to somewhere else and I saw on Twitter that Barack Obama was just about to arrive at Downing Street to meet Gordon Brown. I decided to take a detour on the no. 24 to check it out – having seen the pictures in Berlin, I assumed that Whitehall would be closed off and we’d be diverted around throngs of the placard-waving Obarmy-army – but actually it was all very quiet.

The pavement is being dug up all along in front of the Treasury and FCO buildings as well as in front of the entrance to Downing Street itself. So although there were the usual tourists milling around there was certainly nothing like a crowd but the prospect of catching a glimpse through the gates was very slim indeed. I walked back towards Westminster and saw that a bunch of people were gathering in King Charles Street, so I wandered down to have a look. It turned out that this included some hardcore supporters including the organisers of the local meetup group formed to focus Londoners (and US expats) on supporting the senator from Illinois. The thinking was that the Obama party would come from Downing Street through the FCO courtyard and along King Charles Street to go to the Palace of Westminster to meet the Tory high command. The hope was that BO himself would go walkabout and stroll down Whitehall.

I settled in to wait and wait. I passed the time on Twitter and Qik – getting the first updates and pictures from @DowningStreet and getting help from @jkerrstevens while spotting the security services talking to their cufflinks. George Osbourne seemed to come out of the Treasury (?) in a Google t-shirt and on his bicycle.

A BBC TV crew said they didn’t know if the party was coming this way either but took their position in front of the crash barrier – when asked, they explained that otherwise they’d only be able to see as much as we could see. We knew that the press conference was due for 11am and so were ready for action when we saw the journo’s come strolling out. The crowd, including some delightful little children, started chanting “Yes! We Can!” and got ready with their cameras and phones for the moment when the man himself would surely follow them and walk towards us. But then suddenly a motorcycle escort and convoy of 4 people carriers zoomed out of the gateway, past us and through the gates onto Whitehall.

Momentarily I looked up from my phone which was *not* taking pictures on burst mode as it was supposed to be and saw the familiar, smiling senatorial face as he gave a little wave to the excited but slightly disappointed crowd. I went over to Parliament but again everything was happening too far away and through grills and railings so left him to meet with a man who can’t look after his own bicycle but may be running the country before too long.

Despite the small turnout I can’t imagine that any presidential candidates in previous election years can have generated such excitement on the streets of London. The papers said that they were keeping the visit low key to avoid Obamamania – I’m sure that if he returns here victorious next year, we’ll settle for nothing less than a decent walkabout. My worry continues to be though that the task of getting him elected and keeping him alive for four years in the face of America’s underlying racism seems to be quite a toughie.