Political manifestos should be legally binding
Finally I get the platform I dreamed of… If you haven’t heard of his Radio 4 program before, comedian and activist Mark Thomas is creating a People’s Manifesto, taking suggestions from his studio audience and then getting them to vote for the best. Although I initially submitted my policy suggestion as a joke in order to ensure I got a ticket to see the recording, the BBC went with it and invited me to introduce it on the show. You can listen to the program on iPlayer here until 7pm on Thursday Feb 18th (it’s worth a listen as there are some great suggestions and Mark Thomas is sharp and entertaining as ever).
However, the idea I suggested – making governments accountable to the policies in their election manifesto – shouldn’t really have been a surprise given I was already building the Vote For Policies website at the time. Monitoring how closely governments deliver on their election promises is the next logical step ensuring we focus on policies when we decide who we vote for.
The general consensus from the program was that legally binding manifestos would place too much of political power in the hands of lawyers. Also, how do you account for unforeseen circumstances (disasters, war) that affect budget and resources. What if there is a hung parliament? My take is that all of these issues can be considered and dealt with fairly in advance, without relying on lawyers to interpret rules for us (why not let the Supreme Court make the rulings?). Given the current climate it’s hard to imagine relying on our politicians to play by the rules, or even resist our own temptation to lynch them at the slightest sign of foul play. But if this is the right approach, I believe we’re intelligent enough to find a way to make it work. Let’s face it, we’ve solved bigger problems than this.
We don’t need to work out ‘how’ at this stage, just the ‘what’. What is the best solution, and putting our bias aside can we all agree? If we can, the rest will be easy.
Some other resources
If you listen to the program you’ll also hear a mention of what is now known as the Robin Hood Tax, as well as the ‘No Vote’ ballot paper option – the most popular suggestion on the night, and at the time of writing is also one of the top 10 votes in the nationwide Power2010 campaign.
Fullfact – part of their Vision states that “Politicians, journalists, lobbyists and campaigners to be held to account for the claims they make”. Inspiring stuff.