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38 Degrees in parliament!

March 21st, 2014 by

Yesterday, David Babbs gave evidence in parliament to the influential Political and Constitutional Reform Committee about the state of politics in the UK.  He wasn’t alone though. He was armed with over 100,000 survey responses from 38 Degrees members, explaining the broad range of views we hold about how our political system is broken, and what can be done to fix it.

The survey responses were pulled together into a report for the Committee to consider. To have a look at the report, click here.

If you’d like to watch the video of David giving evidence, click here.

Do you think David did a good job of representing what 38 Degrees members believe and stand for? Was there anything in particular you thought he got spot on? Or something important he didn’t mention? Post a comment below to discuss the report and David’s appearance with other 38 Degrees members across the country.


Posted in Broken politics, Gagging law, Recall Your MP

  • Gil

    My daughter and I watched from start to finish (including the NUS representative) and were very impressed by both David and Toni. It was particularly good to see how he did not allow himself to be deflected by some of the hostile MPs, but remained firm, focused, good-humoured and above all, polite.

    It was encouraging, and a little bit unexpected, given the response of our local MP to “cloned” emails, to see that there are MPs who think 38 Degrees is a good thing.

    I just wish we could get across to them that the yah boo sucks to you way that the House of Commons behaves publicly is a complete turn-off to many of us. I know that politicians at all levels of government, including local, often work politely and competently with each other “behind the scenes”. If only they would demonstrate that maturity in public as well I think more people would think voting was worthwhile. Because unless one knows a bit about what goes on behind the scenes, all the public is left with is the idea that the whole of government involves slagging off the other parties.

  • Steve

    Unfortunately, most of the constantly attacked ‘slagging off’ between parties in the House of Commons is almost completely contrived, supremely articial and based on no real disagreement – at least when it comes to arguments between members of the three main parties.
    Survey after survey has shown people want *real* choice and that was the central argument that Russell Brand made in his incredibly popular interview with Paxman on Newsnight and an issue where David simply failed to get that across at any time in his evidence, let alone when he dealt particularly with that interview and Brand’s views.
    I found the session immensely boring, and without any real substance in terms of the input from the MPs present. Even Paul Flynn – probably the most enlightened MP attending – was very disappointing in his brief contribution.
    The simple fact is that *most* MPs haven’t got the slightest clue as to why (since 2005, and beginning long before that) more than 40% of electors don’t vote in General Elections now, and considerably *more* than that have *never* voted in European Elections. That is precisely why the ‘legitimacy’ of their poor and often corrupt performance is best dealt with, and the best way is for a majority of electors to simply not vote or mark the ballot paper ‘none of the above’. Only then is there a *real* chance of making real changes to a dysfunctional party system and political class.

  • Neil Foss

    The time has come to vote on issues not parties or personalities. That would cure all the problems.

  • Marcus

    I was not in the least bit surprised to see a conservative member get all huffy and storm off within ten minutes. This is the kind of attitude that doesn’t get a lot of folks anywhere.

  • Great gig in the sky

    Thank you David for putting across what we feel, though the fact that they have to be told how obnoxious they all are, is really worrying. I think we should push for referendums to be held on important issues.

  • jack

    I thought you did extremely David well but was stunned by the rudeness of some of the people listening to you. The body language of some was appalling . Thank you for representing my view

  • Icarus

    I am glad that an organisation like 38 degrees exists to partially fill the vacuum left by our identikit political parties and our complicit media. However, after reading the views of the 80,000 plus who were surveyed before this meeting at the Commons, I do not understand why 38 dgrees is now embarking on a campaign to ENCOURAGE people to vote. There is a majority who say that the current voting system is unrepresentative and creates a parliament dominated by the elite banking and business interests’ puppets. So why should we encourage people to participate in this perverted system? More people voting for people who don’t represent them doesn’t make any sense. I think that we should be encouraging people to boycott the corrupt political system and to use 38 degrees to take direct action, issue by issue.

  • Alex Skinner

    I could’nt hear the content of the video……….. the sound was too quiet on playback. Can you fix that!!!

  • Harryagain

    Dreadful speaker, too much arm waving and woffle.
    Also easily intimidated/nervous.
    You are such a poor speaker that you need a speech written out and adhere to it.
    Not trying to make it up on the hoof from notes
    You need a lot more practice.
    Or get someone else to do it.
    I don’t ever see you in a career involving any sort of lecturing.

  • Anonymous

    I am in total agreement with you as regards not putting effort into supporting the current (failed) voting system. Changing the system will take long enough as it is.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Icarus view… except for encouraging people to boycott. I think it is the Parties and the MPs job to encourage voting. How can an organisation where the majority of the participants say ‘none of the above’ go out to encourage people to vote in a system which we do not believe is working. Think 38 degrees job is to get the system changed, not work for the current system. While appreciating getting a consensus on the way forward would be next to impossible, there could be some key pointers, such as a PR element.

    One of the things that struck me was when Tracy (sorry, don’t know names of participants) said that MPs expressed criticism of her seeking local views, that ‘she had a mandate to decide’. This seems to come along with FPTP, once elected government and individual MPs do what the hell they like, until the next time they want the electorate votes. That is not democracy, IMO, but what passes for it. I think that point should be made in any follow up or future questionnaires.

    It was disappointing that you were not allowed to develop further the point about conflict of interests which has come up endlessly during the current govt, and would like to ask that it is put forward in the ‘positive’ to dos list the Chairman asked for. It is clearly inexcusable for MPs to have interests that conflict with serving the public they are paid to serve. MPs position should not be one that enables them to add dozens of directorships and lobby salaries to their MPs salary. At the least there should be no conflicts, and like judges they should recuse themselves when there is, at the least, and Ministers should not be allowed to serve and have corporate interests at the same time, particularly in Ministerships that then hand out contracts, without competitive tender, such as the Free Schools giveaway, or Lord Browne |& Cuadrilla, as we see today.

  • Tom

    Is there some way of communicating to that goon Chope just how much he is part of the problem? A perfect example of why people see politics in this country as broken.

  • Jerry Cox

    Some 38 Degrees members seem to think that compulsory voting might be a good idea.

    The notion that Australia is a shining example of this theory is rather strange, given that Oz’s newly elected PM is a flat-earthing, gay-bashing, swivel-eyed (and eared) right-wing loony. Call that a triumph of democracy?

    If I don’t want to vote, why should I waste my time?

  • Tom

    Speaking as someone who does have a career in lecturing – not that lecturing was what David was there to do – I think he did a fine job.

  • Jim Partridge

    I found it very frustrating the way the chair just continually rattled out the same point over and over again. “we respect you and want to work with you but you have to respect us”…
    …er no we don’t.. and that’s the whole point! We don’t respect them! isn’t that why David was asked to be there.

    I also found it interesting that the MP’s believe that in order to engage with the political process, the average member of the public should find time to achieve all of the following:

    1: understand the workings of the parliamentary process
    2: read all legislation and understand it and only refer to that legislation in the terms that parliament set out
    3: fire off a personally written letter or email stating an informed opinion before the house votes on an issue…

    Sorry folks i have a job and a family to deal with. I couldn’t give a toss about your internal processes but I do give a toss that Jeremy Hunt might get the power to shut down any hospital he chooses…

    Instead of asking, why are people not engaging in the parliamentary process? They should be asking, why are people signing up with 38 degrees? What is it they have that we don’t?

    Mostly this seemed to be a request to David and co to stop encouraging members of the public from sending pesky emails en masse to poor suffering MPs. Hell, you don’t have to read all of them… just count the number of them you get and then think about the fact that they are registered voters in your constiuency who were bothered enough to voice their (albeit, pre-worded) opinion.

  • Jim Partridge

    Given that David apparently represents 2 million members and 10% of the respondees were conservatives… Mr Chope just walked out on a guy who potentially represents 200,000 conservative voters… what a joke.

  • Meanfluff

    Whilst I agree with you, I think instead of a boycott, we should have a “None of the Above” box added to ballot papers.

  • Icarus

    I’m afraid that pussyfooting around the current system and trying to change it from within is doomed to failure. Why would those who benefit from the corrupt current system agree to change it? Like turkeys voting for Christmas…Do you remember that there was a deliberately confusing and half hearted referendum on the Alternative Vote not so long ago? It was a deliberate fudge and was predictably not successful. This is the kind of action you can expect if you trust the vested interests to sort themselves out. A boycott of the corrupt system will be a powerful act of civil disobedience that will make those in power sit up and listen.

  • John

    Boycotting elections probably won’t have any good effect. It is conceivable that 650 odd MPs could get elected with as few as 100 votes each, just as long as each one gets a majority in their constituency. Given this, we could have a similar Westminster situation. The answer may be to have better candidates and encourage people to vote for them.

  • dave

    To vote in any election just encourages the MPs to think they have a mandate for any actions they take. None of the party’s have any integrity and will U turn to suit themselves.
    With the massive majorities in many constituencies it is a complete waste of time to even bother reading the party mandates.
    Don’t waste your time on any elective processes get on with your life and leave politics to the mugs who revel in the illusion they are important people. With generous pensions and in many case well paid second/third jobs and even better paid jobs to go onto after a successful career on the front benches.
    Life is too short to waste time even reflecting on the waste of time the mediocre government provided in the UK!!

  • SDJ

    I found it astonishing that some (not all) of the committee members, in the face of the evidence from David Babbs, want to cling to the delusion that voter apathy is some sort of deficiency in the voters or the system rather than accept that it is the politicians that have the problem and the means to fix it – if they want to! Well done to David for an articulate and good tempered response in the face of some provocation.

  • andy

    Well done David! You did us proud. Most still don’t get it, we pay their wages they work for us. And, when someone claims we are a biased cross section of society just ask them how many of their constituents voted for them and was that a representative cross section of society.

  • Richard

    I think David did a very good job (under the circumstances) in attempting to reply to the questions asked of him, some of which were difficult, awkward, inappropriate or even incomprehensible. Well done.

  • Icarus

    By better candidates you probably mean candidates that have policies that reflect the views and opinions of the people? That means 1. allowing a truly representative voting system where each vote counts and parties have the exact percentages in parliament according to the number of votes received (so we don’t end up with someone like Thatcher in power for 12 years with never more than 40% of the vote) 2.Guaranteeing all political parties equal access to the media so that genuine alternatives to the current elite opinions can be heard and debated.

  • Jane

    Thank you David and all at 38 Degrees. We are clearly a force to be reckoned with. How can we engage more young people in this – they are the future and will inherit the mess that ‘we’ leave.

  • Mart

    It was a bit like David in the lions den but it seems that MPs forgot THEY were the problem not the messenger

  • Icarus

    If you are seriously concerned about engaging young people you should realise that the young are naturally radical and want to change things dramatically. You cannot appeal to them by asking them to patiently fall in line and follow a conservative (small’c') agenda that involves lamely tinkering with the existing system.

  • Phil

    I have to say that I am astonished at the number of critical views below. How many of those people criticising David have done anything remotely as effective as him?

    Just seeing the figures that 38 Degrees produced is amazing. I would have put my money on 38 Degrees members being mostly tech savvy 20-30yrs olds who didn’t vote because they felt the political system didn’t represent their views. But it is actually mostly tech savvy 60-70 yr olds – who disproportionately vote Lib Dem. Just those two figures alone have changed my view of the use of the internet, and especially its potential, for a revived democratic process. Numbers help create weight behind opinions and it is this weight that drives the opinions home. Invaluable.

    Stick with it David and well done. Not many people manage to do something so effective during their entire lives. You have made a great start and so has everyone at 38 Degrees. Congratulations to all concerned.

  • RockyRex

    Every constituency would get an MP even if no-one votes at all.

    The Returning Officer has to return an MP. If there is a tie after xxxx recounts, lots are drawn. If no votes were cast at all, the RO would cast lots between the candidates and an MP would be returned. At least on this basis random chance might elect some Monster Raving Looney MPs.

  • Rob

    I can’t believe that Chope could be like this. It’s as if politics should be left to them and us rank amateurs should stay out of it! A great example of someone who doesn’t belong in the political system at all. I think maybe he doesn’t want his own agenda disrupted by the great unwashed.

  • Icarus

    With respect, Why doesn’t everyone just ignore the irrelevant comments about style and concentrate on the issues? Otherwise you allow mischief makers with hidden agendas to divert your attention from the thing that scares them the most: ordinary people taking charge of their own destinies and questioning those in power.

  • Colin

    David, I thought you put the case for what 38 Degrees works towards and tries to achieve very well. You made the point that the organisation works in a very different way to most political groups, as it is bottom up rather than top down. Which I am not sure they understood in any real sense. I also think that they didn’t grasp that their attitude, or at least how it comes across, is one of the main issues putting off political discussion with their constituents. The discussion about what MPs should be spending money on and the badgering from that particular MP is typical in what ordinary people see as the problem. You were also right in pointing out that many non-voters make an active decision not to vote and it is not just a case of apathy. If you don’t feel part of a system it is unlikely that you are going to make much effort to engage with it.

  • T Roger S Wilson

    The idea that Green voters are over-represented relative to conservative voters among 38 degree respondents may or may not be true, but arises partly because of the gross under-representation of Greens at Westminister. First-past-the-post under-elects minorities who are spread among all constituencies. So it isn’t surprising that a choleric Tory MP might not be aware that Green views are widely popular. He doesn’t share those views and only sees one Green MP, so he underestimates the number in the population who vote Green and sees a Green bias among 38 degree supporters.

    To be fair he did apologise at the outset for having to leave, but if he had been wiser and more aware of the impression he was creating he would not have launched a rather partial and ill-informed attack. As it was, an own-goal that was both sad and laughable at the same time.

  • onepost

    Can I just say, David, that I appreciate your ability to remain calm and courteous ‘under fire’. I realise that this is an important ability in a campaign representative, but that’s why I feel you should be congratulated. The contrast between your polite and open approach and the adversarial position adopted by a couple of the committee members is a glaring example of why people are disillusioned!

  • Colin

    I think you are right, also the parties mentioned are also ones most likely to be used as a protest vote, which may be quite a common practice of a 38 Degree member. My main reason for voting Liberal last time was because I didn’t want to vote Conservative or Labour.

  • Jim Partridge

    I’ve said it elsewhere but it was very interesting that MP was only interested in what was “illegal” rather than immoral or potentially a conflict of interest (such as hiring family to work in their offices)…

  • Colin

    I think you are being very unfair; the main thing is that he came across as genuine, being very slick and polished is much less important

  • Lorna

    Mr Chope wished to discuss MP pensions rather than Hillsborough; claimed for a sofa repair on his expenses and objected to the Alan Turing bill … says it all I think!

  • Lorna

    David comes across as a very caring and warm human being at a time when that’s precisely what we need to represent us. I’m sick and tired of slick speakers who very often hide serious shortcomings.

  • Anonymous

    one needs to maintain the perspective of what 38 degrees is about

    they do not support any party …they campaign on issues

    regardless of who is in power ..people from all walks of life and persuasions can follow an issue sign a petition or answer a questionnaire …the answers are voluntary and just give the views of those who answered the questions …if 10,million had signed up and answered then the political sway would have been different ….perhaps

  • Anonymous

    never heard anything about

    compulsory voting…….giving people the opportunity and making it easier
    was the theme

  • Icarus

    I agree with you about the potential revival of the democratic process through what 38 degrees has achieved brilliantly. I see this as a chance to bypass the current system through direct action. Eventually the system will have to change and accommodate the new reality of genuine democratic voices being heard on many important issues. Potentially these are exciting times.

  • Anonymous

    you are an amazing orator no doubt

    they were asking him questions ..he answered them well ..
    the content and honesty in his answers far exceeded him being demonstrative

  • Anonymous

    i am a bit corned beef but heard it ok …

  • Anonymous

    But the vast majority of those who did respond to the questionnaire said that they did vote at the last election.

  • Anonymous

    i think 38 degrees should be the the conduit for voting ….BUT!…
    NOT ON POLITICAL PARTIES AS SUCH only the individual issues that impact on society such as hospital closures
    what the committee chair seemed to be saying was to gain expertise from david as to how they did what they did communicating with in excess of 2.5 million people using modern digital technology just as i am doing now

  • Anonymous

    How closely did the age of the respondents match the age of those who typically respond to 38 Degrees calls for feedback?

    Was the very low turnout (less than 5% of the 2 million that 38 Degrees reaches) because of the very short response time available? How does it compare with other longer running campaigns?

  • Anonymous

    yep watched it too david was excellent amazingly calm
    won them over DEFINITELY AN 800 LB GORILLA with style and brains
    balls and humility ..i think he educated them..at the same time as scaring them to death

  • Jerry Cox

    Follow link to survey response report in article/blog at top of this webpage – then check out bottom of page 7.

  • Icarus

    Yes, me too. I voted against my better judgement and it confirmed to me once and for all what a futile exercise it is while the majority of votes don’t get allocated proportionally.
    The current system DOES NOT allow the majority view to be represented. That is its inherent flaw. My point is this: if views such as voting reform cannot be represented under the current system, why use the system?

  • Icarus

    Yes, maybe single issue voting a bit like they have in Switzerland is the way forward. I’m certainly happy to see the demise of the main current political parties.

  • Arthur Farr

    Dear 38Degrees,

    Can you please post a more detailed analysis of the data based on age groups? What do the younger respondents think? The respondents seem relatively old.

    Thank you.


  • Alex

    Thanks for doing that David. Personally I think you did a fine job against some really patronising, adversarial, insulting and overpriveliged career politicians. Not one of them addressed the real points that you raised. Shame on them!

    There were one or two opportunities to stick it to them that you missed, but frankly, there were one or two times you did stick it to them that the average Joe wouldn’t have had the nerve to follow through on, (e.g: the tobacco donations dig), so well done by Jove!

    Overall, nine out of ten! Great job!

  • Wendy Barnes

    I fall into the 11m registered non-voters category. And also into the category referred to by David in the session – passionately concerned about some issues but totally lacking faith in the existing political class. I think David did an excellent job until the last 10 minutes or so – and I imagine that’s down to exhaustion resulting from the immediate pressure of the situation and the presumably hectic life since the invitation to present had been received.
    I have skimmed through the comments and they reinforce my response to the tone of David’s covering note about the session – that it behoves us to listen to the Chairman who was making a good point – even if, as someone commented, he made it again and again; perhaps in fact because he made it again and again – we must be appreciative of the differences of between MPs. Some are poor at their job; more are disengaged from what their job should be; a very few are good at their job at the moment and may manage to remain so. The bulk of the comments about the committee members focus on the stupidity of the one who left. There is no benefit to be gained by wasting attention on him.
    We have been offered by the other Committee members an invitation to engage further and to send them practical proposals to strengthen the MPs’ ability to work with their constituents – that is a tremendous opportunity. We need to show them that we can respond in a nuanced and empathetic way.

  • Anonymous

    yep done that jerry
    some people do think that ..but! it cant be made compulsory ..unless we sink into a totalitarian regime
    and that would make what 38 degrees and you and i are doing..irrelevant we would be dead or in jail
    it might be better for some folks who are not able to grasp the issues in question at any one time..
    to abstain from voting ..ie if they are not sure what its all about..otherwise people should vote .thats a democratic right …however one person one vote ..
    for parliamentary issues too ..not just election of people
    to judge the issues at large on our behalf…they are not too good at that are they..??

  • Anonymous

    Well done. I was sorry, but unsurprised that Christopher Chope thought the survey “unrepresentative” and walked out after ten minutes. He is a very rude man and the type of politician that explains why people feel so estranged from politics.

  • Paul

    I slightly disagree with the term of us as “perceiving” problems, rather than there actually being problems, maybe a tad too diplomatic for my liking but I will thank you for it anyway as it is respectful. This is how Russel Brand is more “attractive”, especially to those more youthful – I not only lack respect for the majority of parliament (not all but most) I actively think they are dangerous.

  • Jo

    Great job David, I would have lost my cool after about 10 mins. I don’t think they actually listened to what you were saying, unfortunately. True political style. We should have the power to remove any one of them at any time, a four year stint is too long. Maybe then they will perform as should.

  • Anonymous

    yes indeed and that goes to highlight what a set of ignorant self serving morons are elected at time
    david babbs scared him to death
    thats why he was adopting the bully boy stance and couldn’t win so buggered off…good riddance hope the clown stays ..gone

  • Alex

    To all those who are expressing respect for the chairman of the committee and bemoaning the fact that David criticised MPs as a group:

    Just because the chairman was constantly claiming to be a friend of 38 Degrees, doesn’t mean he was any less patronising, insular and unhelpful than any other member of that committee. The chairman spent more time criticising David (and 38 Degrees) for responding (politely but truthfully) to the shameful displays of the insulting MPs than he did pointing out that yes, there is a problem with most MPs, and even the best MPs are still relatively poor at representing their constituents.

    Also, the chairman repeatedly attempted to sidestep the thrust of the 38 Degrees report, which was that people have no trust in MPs as a group. The chairman repeatedly stated things like “well, it’s very easy to get negative answers” and “we’re not all alike”, “you (38 Degrees) need to be more nuanced” etc. etc….

    There is no nuance. MPs *don’t* represent their constituents (except for a tiny handful), and the political system prevents even the tiny tiny number of well-meaning MPs from properly representing their constituents, even when they wish to.

    Stop deferring to power. Stop watering down the truth. NONE of those MPs, including the chairman, was willing to grasp the nettle. NONE of them deserved deference, or respect frankly. David gave them too much respect in my view. That’s why I only give his performance 9 out of 10. ;)

  • Anonymous

    bin saying that since i signed up with 38 degrees

    true democracy

  • Anonymous

    What an unpleasant thing to write!

  • Colin Wilson.

    He showed his true self,……an old fool of the type we want to get rid of.

  • Marcus

    The funny thing is there was nothing to win. All he had to do was see that he got his perspective wrong – and they don’t like being wrong. They either do what you say he did, or make like Iain Duncan Smith caught in the headlights of an angry Scot and clam up and say nothing whilst trying not to look too sheepish or red in the face.
    They’re all incompetent hacks the lot of ‘em – it’s these buggers that need kicking out with a size eleven steel-toe capped boot firmly placed between their arse cheeks.

  • AlunB

    Maybe it is too big a step to abandon the need for a parliament of some sort at this stage. But it would be worthwhile to campaign that in this digital age the belief that we need to organise around political parties is hopelessly outdated. If we are to accept that a gathering of 650 individuals should represent the views of their constituents alone, then they will fail if they must also keep to a party line. The party machines will oppose this but, without some drastic move away from the current mess, our failing democracy is surely finished.

  • colin Wilson

    surely if you don’t vote how can you complain. Try voting and changing things for the best. :)

  • Alex

    Chope once claimed £900 pounds of public money to repair his sofa. He’s also in favour of bringing back hanging, making everyone’s criminal convictions public, privatising the BBC, banning the niqab altogether… the list goes on. The man’s a right-wing extremist dinosaur. He shouldn’t be allowed out without some orderlies in white coats to stop him causing trouble, let alone allowed to hold public office.

  • Geoff O

    I see no point in encouraging more people to vote when all this can achieve is more support for a broken system. The only parties with a chance of winning elections are locked into the same mindset. Turnouts have been falling but unfortunately the ill-informed support for UKIP may partly reverse some of this trend at the next General Election. The 2010 election saw a 65% turnout, and since the Coalition won 60% of this it can only be regarded as a mandate if you write off those who didn’t vote as apathetic. A significant increase in the number of people registering but withholding their vote might send a serious message (since this would affect percentages). A ‘none of the above’ ballot option would demonstrate the level of dissatisfaction but would be meaningless without formal consequences if it reached a significant proportion of the vote. So overall, as things stand I believe that not voting is the best chance we have of inspiring reform.

  • Colin Wilson

    The Reform Committee seem to think differently than you. They understood him and were asking him for help.

  • Icarus

    Probably all of this debate about whether to vote or not to vote is all academic anyway. With each election the turn out gets lower and lower. More and more people opt out of playing their role as dutiful and compliant citizens in the election pantomime. Eventually the only participation will be through organisations like 38 degrees. As long as the Gagging Law or whatever other new laws they come up with allow free speech…

  • Paul

    What about some form of referendum party whereby we put up people for election who will put all decisions out to referendum in some form to the local populace? A logistical nightmare but increased participation in an MPs decision.

  • Steve Kelsey

    I believe this was a useful exercise and I contributed to the survey. However, I strongly advocate that 38 Degrees should remain an issues based democratic tool used to ensure the changes needed to what is now an ineffective and undemocratic system. The moment 38 Degrees becomes politicised it will have lost this battle. The political current system has become oligarchic in nature and 38 Degrees does not have the depth of experience or the skill set to influence such a system from within, the incumbent parties are to practised and to well resourced. David experienced the smallest amount of the distraction, obfuscation and distortion that would be directed at 38 Degrees if it were to attempt to become a party.
    Stick to what you do best, a democratic issues based machine for change. its very powerful as a leading pioneer for direct democracy. As a political party it will be rapidly emasculated.

  • Icarus

    I agree Colin. Democracy in this country is an illusion, theatre. It is cleverly constructed to give the impression of a system where all voices are heard and the majority get to decide. Fierce ‘show’ debates in parliament and mock rough and tumble questioning in the media help reinforce the false notion that we live in a society that tolerates a wide range of voices and opinions. In reality we are effectively governed by a one-party state that is run in the interests of the big business and banking cartels.
    A vitally important part of the show is the role of the electorate who must dutifully and unwittingly endorse their own subjugation every five years.
    There are virtually no dissenting voices in this one-party state. You cannot hope to win a game when the rules are rigged against you because the ‘house’ always wins.
    That’s why the only logical option if you are serious about progress is to take your ball and refuse to play their game.

  • Icarus

    I endorse your view. Swimming in the same cesspool as the current political parties will quickly involve the organisation becoming co-opted and diluted. It’s power is definitely outside the existing paradigm.

  • Michael Wadsworth

    I find it disappointing that some 38 Degrees supporters (by the way, not “members”, surely) won’t give credit where it’s due.
    In our politics today, respect is a big problem. Clearly many MPs have no respect for their constituents or the public in general, and we saw some evidence of that in the session. Very probably many talk and listen only to their party colleagues, inside the Westminster cocoon. and only engage with the electorate (and only where their seats are marginal) once every five years. The media are no help, because with exceptions they set out to decry both the political class and the democratic system in general. So little surprise, then, if the public has no respect for MPs and pays them no credit.
    But, if we demand respect, we should also be prepared to give it. We are supposed to believe in fairness, and presumably we want to engage constructively, not just snipe. I was impressed by the even handed stance taken by Graham Allen, who was quite generous towards 38 Degrees, and indeed erred on the side of flattery. He should be taken at his word. We have identified the problems (not too difficult). We should now be setting out to propose a comprehensive solution, as he requested.

  • Alex

    With all due respect, I completely disagree that Graham Allen was even-handed or even genuinely respectful. It’s an old rhetorical trick to claim to be a friend of something while criticising it, and that’s exactly what Allen spent most of his time in this session doing. He certainly didn’t rein the frankly belligerent Tory MPs in when they were literally shouting at Babbs, which a really effective and fair chairman would have done.

    Second, your analysis of the media is flawed. The media is firmly on the side of the political class, and are constantly besmirching anyone who attempts to criticise the current system of faux-democracy. It’s flatly incorrect to say that they decry politicians or the electoral system in any meaningful way.

    Lastly, I for one am happy to give respect to someone who is doing the right thing, and/or treating me with genuine respect. It was not genuinely respectful of the MPs in that room to constantly refuse to address the substantive points raised by 38 Degrees members and relayed by David Babbs. They did not deserve the amount of polite respect David gave them… in other words it’s not fair for career politicians to be treated deferentially, and it’s not fair for their obvious moral failings to be ignored or glossed over. David was extremely fair with the MPs. They were not fair with him, with 38 Degrees or with anyone who shares the views expressed.

    As for the solution? A completely new system of governance from the grass-roots up. People like the MPs in that room will have little part in such a system or its genesis, methinks. And deference to authority for its own sake will have to die a death too.

  • Alex

    Hear hear.

  • Icarus

    Michael, I think you’ll find that the media is totally on-message and will always support the status quo: that is – the illusion of a genuine democracy and that politicians really have the power in our society. That is why the media deflect our attention to MPs expenses and artificially focus on trivial differences in policy between the parties. All to give the illusion of a vibrant and open democracy. One where wrong doing and skulduggery take place but where it all turns out all right in the end with an official inquiry here or a sacking or a little bit of a jail term there.The real focus is never allowed to dwell too long on those with the real power behind the scenes who outstay all the politicians and who are never up for election. The public should see MPs for what they are: dispensable puppets who have been selected to toe the party line in the service of big business and banking. In return they get to feed their egos and appear on TV etc and if they play their cards right will be taken care of financially very nicely thank you. There are some principled exceptions – usually referred to in the media as “maverick” or “loony”.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you David, I was impressed by how you coped with all the usual tricks used by experienced politicians. I felt proud to be a 38 Degrees supporter and feel, probably over-optimistically, that if we persevere we may have some influence on our failing political system. It is fairly clear what most of us wish to achieve, perhaps now we should have a survey to discover what means we can propose to achieve it.

  • James

    Thank you David for representing our views!

    We want to solve the problem of MP’s not listening to us, whilst they want to solve the problem of voters not voting… So, you quite rightly made the case that, if they show that they are listening then we will be (most likely) more inclined to vote.

    However, the situation was destined to lead to
    frustration for you, as the very nature of a Committee session is
    symbolic of the topic of discussion, in an ironic way.

    Disinterested in the issue
    - a member of the Committee leaves after only 10mins (that’s life of course).

    Blaming others for the problems
    - you are asked whether it could be your fault that some 38Degrees
    members have a negative view of politics and politicians (as though we
    can’t think for ourselves)

    Seeing voters as apes
    - You, as a representative of 2 million people, are likened to a Gorilla (albeit respectfully) which is also entrenched in how some would describe a person with brawn but little brains. Yet, in the same hour, you are asked whether using terms like “gagging” is somehow casting a negative slant on something positive.

    Having their own agenda
    - the MP’s get to ask all the questions (as you were reminded by one of them) so it appears they are listening, but technically only to the things they had wanted to hear about (it was not really going to be the platform for getting many/any answers for 38Degrees members).

    Giving favours to friends
    - you are warned about risking losing friends at the end of the session, as though your friendship with the politician’s would help you to get what you wanted (one of the biggest concerns we have is big business making friends with politicians for this very reason)

    Not giving sufficient attention to important issues
    - the session only lasts an hour (not long for getting into detailed information)

    Hoping, throughout the video, that they would acknowledge the problem I was thankful that they did at the very end, and hopefully this will lead to good
    things. I think MP’s are starting to see the depth of the problem, and are also beginning to recognise that the constraints of the system are holding them back from dealing with it effectively. Let’s keep on at them… even if they protest they don’t like they way we’re doing it. We’ll try everything until they show us that they’re listening :-)

  • Sorin

    David, that was brilliant! I really felt that you’ve done everything that you could to represent our views, and not only. These MPs that still need the wake up cal, need to understand that we are not stupid nor ordinary. We are very special human beings that have a lot of potential. Now, the only reason I would not vote none of the above, it would be the fact that people like you would have their names on the list. It looks like, the journey towards a better something, it’s only at the beginning.

  • Indigo

    I agree in that to make voting compulsory would simply mean the continuation of the undesirable trend that has been going on for twenty to thirty years now of increasing interference in people’s lives, and the erosion of civil liberties. Feels like society needs to relax and breathe again.

  • Brian

    David, you did a grand job. Chope (appalling manners and attitude) and the money guy (sorry, don’t know name) were just disengaging themselves from the reality of the situation. That lots of us want a ‘none of the above’ is a symptom of the malaise not, I’m sure, an actual desire for a voting option. So much needing to be fixed but at least the committee know this and a start has been made.

  • Anonymous

    I would feel very uncomfortable discouraging voters from their democratic right. Listening to a discussion on low turn out in France this morning, it seems that they completely link low turn out with lack of confidence in political parties. (They have mayoral elections and therefore the gap in turn out is very clear). So, in a sense we already have a boycott in the UK in low turn out, and that link needs to be proved. It reinforces for me that it would be entirely the wrong thing for 38 Degrees members to encourage voter turn out. Politicians dug this hole for themselves and need to respond to it, not have campaign groups doing a cover up for them.

    I first mooted for a ‘no vote’ in ’72 as a means of signalling dissatisfaction with all political parties… it is not a new phenomenon, although there was more ‘clear blue water’ between the parties then, none of their approaches were serving the British people. (interesting to note that 18 year olds were given vote in 1970. ?a low turn out response?) There was little appetite then, and in recent debates on democracy forum, people seem to see it as anti democratic, I couldn’t find one country where the no votes were even counted.

  • Mick Shirley Brady

    hi david first of all a big thank you for putting our case to MPs ..i am sorry that cartain MPs still live in feudal times where there word can not be challenged…but you stood your ground on our behalf…..2.5 million members of 38 degrees is bigger than the tory party membership (i think) so i am not suprised that the chair took ous case seriously..we must get together as you has said to push on and let MPs know that we are notr happy with our politics or our politicians…..they must start listening to the people.
    it is clear that our politics as they stand are not democratic…they are the idiology of a few zelots ….its also clear that the MPs are getting rattled as we get nearer to the european elections and in 14 months a general election…..once again thanks David for putting our case so well.

  • Anonymous

    Your assessment is spot on. That is exactly the impression I got.
    As for David he was a credit to us all, ten out of ten, you made me think our voice really does count.

  • Anonymous

    OK Mr Chope, I guess you don’t like 38 Degrees.

  • Icarus

    With respect Christine, your arguments don’t make any sense to me.
    You say that you first supported not participating in the system 42 years ago and you say that parties have become less representative since then – but you STILL cling to the illusory democratic right to vote? You say that non-participation is seen as anti-democratic. What could be more anti-democratic than a system where all the parties are the same, where a 46% majority can keep you in power for years? It is the very participation in a rigged system that allows the system to continue.
    You believe it is not for the downtrodden people to take action but that we should meekly defer to the corrupt establishment to sort things out for us! Dream on.
    It is staggering that people can still support an obviously corrupt system even though they have lived through year upon year of proof that the whole thing is theatre.

  • Wendy Brookes

    Thanks David.
    Fantastic. A serious wake up call just delivered.
    After all we do the voting
    Thanks again

  • Jessica

    Thank you David for representing our views and for all the hard work it must have taken for you and your colleagues to do this.

  • Anonymous

    Disappointing response, to my raising some of the issues to be considered. Not participating has not seen any change either. Look through the size of majorities over the years, in FPTP a minority of votes can still create a majority of seats, and has. Small changes in voter preference has resulted in landslide seat gains, as it did for Margaret Thatcher.
    Arguably, a boycott would ensure a Conservative majority at the next election, as these are the people currently happy with the situation. We need to have a clear view of what we want the alternative to be, in order to argue for change. Otherwise like the Arab Springs, we end up only being clear on what we don’t want, and having no alternative to put in its place.
    And no, I was not advocating non participation, I was advocating a space on the ballot paper to register ‘none of the above’, ie dissatisfaction with all of the parties, as a way of signalling that people want change. In practice though, people do not seem to want that approach.
    If you choose to respond, would ask that you do it in the spirit of open debate and discussion, not throw away put downs.

  • Anonymous

    indeed marcus
    i would like to volunteer for that task
    and with size 11s at my command and 16 stones of forward thrust .. may accomplish that quite well …no reward needed

  • Icarus

    Christine, what are you talking about? This IS an OPEN debate. I’m talking about increasing the non-participation to higher levels than now so that even if a piddling 10% of voters turn out to vote it can in no way be called representative. Then even the most cunning propaganda and PR cannot spin the fact that people do not endorse the system. In contrast increasing millions of people would turn to organisations like 38 degrees to express their views in the form of e-petitions. Why do you think we are even having this discussion now? It is because the establishment has been FORCED to acknowledge that people are choosing an alternative method of representation.
    The FPTP system is what creates the limited set of identikit parties we have to ‘choose’ from. Yes, every now and then it gives the impression of a representative landslide – but you can win a landslide number of seats with less than 50% of the total national vote. Thatcher only had 42% at THE HEIGHT of her popularity. How can this be representative?
    You say we shouldn’t advocate this stance because we don’t know what we want. It is so screamingly obvious what the alternative is: proportional representation. Each vote is counted nationally and then parties are formed according to how many people voted for them. Simple.

  • Denis

    Christopher Chope epitomises everything that is wrong with the democratic system that exists in this country today. That bloke is arrogance personified.

  • Anonymous

    i notice that not only is there a bit of voter apathy re parliament …
    it can take some time to get people to come on board the good ship 38 degrees
    some Joe Bloggses don’t appreciate what we do or what can be done
    some think its a political movement.
    and some folks think “its a waste of time” and unfortunately some are not articulate enough i think to grasp what its all about.
    but thats life..we can overcome those small obstacles ..and achieve the paradigm shift required..twill take a little time

  • Neil

    “I was not advocating non participation, I was advocating a space on the ballot paper to register ‘none of the above’, ie dissatisfaction with all of the parties, as a way of signalling that people want change.”

    Although it is not widely understood not voting at all signals that people want change and signals it in a far more radical way than voting for NOTB. The reason not voting is more radical is that it shows a rejection of the system and continues (silently) to erode its legitimacy, whereas voting NOTB accepts the system and merely puts the blame on the current participants. It is incredibly naive to think that different participants, with more of us participating/voting to ensure that, will fix our broken political system and restore democracy. All it would in fact do is bolster its fading legitimacy. In any case it won’t work – there are far more fundamental forces at work here than 38 degrees can muster.

    This campaign – the 38 degrees organisers’ approach especially – starkly shows their extremely limited political understanding and the inherently conservative nature and limits of the petition model of democratic campaigning. I have been a ‘member’ of 38 degrees since the early days and regularly participated in petitions because I thought it might do some good on specific issues, however by deciding to campaign on a systemic political issue and actively campaign to encourage voting I feel they’ve gone much too far and I have now cancelled my membership i.e. unsubscribed. Turkeys need not follow my example!!

  • Jerry Cox

    I have voted in the past, Colin. But it changed nothing.

    Politicians are a bunch of corporate-crawling inadequates. They are four times more likely to have a criminal conviction than the rest of society (that’s before the Nigel Evans verdict) and generally have no interest in representing their constituents.

    They unashamedly get off their heads on legal high in their subsidised in-house drugs dispensaries (Commons bars) whilst lambasting all other recreational drugs. No wonder they’re incapable of standing up to the booze barons, whose toxic filth results in 1m+ A&E admissions to an already overstretched NHS! Osbo, of course, reacted to this growing menace last week by cutting the tax on beer.

    Call that “responsible” behaviour?

  • Alan Pointer

    Christoper Chope MP walking out after ten minutes perfectly illustrates the reason why people are disenchanted with politics: politicians don’t listen. ‘You didn’t vote for my party, so I’m not interested in your views.’

  • Anonymous


  • Icarus

    Neil, I concur with your view that by steering people to vote through selected campaigns you add legitimacy to a dysfunctional system. Perhaps on General Election Day 38 degrees should organise a parallel alternative on-line election where all parties can be voted for. Then we can see transparently, side by side, how the two events compare in terms of participation and results. By forcing the issue like this, change might be more likely more quickly?

  • Jerry Cox

    Google his name, and you’ll find contact details for both his constituency and Westminster offices.

    I often send emails to chumps like Chope. They may get promptly binned, but I believe it’s more effective than doing nothing. If you don’t tell them exactly what you think of them, what chance of any change in behaviour?

  • Icarus

    To clarify, I’m suggesting that in this parallel election ALL parties would be on the list: Greens, BNP, Respect, Monster Raving Loonies, Labour, Tories, Socialists etc. The percentage vote could then be translated into proportional numbers of parliamentary seats. There would doubtless eventually be a huge discrepancy between the discredited old system and the new 38 degrees system.We would clearly see how power was unfairly allocated in the old system and how fewer people actually participated compared to the 38 degrees option. Can you think of a better catalyst for change?

  • Linda Hurrell

    I totally endorse what Steve Kelsey says 10 hours below: stick to being a single issue awareness raising, information providing and campaigning organisation, don’t get politicised or ir beome ideological. David did really well in the session, esp in the way he drew out into the open underlying questions and implications in what was said to him by members of the committee. I think there’s a huge gap between the style of thinking and discussion demonstrated by the committee group as a whole/some members (adversarial, bullying, wrong footing ) and what I would like to see (real individual thinking, and constructive round table solution finding), but I did see the plea expressed by the Chairman for help with the ‘too weak parliament and too powerful and controlling small group in Government’ as a real cry from the heart, and a crucial factor in ‘what’s wrong with our political system’. I am going to send feed back to the Commitee, thanks for providing the link for us!

  • Libertas 1719

    David, You did a trendous job, given the very small amount of time you were given. For me, one of the major issues is the ‘first past the post’ system. I am not decrying it totally; we don’t want to end up like Israel which is perhaps the most proportional system of all and thus the extremist minority parties wield undue power. Yet I believe we do need something a bit more proportional.
    The only time I have felt that my vote was not wasted was for the European elections. I’m not sure what system they use and I know that the far right, BNP and for that matter UKIP (hypocrites) have had European MPs and that much work was needed in the UK to convince people to vote for a ‘mainstream’ party rather than BNP to get them out.
    A major problem with our current coalition government is that it was not produced as a result of a proportional system. It is entirely illegal, in my opinion. Absolutely nobody voted for it or thought that was what they would get. If we have a first past the post system, then Cameron should have formed a minority government and that would have been weak enough NOT to eviscerate and privatise the NHS etc. etc. and would have had to go back to the country so we could have another go at democracy.
    On your session with the MPs I agree with the comments previously made, as far as I have read (not every single one). I thought also that the comment, disappointing from the very reasonable MP, about using the correct language was farankly, laughable if it were not so blind. Firstly, the media tend to label issues, rather than 38Degree supporters, I think. Most importantly, however labels such as Gagging Law and Bedroom tax come into being, they are used precisely because they accurately point to the main reason why everybody hates such legislation. As you pointed out, David, the government is transparently propagandist and therefore insulting (and dangerous) with its Orwellian use of language, ‘transparency’ meaning ‘opaque’ etc.
    Thank goodness, or something, for 38 Degrees.

  • Icarus

    Libertas, you can’t have your cake and eat it. The FPTP system is inherently flawed and is rigged to allow the parties that DON’T represent the majority to hold power.
    Your argument against a truly representative system is that people with views you don’t like – such as the BNP or UKIP – get to have influence and represent the people who voted for them. Sorry – but that’s what true democracy is about. Allowing all voices to be heard no matter how distasteful you find them.

    You advocate that people should vote for mainstream parties to deny the voices of the other parties. The mainstream parties are the reason why we have 38 degrees in the first place.

    You talk about extremist policies in Israel existing becuase of a proportional system but we have very neoliberal policies in place with our current system: pro-war, pro banks and big business, anti-welfare.
    Truly proportional systems allow and encourage compromise and should dilute the extreme effects of those parties who only represent a small part of the population.

    The other prerequisite for an effective democracy is a genuinely free press with a wide range of alternative voices that have equal access to the airwaves and front pages.

  • Deb Daniels

    Linda Hurrell I agree with you

  • Deb Daniels

    the old addage “money is power” still works today

  • Jen

    The current system sucks. My vote makes absolutely no difference as I live in a Tory safe seat. It’s just depressing & demoralising. I always end up voting at the last minute out of a sense of duty to myself and to make a difference, but I see no sense in it. That’s why I got involved with 38 degrees. It gives me a voice about issues that are important to me. Something the current system doesn’t. I don’t really like any of the parties as there’s not much difference. I think voting on important issues – like not privatising the NHS & post office – The government has no public mandate for either and they had to form a coalition to stay in power and still they get to make decisions the majority of the country are against, but of course the MP’s in charge & their elite mates have made quite a bit of money from both. How is what we have democracy? It’s a joke! We need more say on issues that matter. The current system is beyond broken. A couple of good/representative MP’s in the middle is next to useless under such corporate, elite interests.

  • Davebilo

    I wholeheartedly agree it spoke volumes about some of the major problems they have.

  • Davebilo

    And wasn’t it instructive that the Chair immediately tried to cut him off for daring to mention it. They do not like these things being exposed because regardless of the legality they KNOW it is CORRUPT!

  • Angry Man

    Not so much a comment on David who did well, but on the MP who decided that the 38 Degrees membership were not mostly conservative and did not matter and therefore showing his own bias, the MP who did not listen and misunderstood the meaning of perception and the MP who wanted the public to use the correct titles of bills, but did not realise that the names awarded by the press and public were how the bills were perceived. This perception should, in itself, be a strong message to MPs. These things do not help in attracting more people to vote. However, the chairperson, whatever his particular politics, was the type of person much of the electorate would like and respect. If we have MPs that have to follow the political line and therefore we are voting for a party, then we must have full proportional electoral systems and compulsory voting for most of the electorate, say between the ages of 21-70 with some exceptions. We should never have coalitions. The party with the most votes form the government and have to obtain the support of the other parties or MPs to get bills through. They would then have to think more carefully about their proposals, the wording and consequences.

  • Phyllis

    Thank you David for representing our views, and thank you to the team who must have worked round the clock to put together and analyse the questionnaire in such a short time.
    It was sobering to see the width of the gap in understanding between some of the MPs and 38 Degrees. They just don’t understand how it works, that when we sign a petition or send them an email we are flagging up that we care about this issue and want them to know we do. How can they pretend to repesent us if they appear not to be interested what we think, and view us telling them as a nuisance?
    Some of the problem comes from only being presented with a package deal from a political party, 38 Degrees and similar organisations are most effective when tackling single issues. MPs mostly follow the whips, and deals are cooked up between the parties. This is particularly so with the present coalition, for which nobody voted – it was not on our ballot papers – in reality ‘none of the above’.

    But at least some of them say they want to listen – this has got to be
    progress. We need to take them at their word and keep up the dialogue. There might be hope for democracy yet.

  • DungareenJean

    Wow – have read as many of the other comments as I could before contributing here. Good to see so many thanking you David for going in there and bearing the not-so-glad tidings to MPs, some of whom really did want to shoot the messenger, as an earlier respondent put it.

    I thought you were brilliant.

    It was dispiriting that having launched a deperately-needed inquiry like this, there was a reluctance by thee committee to listen to evidence.

    But I disagree with those who want to hold on to their ‘purity’ and not try to work constructively with this inquiry. We have a system that is failing us very badly but which could be made to work a whole lot better.

    38 Degrees has earnt a very rare opportunity to push for fundamental change.They are listening. What do we achieve by walking away?

  • Alex

    Some comments below have stated that they want 38 Degrees to remain “pure” in that they don’t want it to become politicised, or become a political party itself. However I haven’t read too many comments below suggesting that 38 Degrees shouldn’t work constructively with this or any other enquiry or group of politicians, so I’m not sure where you’ve gotten that from. Maybe I’ve missed those comments

    However, once again I feel the need to caution restraint when hoping for real change to be led by this- or any other- committee, as you clearly do. Are “they” listening, as you say? i didn’t see any evidence that they were really listening. They had answers on a plate, and simply refused to recognise them as answers. E.g: the chairman repeatedly asked “What are the positive steps we can take”, but when David reminded them of things like polling their constituents to inform their voting on issues, they ignored it and immediately afterwards asked again “What are the positive steps we can take”. They all simply ignored the answer. They also refused to listen to any criticism of unethical uses of MP expenses like employing family members. Don’t let your hopes and dreams colour your perception of the political class. They’re not really open to criticism.

    If politicians like those on this committee were at all interested in being leaders for real change, we would *see* real change. It would already be happening. The whole point is that our current political system and those who work within it- the vast majority of politicians and civil servants- are actively working to maintain the current system and their place in it.

    So should activists and progressives “walk away” from politicians and involvement with them? Not exactly. But we should always remain separate from them, and remember that their interests are not ours. We should never forget the betrayals of the past, and we should never expect better treatment from politicians until we actually have the power to *force* better treatment from them. We don’t currently have that power, and hoping and praying that some of those in power will deign to listen to us one of these days is a poor substitute for building that power ourselves.

  • Michael Brown

    Very impressed with David’s performance. The key point I took from his evidence – and I hope the committee got it too – is that 38 Degree members want to see a change of attitude among elected politicians which can be shown in part by their engaging constructively and continuously with their voters/constituents. There is no good reason why all MPs cannot use information technology to do this in the way that Tracey Crouch appears to do. Graham Allen asked if the public really understood the difference between Parliament and Government. I’d ask the same question of some of the political journalists working for national newspapers. I’d like to see a stronger Parliament able properly to call the Government to account for policy decisions made and to quiz candidates for major public posts before appointments are made. Will this ever come about so long as the majority of MPs on the winning side in an election are on the government payroll or have hopes of getting on it?

  • Andy

    I agree with comments re David handling the grilling very well, good that all the bad behaviour is publicly visible on You-tube.

    Regarding broken politics and why change is required, I emailed 38 degrees in 2012 to ask them why they did not support epetitions.direct.gov.uk, there is a centuries long tradition of lobbying MPs in this country after all. I received this thoughtful response from Alice and the 38 Degrees team. Sums up the current situation.

    Hi Andy,

    for getting in touch asking why 38 Degrees has started our own petition
    instead of directing people to the e-petition on the government

    There are some sensible reasons for starting a specific 38 Degrees petition with the aim of winning a campaign.

    The most important one is that government e-petitions are easily ignored by MPs. MPs have a track record of refusing to debate petitions they don’t like, so the petition ends up not going anywhere.

    For example, during the NHS campaign, 38 Degrees members voted on what we should do next in the campaign. One of the top options was to get an already existing NHS e-petition over 100,000 signatures, to try to
    trigger a parliamentary debate. So that’s exactly what we did, with the
    petition eventually passing 170,000 signatures and becoming the biggest
    petition on the site. However, despite this, MPs simply decided not to
    hold a debate, and all those signatures were ignored.

    In contrast, 38 Degrees petitions are delivered by members and volunteers at key, high-profile moments in campaigns, and often directly to MPs in their local offices around the country. It’s much harder to ignore 38
    Degrees members delivering a petition in person, or a high-profile
    national news story about a half-million signature 38 Degrees petition.

    The Hansard Society has produced a report looking at the problems with the current government e-petition system, to which 38 Degrees submitted
    evidence. You can read more about that here: http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/blogs/press_releases/archive/2012/05/18/parliament-must-take-over-e-petitions-says-hansard-society.aspx

  • http://wp.inso.org.uk Jane Cotton

    I don’t know much about Christchurch UK – other than that 71% of the population turned out to vote and 56.4% of them voted for Mr Chope. Does this mean that they are all right wing extremist dinosaurs or that he somehow knows how to engage with his constituents? (I am playing devil’s advocate here!).

  • http://wp.inso.org.uk Jane Cotton

    It *is* a desire for a voting option Brian! One which, IMO, could be a very useful first step to changing the system.

  • Swithun Wells

    Very good! It was interesting to see how empty the room was. Thank you for great work.

  • Icarus

    Jen, you’ve just spoken for millions of people including me. We’re making progress even though it seems that nothing will change. Firstly, people like you and many millions more are now fully aware of the way the system is not operated in the interests of the ordinary people. Secondly, the elite don’t have any answers to how to placate/bamboozle us now that we are awake. So, power will inevitably have to shift and the elites will have to concede eventually.

  • Andy

    Did they mean guerrilla or silver-back?

  • Anonymous

    correct and that is where 38 degrees has them firmly by the nuts
    because we collectively do NOT have to toe any party lines
    we are not a party

    we must steer clear of associations with parties as such…

    if David mentions a hot topic like tobacco donations
    he does so on behalf of 2.5 million people and counting

    it is not illegal to discuss it or take the government to task for it

    in short.. after watching the video …they are shitting themselves …
    the game is up …and they are furiously thinking of ways to silence and nullify 38 degrees …so as to maintain there STATUS QUO



  • Anonymous

    as broad as 2.5 million people
    i take my hat off to david [mr gorilla babbs] i really do…… what a smart guy he is with balls of steel ..

  • http://wp.inso.org.uk Jane Cotton

    Bravo! David. The end of your tongue must be shredded from biting on it.
    I have read all the comments – and hope that committee members do too because they will then see for themselves the width and depth represented by 38deg, demonstrated here. My only wish would be if you had managed to get in about our ‘positive’ and rapid response to the flooding situation.
    My own thoughts are that opting out of a whole system because you don’t like the outcomes is not necessarily a constructive thing to do, given that a few smaller changes might result in the desired outcomes. I would like us to be working on realistic and achievable step changes. For me these would be:-
    1. Put the ‘none of the above’ option on voting cards.
    2. Actively encourage people both to register and vote given that option (1)
    3. Publicise widely the voting statistics so that they are not hidden.
    4. Construct a radical process to put in place when (not if!) the NOTA voters win an election so that the next stage will bring forward more useful, acceptable candidates.
    5. Campaign for some form of proportional representation – the Scottish model certainly makes life less predictable for candidates
    6. Campaign for recall for MP’s who are not delivering their constituents wishes.

    These are undoubtedly not in the right order and indeed some could be worked on concurrently.

  • Icarus

    1.the “None of the above” option already exists in the form of not voting or spoiling your ballot paper.
    2. Why encourage people to register to vote and participate in a rigged system? I’ve yet to hear a persuasive argument. The argument that you can only change the system if you engage with it from the inside has been proven ineffective. I refer you t the lame attempt at offering the public the Alternative Vote after the last election.
    3. We already know what the statistics are – people are voting in ever decreasing numbers. No mainstream party has any credibility or significant support.
    4.Why wait to find out what you already know before you get radical? And in any case, what do you mean by “bringing forward useful, acceptable candidates”? The candidates are chosen by the corrupt party machines that don’t represent us. It is only by removing the unrepresentative system to allow the full range of democratic choice to be meaningfully voted for that progress can be made.
    5. Why only campaign for “some” proportional representation, as though full proportional representation is too much, too democratic?
    6. A recall system is not necessary if you get a) a true choice to vote for in the first place and b) you can vote them out at the next election.

  • http://wp.inso.org.uk Jane Cotton

    You are entirely missing the point. Not voting at all only shows up as can’t be bothered voting -IT IS NOT COUNTED. Spoiling the paper IS NOT COUNTED. Only ‘voting’ is counted. Even if only a handful of people vote then someone gets elected which leads to crap democracy. So you need to be able to vote for the NOTA to clearly, measurably demonstrate disatisfaction and force a re-vote and maybe more; force open that door, stick a wedge in and don’t budge.

    You ask ‘why wait to find out what you already know before you get radical’. Well actually I don’t know, I have not seen the steps tried out and neither have you. And what ‘radical’ measures are you proposing precisely? Leaning on the bar while the political and fiscal infrastructure goes into meltdown? Watching the weak and disadvantaged go to the wall and leaving the next generation to sort it out? I don’t think so comrade – I want to be part of positive change, not sit back and smile sardonically saying ‘I told you so’

  • Icarus

    Your interpretation of “can’t be bothered” to describe those who don’t vote is yours to make. But choosing not to take part in a rigged and corrupt system is entirely legitimate in my view. The difference between our two viewpoints on this issue is that you have faith in the system at its core – you believe that if only you could play by the rules and not rock the boat too much and tweak this and tweak that then eventually all the respectable and sensible people who currently run the show for us will see the light and improve things for the little people. I think that view is extremely naive and plays into the hands of the people who run the system. They will throw you a few crumbs from the table every now and then to make you think you’ve made some progress but it will be a meaningless gesture. Did you follow the referendum on the Alternative Vote?
    The radical measures are to boycott elections and to hold parallel elections online where all parties are represented and millions turn out to vote in a mock parliamentary election with proportional representative voting.
    Your last ranty bit seems to equate me with a bar-room lefty who doesn’t really care about this. And the other bit says that your conservative and establishment friendly non-action is going to save the “disadvantaged”…I think you are more establishment than you are admitting to…

  • Alex

    That’s a little unfair on Icarus, I think.

    In my opinion Icarus is correct in saying that “None of the above” wouldn’t be all that helpful, for the following reason: the political classes already know that a vast swathe of the population of the UK doesn’t want to be led by the likes of them. If every one of those who have not bothered to vote in the past were to turn up and mark “none of the above” on ballots, the political classes would do their very best to find yet another excuse to ignore the fact, or pervert the intended outcome to their advantage. It would turn into yet another symbolic gesture, like demonstration marches and official government website petition signatures, and would be perfectly possible to ignore.

    If the idea is to “show” the wealthy and powerful that they’re not wanted in government, I have to say that that is a futile cause.

    If, on the other hand, the goal is to raise more public awareness of the general sense of dissatisfaction with the political system, more power to you I say. But this should be done alongside a genuine solution: namely grassroots activism and the genuine banding together of real live common people on and off the internet.

    I suggest a better use of 38 Degrees’ time would be to use their considerable resources to campaign for local area meetings to be set up in every constituency to educate, solidify and empower local movements, independent of any and all political party influence. We should be setting up more local cooperatives, credit unions, allotment sharing for produce, local car-sharing and free cycling tuition to save money and the environment. We should be setting up free evening courses in personal finance for our local neighbors who struggle with debt… things like this.

    Only through pulling people directly out of the systems in which they are held and mercilessly manipulated can we begin to erode the power of the political classes over us.

    If our only action is to write them a sniffy note on a ballot paper every four or five years and say “none of the above”, we really are doomed to remain wage slaves, which is very little different to being an actual slave, for some poor folk. Again, I’m not saying “don’t do it”, I’m saying we need a hell of a lot more, and a lot more social action.

  • http://wp.inso.org.uk Jane Cotton

    Not my interpretation but the politicians in power – I know that thousands of people do not vote from principle – so do they of course but don’t need to say so, just dismiss it because they still get voted in, however few people vote!
    Take your radical measures (which I would certainly take part in), onto the next step. What do you do then?
    You heard the contempt from those committee members for 38deg supporters – why would they treat an online alternative election as anything other than rattle shaking?
    And what you call my non-action is certainly no passive campaign to ‘save the disadvantaged’. There should be no disadvantaged and I would fight to my last breath to bring about such a society – but only if I thought the method was going to bring that result. I struggle to support any speculative action which might bring about collateral damage to those who are already badly served by our current political system.

  • http://wp.inso.org.uk Jane Cotton

    The political classes may well ‘try their very best’ Alex, however the game would have shifted to a position where our very best could beat theirs. The idea is to turn the system against them.

  • Alex

    I’m afraid that’s wishful thinking Jane. The “game” is something the political classes play. They’re a heck of a lot better at glossing over our dissatisfaction than we are at turning our dissatisfaction into anything tangible.

    Let’s take one or two examples. The rioting in London (and elsewhere of course) in 2011 was self-evidently a symptom of massive disenfranchisement and poverty among a very specific section of society. In Tottenham, where the rioting really began, three out of four community centres had been closed in the weeks preceding the riots. Jobs are non-existent, poverty high. It was a powder-keg.

    And what was the response when the keg finally ignited? The political classes and their public relations arm (the mainstream media) very effectively conspired to conceal the causes behind this momentous and tragic event… to the extent that the average person on the street still believes it was caused by something other than injustice and exploitation of the poor. The establishment won that one.

    How about the massive march against the war in Iraq in 2003? One of the only examples in history of a mass-movement which took place BEFORE the illegal invasion it was protesting against. It was unprecedentedly large. Up to two million people marched in London alone. Just about everyone in the city, most people in our country and others all around the world were well aware that a colossal public statement was being made.

    Impact? Close to zero.

    Let’s look at a third example, a little closer to the topic at hand. The expenses scandal. The public were justifiably outraged en-masse at the ridiculous misuse of valuable, scarce public funds by our self-appointed betters and leaders. There was such a groundswell of disapprobation that the government of the time promised to bring in sweeping legislation to stop such misuse, e.g: to stop MPs employing their family members as part-time secretaries and PAs on fat wages.

    That never actually happened, mind you, it was sufficient to pop out a quick press-release promising all sorts of things, and then wait until the hue and cry died down before resuming business as usual.

    In fact, all the major political upheavals, scandals and other important events in living memory have been successfully absorbed, redirected, suborned and manipulated by our ruling elite. This is why they are still in power.

    Your suggestion- well-intentioned as I’m sure it is- that a large number of “none-of-the-above” ballots would trigger or force some sort of action on the part of the political classes is simply not feasible when one weighs it against the historical record.

    Actual political reform NEVER originates from above. Only from below. Politicians claim credit for movements like womens’ rights, the civil rights movement, the NHS, etcetera. But all these reforms were forced upon the powerful by heavy, well-organised grass-roots movements chipping away at the roots of power until there was no other option but to partially concede.

    That’s how people have won in the past, that’s how they may win in the future.

    Lastly, it’s important to remember that even if every resident of the UK had voted in our recent general and local elections… the results would still have been undemocratic. This is because our system is a vague facsimile of a real democracy. A real democracy does not involve ratifying pre-approved decisions every few years. A real democracy would be population-led, in the way that 38 Degrees tries to be led by its supporters.

    Tweak the existing system all you like. Appeal to the powerful all you like. None of these things will change the essentially exploitative nature of our political system. One must do the things your describing as a tangent running alongside real reform, namely working from the ground up to construct systems of solidarity, social support and cooperative empowerment within the realm of real working people, as I described above.

  • Icarus

    The establishment would have to at least acknowledge that the rug had been pulled from under them if literally millions voted in an alternative online election – especially if it was more than the numbers who turned out for the official election. Of course they will arrogantly dismiss any challenge to their hegemony with haughty disdain and they will use all the weaponry in their armory to neuter any effective challenge.
    But by then the veneer and facade of a consensual relationship between the plebs and the governors will have been eroded. At that point, anything is possible.

  • Alex

    In all honesty, and I apologise to both of you in advance for any offense; I can’t see how the establishment would see either a bunch of “none-of-the-above” ballots OR an online alternative election as anything but rattle-shaking. Mimicking the existing system or trying to tweak the existing system should be tertiary goals. Surely our real goal should be to set up true alternatives to the existing system?

    And Jane: not sure how either one percent of people voting or 100 percent of people voting would result in anything other than an undemocratic result consisting of a government of the already existing three right-wing, warmongering free marketeer parties. Voting, not voting, voting for none of the above… these are all merely prevarications preceding real action.

    You don’t write to Barclays Bank about their elitist anti-poor business practices and expect them to really change their policies in response to your remonstrations. No, instead you set up a local credit union as an alternative.

    Setting up real working alternatives is the way to go, in my view.

  • Icarus

    No offence taken – quite the opposite. I like it when people come up with alternatives to the stale old ideas we are used to passing around. I’m not precious about any of the ideas I put forward. They can be seen as ideas at this stage and food for thought for the debate. What alternatives do you see?

  • http://wp.inso.org.uk Jane Cotton

    OK – both (Icarus and Alex) – I have found our discussion very stimulating and not offensive (despite references to my possible establishment leanings!). Before I close, perhaps we could find agreement in yes – absolutely set up true alternatives from community roots; co-operatives, credit unions, whatever can work well. And yes, lets have a proper debate on what a truly democratic system could look like, how it could work. However, as I probably won’t live long enough to see the outcomes of that, please can we also support measures now to move our existing system in the ‘right’ direction rather than get worse and do more damage that has to be righted?

  • Alex

    Well in addition to the local schemes I advocate above (credit unions, local produce cooperatives, enhanced social networks, free training and education in key areas), I suggest that we find real alternatives to the existing local administrative structure that’s beholden to central government. For instance, if you wish to clear a piece of wasteland to make a playground or a set of allotments, or you wish to improve security on a council estate, at the moment you have to cowtow to local councils and local police to get those things done.

    People do virtually everything via existing systems. Education, for instance.

    At this stage, local government has lost all autonomy (since Thatcher’s regime) and therefore should be replaced. Why not create cooperative networks to do these things instead of going to the authorities? Such networks already exist in embryonic forms around the world. They merely need to be made larger and better linked together.

    Instead of spending money getting people to vote in the existing system, why not try to create a fund through which they can obtain reconditioned or used wifi devices and/or free IT training so that they can use them? Then they could be linked in to their own local networks online, through portals that organisations like 38 degrees could help to define and design. They could then vote amongst each other on issues that they themselves raise and define, instantaneously.

    Etcetera, etcetera. One can come up with locally oriented ideas all day… the difficulty is that people are still predisposed to a centralised, ballot-voting political system viewpoint, and aren’t usually plugged in to their own local area or community, nor do they realise the inherent value of it.

  • Icarus

    Alex, you are commendably putting the meat on the bones with these possible practical ways forward for those of us who have had enough of the established order.
    I think there are some people who know that there is injustice and that the system is wrong but who can’t yet see that the powers that be will never collude in their own demise.

  • Icarus

    Thank you Alex. There is much of genuine interest to digest there and I appreciate your substantial input.

  • Anonymous

    I think the more people who vote, the more engaged (even a little!) they become in political issues and the more representative the constituency results would become. In my own constituency – the participation is relatively high. On average, 2/3rds people vote in General Elections. So we are down one third votes already. Then the Tory candidate usually gets around 2,000 more votes than his nearest rival, but all his rivals collectively poll far more than him! Now add in the spoiled/abstentions third and the gainsayers are all in the majority. So our MP is regularly elected by a small minority of all voters so where is his electoral mandate? Had ALL or most of the electorate voted, might he not find himself under greater pressure? (Especially if as I suspect most of the abstentions are working class voters!) So I agree with the policy of firstly getting everyone entitled to vote to register and then to get them to vote on the day (or by other means).
    As regards point 5, I voted against the proposed alternative vote change because I preferred a more accurate system of selection. The recent offer did not fulfil my personal wish. But I’m happy to consider other suggestions if it would genuinely make the electoral system more representative. Jane Cotton’s first paragraph makes the valid point for a “None of the Above” vote on ballot papers. (Although her next para I felt was a bit much!) Can I just add, some of us are not offered a single candidate we want to put in power! It would in my opinion offer a more powerful “revolt” message to the elite rulers, if the NOTA actually won the general Election, than Alex suggests. Rulers without any surfs behind them at all are unlikely to stay in power!

  • Icarus

    I don’t think the current system needs to be righted rather than jettisoned, Jane. It is fundamentally flawed and corrupt. Why ‘put lipstick on a pig’ as the Americans say? Why not put the pig out to pasture and go to market for a new animal? I think Alex is right when he says that we should form our own local branches of organisation, independent of current power structures.

  • Icarus

    I’m afraid you are assuming that the political parties we have to choose from represent a wide range of alternative views when in fact they offer an identical set of policies.

    You identified some of the anomalies in the system yourself so you should revisit those and contemplate them.

    As regards an MP feeling under greater pressure if more people turned out to vote, I think that the greatest pressure for any MP comes from the party apparatus that selects him and then the parliamentary party. The constituency is a minor aberration that needs to be molly-coddled around election time.

  • Anonymous

    I think we need to get over this belief that there is a great swathe of hard done by, downtrodden people who are constantly exploited by a mysterious “them” There is a solution for such people, DON’T accept the status quo and join the fight to change it. Why do people keep banging on about the Tories, posh ruler types who do not care about me and my kind? Especially the working class people. There are enough of you to join the Conservative party and swamp it’s membership. (Same with the other brands of the same company – the Lab’s & Lib’s!). They are only so powerful over you all because you obviously want to let them be! All you have to do is join them, vote in alternative policy agendas and elect new leaders, simples. All it takes is the courage and conviction to take the first step. But do I sense that most commentators who deplore “them” are too happy to live in that situation, where they can make bolshy comments, accusations and sarcastic comments on others purposeful actions (even if not to one’s liking)? i.e. they use total apathy as a comfort zone? David Babbs and his colleagues are not doing that. They have accepted the challenge and he has just sat in the “lion’s den” and put our collective feelings boldly to people who plainly did not like being criticised. So what’s holding back the great, downtrodden, put upon, working class? If you want change to happen, it cannot be done anonymously. It has to be done by taking action and fighting for what you believe in. If you don’t like a political party – join it and help direct it. If you don’t, then you will always be dependent on the efforts of those who DID get involved, and that is a fact, however unpalatable.

  • Icarus

    If there isn’t a great swathe of people who are downtrodden then why are we even here at 11:55pm on a Saturday evening discussing this – haven’t we got social lives to be enjoying? Let’s all go back to our day to day lives and stop this rubbish with 38 degrees. Good night! Have a good weekend!

  • Alex

    And I yours.

  • Anonymous

    Not “identical” but similar major policy intentions. Differing brands really. But see my later comment – whose fault is that but our own? Anyone of us can join a political party and work to change it. (That’s what Tony Blair did!) Oh I have contemplated those anomalies and in my long lifetime I devoted years to local community and political activity. I did not sit at home – I went to meetings! I disagree your last rather negative point. No party can afford to have unelectable MP’s! But isn’t it worth a try? Isn’t taking some action to change the status quo better than none at all? Carping criticism I promise you will do little (no offence – just stating a general fact)

  • Alex

    1. The reasons the poor and downtrodden don’t join the Conservative
    Party en masse, swamp the membership and immediately vote the party into
    extinction are: a: such actions have tend to be prevented or at least
    reversed by the judiciary, the few times they’ve occurred around the
    world in the modern age. b: the poor and downtrodden by definition are
    not cohesive enough nor do they have enough technical knowledge or
    solidarity to force such an action through. Your suggestion/example is
    therefore without merit, with all due respect.

    2. Stating that we
    should be creating alternatives to the current political system does
    not necessarily equal apathy, as you seem to be suggesting. Rather,
    suggesting- as you are- that we should attempt to “reform the system
    from within” is so self-evidently futile that it effectively equals apathy, in my opinion.

    3. As Icarus pointed out below,
    of course there is a downtrodden mass, subjugated by established wealth and power. It’s called the population of
    this country, and in fact virtually every country on Earth. That’s why we’re all here. So I’m not sure what point you were making. Perhaps you can clarify?

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t say there was not a need for action, far from it. My point was that it does not have to be that way. I wish I had been able to garner the support that 38 Degrees has when I was actively engaged in political issues some years ago. But apathy defeats the workers every time. I, incidentally, have given up a lot of my social life to do what I preach, for the good of all! Goodnight, enjoy the remainder of your weekend!

  • Alex

    Mikelroi, I’m afraid you’re wrong when you state that Tony Blair “changed the Labour party”. Neil Kinnock was just as much a servant of power as Blair was, for instance. The only recent attempt to change the Labour Party was led by Tony Benn in his failed bid to get into the top echelons of party leadership. It failed because even though Labour has always been the lesser of two evils, it has still always been a little bit evil. All the major parties are.

    And I think you’ll find that many of us have been activists for a long time. I certainly have done my share. So I know just how futile most efforts have been and how futile they can be, and I know the importance of saving your strength as a movement for the one big push in a direction that really makes a difference.

    Tweaking the existing voting system is a push in the wrong direction, in my opinion. And it may waste much of the energy of people who care about genuine reform. That’s the risk.

  • Anonymous

    David, I have also stood up in front of a powerful audience (in my younger days) and spoken out for justice for more of my kind. I know what you went through, entering that “lion’s den” and facing up to those MP’s and particularly giving them a message they did not really want to hear! Bravo indeed. You came across as a genuine guy – whereas a few of those MP’s were in my view there principally to try and deflate your message. The rude Conservative MP who got up and stalked away because of his assumption of political bias shamed his colleagues and his party. He is definitely part of the problem! Thanks for doing what you did. It took courage and determination.

  • Alex

    Jane, I’m not sure that adding “none of the above” will do any damage or waste any energy. But it might. Equally, it might do some small good, perhaps in raising awareness among the public that do choose to vote.

    What I’m sure of is that this kind of measure *by itself* will not bring about significant change. Only the truly important grassroots activism will do that.

    And the true danger of proposing small tweaks to our existing electoral system is that they can serve as a distraction from this fact.

    So I’d urge you and all those who wish to see “NOTA” on the ballot paper to at the very least de-prioritise this wish, in favour of promoting tangible alternatives to the existing system as described in this thread. Just my two cents.

  • Anonymous

    Tony Blair DID change the Labour party. he moved it more to centre ground, tried to make it all things to all people, eschewing the principles of Clause 4, 4 (a) of the former Constitution.
    I’m sorry that you feel that your efforts have been futile. I do not feel the same about mine. One of them was to help improve the company pension scheme, which I and thousands of my former colleagues now benefit from!
    If by “tweaking the voting system” you refer to the NOTA option on voting papers. I stand by my comment. I think it would make a big difference if that turned out to be the majority national vote! Alternatively, don’t wait for that change. At the next election, let us all band together and NOT VOTE for any Con/Lab/Lib candidate. Imagine the effect of all those lost deposits striking home on all three political parties! If that did not cause a sea change, then we only have a revolution left!
    I do not see any new measure with a chance of some reaction as a waste of “energy”. Far from it. better some reaction that causes pause for thought than none at all!

  • Alex

    Actually I must once again respectfully disagree with you, Mikelroi: Not only are you incorrect in your assertion that Blair moved the Labour party closer to the centre ground (Kinnock for instance already presided over a Labour leadership that was relatively right-wing; Blair merely followed in Kinnock’s less than illustrious footsteps by moving the partly very slightly further to the right, *away* from the centre), but you are also incorrect that I consider my own activist efforts to have been unusually futile. You will not read that or anything close to it in any of my previous posts.

    Rather, I stated previously that as someone with substantial experience of activism on various issues, I am fully aware that many actions- cathartic though they may feel/appear at the time- are indeed effectively futile and waste the real energy of the movements that engage in them. And this is borne out by the historical record.

    To me, it’s self-evident that abstaining from voting, marking “NOTA” or indeed achieving a 100% voting turnout nationally would all be effectively futile as measures, and it’s wrong to commit vast resources to achieve these goals, in my opinion. After all, when the dust settles on all these outcomes, the same corrupt parties will still be in charge of the same corrupt system.

    I do not agree that an especially low voter turnout would provoke a massive sea-change in politics in the UK as you claim. After all, voter turnout has been historically *ridiculously* low for many years, and the only effect this has had is to lead to the formation of the paper-tiger committee that David Babbs spoke to the other day (most eloquently and effectively, I might add).

    Lastly though I agree that some minor action might well be better than no action at all, nobody is suggesting “no action” as a course of… action. Only you have suggested this.

    In fact, presenting such a false dichotomy is a disservice to your fellow posters on this thread. We’re all suggesting different forms of action. One can debate their merits, but to dismiss them out of hand by characterising them as “none at all”, is unhelpful, in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    1. I disagree your view. I would also appreciate a relatively recent example of where the judiciary overthrew the collective decision of a political party’s membership.
    2.But I did not suggest anything of the sort. I attacked negative criticism because it achieves little. In relation to this debate core – the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee (who outshone most of his colleagues incidentally!) asked David for less negative comment to members and more positive suggestions on how to improve the system. So a new, more supported collective activity is beginning to have some effect. It’s a start at least.
    3. My point was that unless we all rally ourselves and use the existing tools at our disposal to collectively act and argue for the changes and alternative governance system we want to see – then we will always be sitting around criticising for it’s own sake – rather than achieving something positive. As for the subjugated masses of the population, have you heard about the former “barrer boy” who now owns The Range chain of all-sorts stores? He may be an extreme example – but he does demonstrate how seizing opportunities and always thrusting forward gets results! Good morning!

  • Alex

    1. You disagree, but you don’t say why. Please explain.

    regards an example, there’s always the old favourite: The attempt of the
    ruling party in Israel to flood the tiny Israeli League for Human and
    Civil Rights with new members to vote out the progressive leadership. Even the hyper-right-wing courts in Israel disallowed that tactic, branding it illegal.
    This was in the early nineteen-seventies, from memory.

    2. On the
    contrary, you did. You specifically suggested that we should “reform
    the system from within”. And I quote: “All you have to do is join them,
    vote in alternative policy agendas and elect new leaders, simples.” It
    may be “simples”, but it’s also fantasy. You can’t reform the system
    from within in the way you’re suggesting… Many others have tried, some
    with massive political resources (Tony Benn). The system has survived
    through natural selection… because it’s very good at resisting
    attacks, and remaining extant.

    I also wouldn’t give too much
    credit to the chair of the committee David spoke to. The Chair was
    deeply patronising and rhetorical, did his best to redirect and/or
    sidestep any substantive points that David was making, and threatened
    David with “loss of friends” for speaking simple truths about the
    vomitive conduct of MPs relating to expenses. Hardly a friend of the
    people, or of 38 Degrees. It’s always tempting to look around for some “powerful” figure that you hope is sympathetic to your cause, and it’s always tempting to overlook obvious flaws in such individuals when you think you’ve found one… but it’s worth trying to cut through that haze, I assure you.

    Thirdly, you claim that: “a new, more
    supported collective activity is beginning to have some effect. It’s a
    start at least.” But I must confess, I struggle to think what effect
    we’ve had on the MPs around the commitee table, or MPs in general. I
    think our campaigning has an effect predominantly on other ordinary
    people. And that’s a good thing, but don’t overestimate the effect on
    real power centres.

    3. I agree that we must rally to collectively
    act… as I’ve been saying all along. I just think that your suggestion
    isn’t the best one on the table, with all due respect.

    I’m not sure what your reference to people from poor families striking
    it rich is supposed to mean or what point it’s meant to support. The
    fact that a tiny tiny number of formerly impoverished people do increase
    their wealth is not news, nor does it demonstrate anything other than
    the fact that the system very occasionally lets one or two people
    through some class barriers… effectively at random. Do I believe that-
    as a rule- people succeed in our society through hard work or merit?
    No. Just look at our rulers to confirm.

  • medgull

    Outstanding performance. You got to the nub of every question that you were asked, regularly divining the true motivations behind the speakers’ comments. Beware! The political establishment soon co-opts new entrants to its own ends. There was plenty of evidence of “grooming” during the hearing. Better men and women than you have become creatures of the system, and that would destroy the very basis on which 38 degrees was founded.

  • Anonymous

    Well, we will just have to agree to disagree on Blair and the effectiveness of people collectively voting “None of the Above” and what effect it would have. On both issues I’m convinced I am right!
    I have not suggested per se “no action as a course of action” is a practical course or that it was the principle I was talking about. Deny all you wish – but a lot of people prefer to moan rather than do something positive to change their circumstances. (and that is the sole reason I mentioned the ordinary. less educated guy who has struck it rich – he is definitely a positive, can do guy! and an illustration of what is ultimately possible if we all try doing something positive to effect a change to benefit us.)
    Finally, Oh come off it, I commented like most on a general rather than a specific principle and in no way implied dismissing fellow commentators out of hand. Crikey, I’ve spent enough time reading, considering and offering a (sometimes alternative) viewpoint in this and other debates to demonstrate my interest in others points of view. Anyone taking that offence, is a case of it the hat fits …! Anyway, I’ve said enough for one session and must put my modelling kit away and switch off now. Have a good morning’s rest!

  • medgull

    Actually, I thought the chairperson was disingenuous and, worse, lacked real insight into the issues that were being debated. His main concern appeared to be to represent himself as an ally of the 38 Degrees model of democracy, whilst at the same time chastising David for “being negative”. He wants us to come up with all the answers. I thought that we paid our politicians to listen to our views and then come up with reasonable solutions. After all, they’ve had 300 years to think about it!

  • Alexander

    Well done David you were brilliant in front of that Reform Committee. Christopher Chope and that MP at the end (Andrew something) were prime examples of all that is wrong with a lot of our MPs at present. David Babbs for PRIME MINISTER i say.

  • terry

    Thanks for your advocacy David. I sensed that there were a few who diidnt like what you said. Question regarding what is it that we want to see MPs do or not do to promote engagement focused on MPs expenses. I think that all MPs who attend rom debates should not be able to claim travel expenses from their constituencies or be fed by Taxpayers. Instead they should be accommodated in taxpayer owned houses for the duration of the debate and not be able to claim any mortage payments for housing. You were accurate in the generational aspects you cited and it would have been interesting if you cited changing the Representation of the People Act to introduce more accountability, restriction of MP power, and limitation of the term they serve in office.

  • Rob

    David, Thank you for putting our voice forward.
    We must now show we have ears.

  • Barbara Richards

    I think you did do a good job, but I feel totally left out of political representation. I found out this morning from hight authority that it is legal for a school to take its pupils to a prison and allow convicted criminals to teach PE lessons to the children without telling the parents. I just feel as if I live on a different planet to the people who are making these idiotic laws.

  • Icarus

    I won’t reply in full because what Alex has said pretty much has my backing. In the end all changes for the common good have to be fought for by those willing and able to do so. Nothing will be handed over by those in power easily. If you play by their rules you are like a gambler in a casino – the house always wins, even though you may make few small gains here and there.

  • Anonymous

    Icarus – we ARE getting somewhere! I agree your comment. Hope that more do to!

  • Anonymous

    ..and Alex! Yup, I agree much of what you have said there. We need some positive action toward real change – however we achieve it. Just so long as long as it doesn’t mean blood stained people trampling my flower beds! How about moving them all out of their cosy, archaic, Westminster gothic style building and modernising the rules of debate. Using modern crystal clear English and setting time limits on speeches, which should be listened to quietly. Also, WE elect the Chairman (no more Mr Speaker rubbish)? Just as an interim measure? The old “palace” can earn millions for the treasury as a visitor attraction, bars, restaurant and café.

  • Anonymous

    Good comment Jane! But I fear the first step (as some more thoughtful MP’s pointed out to David Babbs in Committee) is to seek fuller engagement with the electorate. To have a more representative system of governance we first need to get everyone voting and understanding the whole subject better. It is all very well us decrying ALL existing MP’s, Ministers etc., but they have to work within the existing system. I have come close to seeing how MP’s work in my working life and some of the machinations of the state system. Believe you me their roles are not as easy and straight forward as some think. There are obviously good and bad performers in every field, including politics. But if we encouraged everyone to Register and (if at all possible) to Vote AND included NOTA entry on the ballot paper – then I think we would see some eye opening at the very least. Trust me – I’m certain those three measures will begin a long overdue process. Not a complete solution – but the first steps.

  • Clodagh

    There were those on the committee who clearly just don’t get us and found it appropriate to snigger and act in a dismissive manner. They will find that a lot more people will have observed their actions than might otherwise have watched a parliamentary committee broadcast.

    Names for all MPs on the committee would be interesting, and useful for a re-run, as the MPs invited to speak were only referred to by their first names.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with much of your comment and obvious frustration. I think that Conservative MP who acted so bullishly, rudely and provocatively and then stormed out of Committee should be hauled in by Mr Cameron and admonished. He has probably lost quite a few Conservative supporters with his outdated attitude toward his employers, the electorate.

  • Anonymous

    I agree your 3rd paragraph. I would have preferred a minority government too. BUT with the noisy, raucous “Yah Boo” politics presently shown in “the House” and the kowtowing to the media barons and big money interests that seems essential to modern governance at present, plus a £1.24 TRILLION national debt and similar sum in personal debts – we also needed something less shaky. If we put the wind up our lenders while currently on rock bottom interest rates – they might get panicky. it would only take a smallish increase in those interest rates to unleash cut backs in public expenditure on a far grander scale than present. That is the reality of the current situation, 78% of our GDP is in hock and subject to the whim of money lenders. I dare to suggest that whatever we all want to do – that is a mega burden and one we cannot dismiss lightly.

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting comment, Linda. I tend to agree your opening point – keep 38 Degrees forum out of party politics as an independent campaigning movement. A free thinking organisation that represents and assists the views of it’s supporters. Once it comes under a controlling background entity – it would lose credibility. I was also very encouraged (despite what other detractors say) with that comment by the Chairman, re too weak parliament and too powerful government. That hit a big nail on the proverbial head. Think about it, we have a political system where if we combine the REAL paid up membership of the 3 “main” political parties it barely equals the paid membership of the British caravan Club! But in 2011, the ONS gave a figure of over 46.107 MILLION voters eligible to vote in a general Election. So the tiny minority who belong to the election winning party appoint the Prime Minister Chancellor of the Exchequer and the whole Cabinet and Ministers (unless they join with another even smaller party membership and form a coalition government!) So how do we deal with that situation which seems totally unrepresentative? Bearing in mind – the political parties do create and proffer a raft of policies and organise the selection of candidates, etc., and thereafter control their parliamentary voting.? That is one of the major stumbling blocks, to a full democratic system. How do we change that reliance, and shift the balance of power to create a more equal and politically engaged society? Toward a more transparent and representative form of governance? I think that was in some measure what the Committee Chairman was alluding to. I would be very interested in yours and others potential (yet workable!) solutions to that problem – perhaps before you send your personal feedback to the Committee?

  • Anonymous

    You missed the point about not voting for any of the “three main political parties”. Perhaps I should have said, “by voting for any other candidate than one of the three political parties”. Just use imaginative thinking for a moment, before you type a reply, of what would happen if the majority of disenchanted voters did just that. All those usually “also rans” filling parliament and all three Con/Lab/Lib taking a thrashing and losing their deposits. It would be the biggest political upset since the 1945 General Election! It would also require no agreement to change ballot papers yet still deliver an earthquake blow. Just vote for any candidate other than the three who take our votes and the prospects for power for granted. Simples?

  • Geoff O

    Electoral turnout is measured as a percentage, i.e. the difference between who can vote and who does vote, but there are no formal procedures in the event that the turnout falls to a dramatically low level. For example, the turnout for electing police commissioners was only 15% but that made no difference to its procession with the politicians. So a NOTA vote must be qualified by legal consequences if it is to have any meaning. The only advantage it would have without such a qualification would be to clarify how much of the electorate are dissatisfied as opposed to apathetic, but what then? In the absence of a NOTA option, making sure you register (which is a legal requirement) but withholding your vote is the best current way to send a message. This would increase the gap between who can vote and who does vote, reducing the mandate for any prospective government.

  • Dave Kelleway

    Dave Babbs was excellent; well done and thank you.
    The crisis of confidence in the system is because of:
    1) Their hypocricy in regulating others whilst allowing and defending corruption and nepotism on a grand scale. (i.e lobbying, unelected peerages and their connection with donations/friendships etc. and employing relatives)
    2) The print media effectively sets the agenda for the country and makes it very damaging for politicians to tell the truth. They have massive control on the governance of the country.
    Essential prerequisites to achieve greater confidence in the system:
    A) Ban on payments and payments in kind (including wining and dining) from lobbyists
    B) Fully elected House of Lords (It is simply wrong to call it democracy when voting lawmakers rely on patronage rather than being elected)
    C) Print media controlled in the same way that the BBC is – if it is not run by an openly declared political organisation, then it should report news in an unbiased way, giving voice to different views where it offers opinion within a “news story”. If they fail to do this, or openly support a political party, then the whole cost of the newspaper should be declarable as election expenses by that party.

  • Roobarb

    Thank you for your sterling effort. What a pity that the Chair, who was prepared to listen courteously and to engage politely, was let down badly by two of his colleagues who epitomised precisely those politicians that disenfranchise themselves from their constituents through their patronising behaviour. The Chair asked for positive steps to help them out of this mess. I suggest that they revisit the video to ‘Watch and Learn’. Maybe compulsory Boot Camps for MPs on ‘rules of engagement’ is one way forward?

  • Alex

    Personally I think the goal should be to have *no* prime minister, rather than wishing to replace the current prime minister with a different one… no matter how virtuous that replacement might initially be. The same goes for the less offensive MPs in that committee meeting; they may not have been so obviously right-wing and out of touch as Chope and Turner… but they are still very much part of the problem, and demonstrated so with their attitude and reaction to David’s comments.

    After all, it’s our current system of centralised, top-down power that limits, corrupts and changes even the most well-meaning individuals, and transforms them into cogs in the great corporate/political machine that runs our nations.

    One must seek to change the structure of power, rather than simply changing faces within that structure.

    I’m sure you were merely showing support to David with the suggestion, but I feel it’s a point worth commenting on nonetheless. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Mikelro & Icarus come on board the good ship 38 degrees
    we are NOT a political organisation we campaign on issues
    foisted onto the people of this fair land …BY POLITICIANS..
    why would we want to be one of them ???

    you are wandering into the murky foggy depths of the body politic …like quicksand you will and are being sucked in

    keep out it is largely futile ..38 degrees is the fighting force for change ..none of the parties..come close to truly representing the majority of the people

    ergo none of them come close to the even handed approach of 38 degrees driven from the bottom up ..as David Babbs said so elegantly. PUT IT

  • Anonymous

    Read a Little further, Jabberwocky12, and you will see that our contributions have developed side issues from discussing HOW we are all going to effect change. As the Chairman of the Select Committee pointed out to David, negative complaint is all very well, but what they wanted was our input on how to change from a too weak parliament with a too powerful government to a more representative system and to get more people registering and voting. While it might be comfortable to suggest just ignoring the body politic, they unfortunately hold all the reigns and make the rules and laws and decide the take from our purses! So ignore them at your peril. David was challenged (and through him us) in a nutshell. “OK you don’t like the present system of parliamentary democracy – so what positive ideas have you got for changing it?” Well?
    Incidentally, I think I have been involved in a number of 38 Degrees campaigns since it’s inception. I was joining this very same debate – HOW to change or replace the present disgraced system before the last General Election. Welcome to the campaign!

  • Anonymous

    Well put and I think most of us agree. However, the purpose of the Select Committee hearing is how to achieve a greater voter engagement with our existing parliamentary system. I tend to feel that is a small first step. I find that in these forums we generally spark up some good ideas, so do you have any? We have made very plain now how disenchanted we are with the present Parliamentary system. To be fair, we ought also to have a few workable ideas for either bringing about desired change – or to say how we think our parliamentary system can be improved – or indeed replaced. Protesting and campaigning is all very good – but can we proffer some answers for consideration?

  • Louise

    Thanks David, you did a brilliant job.Especially difficult with some of the provocative questions asked by a couple MPs. It seems to me that ,if you dare to criticise or at least question MPs and the way they go about things, they assume the, ‘they must have an agenda’ mode and thus dismiss us. That came over loud and clear. The chairman was fair but feel he is probably in a minority. In fairness, when I have contacted my Mp, he has written back with long explanations as to why he [always] backs the Government, he has never been rude but unfortunately he is in a safe conservative seat and doesn’t feel the need to go against government policy. Pity he isn’t in a marginal, then things may be different. So unless I move I don’t think things will change for me. Keep up the good work

  • Anonymous

    Hang on – we all have to start somewhere! When did you sit alone and unsupported in front of a bunch of experienced Parliamentarians and not only give them the message they did not want to hear but also fielded some quite deliberately denigrating questions? As for his performance itself, I found it riveting! By my example, David is still a very young man. He was in the proverbial lions den confronting those we criticise and not backing off. I say again, Bravo David and I think you owe him an apology!

  • Anonymous

    I thought that was “mutton jeff” (which I am) and I heard it loud and clear. To Alex Skinner – check the sound settings on your computer/pad. If still feint – can you plug in earphones?

  • Anonymous

    woa there mike this kind of debate just becomes so long and convoluted and leads to more ingredients in the boiling pot ..i don’t recall 38 degrees being set up to remove a political party [however desirable that idea may be]
    i detected from the committee that . that is what they ARE shitting themselves about .
    they can also read this stuff and react ..
    rather than go debating things you can not change ..like tony blair maggie thatcher and there input to the body politic ..which is nothing more than debate after debate
    that achieves nothing other than to prove differences of opinion exist…
    no i say again getting rid of what is in power is a long long way off and beyond me and you
    we need to concentrate on what we CAN do and that is to use the ability of the 38 degrees framework ..to ask people if they want to help change THIS law or that law
    on a one by one basis ..the way it has been doing
    to hold to account anyone who tries to impose dodgy
    rules and laws on the populous …. the biggest problem for 38 D HAS BEEN THE RELUCTANCE OF PEOPLE TO SIGN UP to create the needed avalanches to make changes on individual issues fortunately numbers are growing and the monkey is now a gorilla ..and this is good steadily increasing and growing in numbers until it is
    a Godzilla ..they invited david to the committee meeting
    to discredit the whole set up if possible
    they failed [hats of to David and his gorilla tactics ]
    instead they want to try to ABSORB HIM into the mire that they live in [hence the invite back ]
    thus he would fade away …..david made it clear they are NOT and do not strive to be a political party .
    nor should they try to oust any party …they/we must continue with the ideal as i was first and still is now,
    a petition driven campaign group ..from the bottom up..
    a true democratic engine for changes..to benefit ALL OF OUR SOCIETY

    my vision is now focussed on the next petition
    and drumming up more and more support for 38 degrees
    keep it simple and easy to follow and folks will join the movement more readily…

  • Anonymous

    Yes! At the next general Election everyone is encouraged to vote for ANY OTHER candidate than the Conservative, Labour or Liberal. Imagine, as the results come in and The Monster Raving Looney party (which should be right at home in the House of Commons!), the Greens and others suddenly start winning seats all over! Meanwhile, the usual clever clever pundits need extra “Swingometer” pointers to cope with the massive swing away from the three repudiated parties! Panic and pandemonium in the party HQ’s! The media latches on quickly to “The Revolt of the Voters!” The biggest election upset since Labour’s dash to victory in 1945, after WWII , when all the big wigs thought Churchill would get it! Or (and I know this is will be just a little controversial) All vote UKIP (or one of the other candidates). Howzat?

  • Anonymous

    Regarding ‘U’ turns I take your point – but be careful what you wish for. I do not want a government that fears admitting it is wrong and changing direction to meet our legitimate claims.

  • Icarus

    David, the BBC is totally biased and promotes war and all the other aspects of the neoliberal agenda. Please Google an organisation called media lens. It will be an eye opener I guarantee you.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, there is some merit that as the night wore on some of us deviated out of the core subject! For that I apologise. But I think you are wrong to expect that we can run the country on continual electronic votes on subjects. Firstly, not everyone is or wants to be computer literate so that would also be undemocratic. To run something as big as a country you do need some form of executive ability. As I see it, the practical argument to engage in is how that can be improved or completely changed to make it 1. More representative and 2. More accountable to the voters (the ultimate employers) I do not think there is that much disagreement between any of us as to what the problem is. But I do think that we need to concentrate first on more practical campaigning policies through 38 Degrees to spark or influence change in the present system. meanwhile, lets enjoy a good debate about WHAT exactly and practically could replace the existing too powerful government system. In doing so – we must remember your oft repeated statement – 38 Degrees should remain an independent campaigning group – not the new means of running the country. For what it’s worth – I am totally against not mass abstention, the establishment will just gleefully accept that. Mass replacement of the existing establishment by strategic voting – that is a whole different ball game! (i.e. Vote for any candidate but a “big three” one!)

  • Icarus

    Not out! In the parallel proportionately representative online election I wss proposing I don’t think people should boycott any party if they really belive in what they stand for and want to see their policies implemented. I’d encourage them to vote for them with their conscience. If any of the parties that currently make up the one party state in the UK have overall power through the proportional voting system then bully for them. They will probably have to share power and do compromises with some of the smaller parties though and this will be a check on them and will hopefully see more egalitarianism seep into the system.

  • Adrian Wheeler

    Dear David

    I have just watched the video – my congratulations – you did a wonderful job – particularly as every person on the committee was, shall I say, ‘difficult’.

    I shall be considering the detail over the next few days but it is worth pointing out that there are 3 points which shout out:

    1 Why is the political make up of the 38 respondents so drastically different from the split at the last General Election? Understand that and HMG will have the answer?

    2 The Chair’s ploy of asking 38 to tell them what to do to put things right – that’s their job. That trick has been around since the Ark – just how dim do they think we are?

    3 Every person on that committee appeared blind to the fact that the UK has moved on in the last 50 years. We are better educated, better informed and above all as customers want better value for our money.

    Everyone of them demonstrated one or more examples of why the electorate is turning their back on people like them.

    The whole of HMG, ‘Civil Service’ and Upper & Lower Houses are broadly paid for by the rest of us. Therefore by definition, we are the Customer and they are the Service Provider.

    As on the High Street, if people do not like a ‘shop’, they vote with their feet and stay away – if there was an alternative shop to HMG it would be out of business completely.

    By all means make all information available to them about what we abhor but I believe it would be suicidal to suggest solutions – they must want to find them for themselves. Indeed if one of the Political Parties takes the trouble to act on this objective evidence then I expect it to have a landslide following.

    Thanks for all your hard work, speaking to us in terms we understand, respecting us as people, our views and above all for creating this conduit.

    Sincerely, Adrian Wheeler

  • YorkyMike

    Well done, David. You put our views across very well indeed. Just read through some of the comments on here and agree so strongly on their ideas and support, so won’t go over the same ground. Like Mikelroi I too have been in the same position as yourself, and thought you handled the rudeness very well indeed, some of the committee let themselves down very badly and showed their true character and disdain for the ordinary person, including the chair who abdicated his responsibility when the MP was speaking (shouting over you) although to be fair he did eventually stop the rudeness from that MP. Well done, David. 10/10

  • Anonymous

    Yes yes, of course I understood the point – but you wanted a catalyst to make change happen. What better than removing the whole current dominance of parliament first? No Cons, no Labs & no Libs get a seat. Now wouldn’t that take the wind out of their sails and give all three pause for thought? Meanwhile, a completely new bunch of guys and gals have to get together and form a government – and boy – what a mixture they will be! I’m not point scoring – just pointing out this is better than just throwing one’s vote away. Just vote out the whole present established teams from their continual power circle. Think about it! Do we really want a change of government power or not?

  • Anonymous

    Just watched your evidence, I’m in awe, you presented our case remarkably well in difficult circumstances. There is however one thing with which I will take issue, your assertion that you will probably vote in the local elections in Hackney even though Labour will always win in Hackney. I believe this to be a self fulfilling myth. Skimming down the wards I picked Leabridge, which appears to have the largest Labour vote and therefore probably one of the biggest Labour majorities. In summary, 5,000 people voted, half Labour, half for other parties, and 4,000 didn’t vote. In terms of the committee discussion None of the Above would have romped home. The ward is only safe because of two things, the other parties don’t put up a fight, which is a calculated decision, they will only fight ward where the chances of winning justify the cost, both financial and personal, and people don’t vote because why vote when it can’t make a difference. It can make a difference, the ward is Labour not because of the people who do vote Labour but because of the many more who don’t vote against them.
    I’m standing in Chingford Green Ward, where I live. 7,000 voters, 3,000
    Conservative, 2,500 non voters. Safe seat? We’ll see. Even if all I do is put up a viable challenge it may make the future Conservative councillors pay more attention to their constituencies in the future.
    As an aside, you were asked about the link between a None of the Above (NOTA) option and statutory voting. As you may imagine I’ve given this some thought. Without statutory voting may give a more “nuanced” result, because it separates those people who are engaged enough to vote but vote for NOTA from those who are not engaged enough to vote. As I get more involved in issues I am sceptical of opinions, even my own, which are not backed up by something mundane like statistics, I wonder if there are enough places where there is a NOTA option with and without statutory voting to draw any conclusions.
    None of the Above (Adam Osen)
    07761 102 540

  • Anonymous

    Mikleroi, your constituency is typical, the winner gets 1/3 of the vote, the rest get 1/3 and 1/3 don’t vote is the average and I think the median position, in my area it exactly represents Walthamstow, Ilford North, Chingford & Woodford Green and Edmonton. If an MP believes his constituents won’t vote him out he will tend to complacency, it’s the responsibility of all of us to play our part in putting his job under pressure, however small a difference we may make

  • Anonymous

    I can’t help but agree with you, we have to try

  • Dave Kelleway

    Hi Icarus
    Thanks for the info – interesting site.
    I am well aware of the limitations and atrocious biases of the national broadcast media, including the BBC (just think back to the disgusting coverage of the miners strike or their continuous pro religion stance) but at least by law they have to be better than the Mail and Sun etc. in that they can’t be so blatantly party political.
    My point was that political parties are effectively using the enormous clout of the mass print media for electioneering, without any cost that is declarable in their expense returns, whereas if they printed it themselves, they would be well beyond the legal limits of expenditure.

  • reasonable

    I just watched the video so an observation. There seem to be two rather irreconcilable qualities needed in a MP in the present system. One incredibly combative, that seems to be required in debating in the house of commons and one being empathetic and a good listener required in the constituency. I wish politics was structurally and culturally less combative and less about belittling and shouting people down because then our MP’s may be a lot better at representing their constituents. I was rather dismayed at the self importance and arrogance of some members of the committee.

  • Anonymous

    we are not so far apart my friend …cant be if we both think 38 D is the bees knees ..
    but i don’t envisage us via 38 D being able to replace the guv. at all not even in part its all about democracy the votes of the people and 38 d is the epitome of that in my eyes in relation to acting as the checks and balances against any political party that is in power at any time ..that i believe is the essence of the system …my idea of perhaps using the methodology of 38 D as a means or conduit.for helping more people to vote in any elections is meant as an as well as not an instead of, ergo the primary roll or function must be impartial to any political party and never fall into the category of being a TOOL for any one of them [but perhaps for all of them]
    however i seem to think, that committee wants to harness the technology and skills used by 38 D team to enhance there own ability to get more folks to vote
    …however i would not trust them to use those skills and digital tech. in an impartial way AT ALL .
    OF COURSE IT IS THIS VERY REAL LACK OF TRUST THAT GIVES BIRTH TO IDEALS LIKE 38 D IN THE FIRST PLACE and i would hate to see it absorbed into any guv. dept. or party and subsequently killed by stealth .
    and the usual skulduggery.
    i trust david babbs …don’t trust any politician .
    and i know a few… any way typing finger getting sore now of to bed…interesting to see points of view

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. I think I get your drift now. I would not be too harsh on the parliamentarians, they need very thick skins nowadays and they also take a lot of flack. Just try being a local Councillor is no easy task these days, with all the social responsibilities dumped on them, shrinking budgets and all that political correctness and equality, etc. I think there was a genuine interest by the more curious of those MP’s in the committee to see if we had any better ideas of how to get more voters engaged with their civil duty and whether we had any better ideas of how to make the election system more meaningful and representative. I really do think that it would help if some of us shadowed some of them for a day or more. Once we all know what it’s like to be a 21st century MP – we could better think of ideas for improving the system.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! I have begun to think I know what it’s like to be an MP. I can’t make many simple responses because it opens up avenues and allegations I never expected anyone to make about my comments, unless I get over explicit. So thanks – you picked out the real message succinctly!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, agreed. or – next time vote for any other candidate than those from the three “main” political parties. Just to see what happens when they all start losing deposits wholesale. If we cannot get and keep their attention – just deny them any power at all! Of course, we would get a right mixture of new MP’s who would have to form a Government! Should be quite exciting if we did that!

  • Anonymous

    fingers better now having a cuppa and an eye on the news ..yawn..
    my background is varied…. although retired for nearly three years joiner, joinery instructor for the most part local council market officer for last 13 yrs and most importantly following my MP around doing photo shoots several times a year [did weddings and stuff you see] so i got seconded at times to go walk about with mps and euro mps [right bloody arsholes some of them] but not i repeat not Jenny Chapman she was ace still is .
    and of course listening to the crack so to speak
    having read for the social sciences via the open university and Sussex uni and tees side poly etc etc
    waaaay back in 1983 ..so i had an interest to say the least

    that might explain my interest …i do think that non voting people the apathetic may be more likely to vote if it was made easier in the 38 D way rather than the postal /treck to polling station. get a taxi people at work/in bed cant be arsed don’t know what i am voting for types

    whereby one can log onto there computer /or someone elses read and watch videos on the policies..
    and then make a valued informed judgement

    and simply click the mouse button.
    i would wager 2 things.

    the promises and policies would have to be displayed in layman’s terms …
    and would have to be realistic and achievable and for the benefit of the vast majority ..

    secondly the number of voters would go through the roof
    comparatively speaking.


    WILL BE RECORDED AS IS THE WAY OF THE COMPUTER so if said commitments are not adhered to at least mostly… well they will not be able to wriggle out of it
    like we see them doing on tv ..
    another thing about using 38 D TECHNO AND SKILLS
    ……..FOR NOW what thinkest thou

  • slegne

    Could we have a national vote where the overall percentage for each party would dictate the number of seats each has in a national assembly, which deals with national matters. Then more devolved powers for local assemblies voted in on the same principles, to deal with local matters. For elections set up some sort of independent funding source that allocates an equal expenditure fund for all parties that would have to be accounted for and open to scrutiny to eliminate backdoor funding. Can a requirement to vote be enshrined in law if all ballot papers contain a ‘none of the above’ option, or would that be too coercive.

  • Anonymous

    As you know I stood for Parliament in the last election, my manifesto was simple, MP’s should maintain an ongoing dialogue with their constituents, both to be able to represent them properly and to learn from them. I wondered then and still
    wonder now whether the whole structure of government (the small g is
    deliberate), politicians and civil servants, both national and local, are now redundant.

    In areas that require central co-ordination, within the country as a whole there is a vast body of skill, knowledge, expertise and experience not currently accessed by policy makers and it is technically feasible to access that expertise. It is for instance technically feasible to put together say two or three practical proposals for an economic policy for the country based on all the expertise within the country and to conduct an informed national debate on which of them the country prefers, the first part is a practical exercise, the second a moral decision. In areas which require less or no central regulation decisions could and I think should be made as
    close as possible to the people they affect, which is not an original idea. For instance, do qualified, experienced teachers and headteachers or even parents really need civil servants and politicians to tell them how to educate their
    children? Has this model resulted in an excellent system of education? Would we be better allowing individual schools to decide how to educate their children with systems set up to spread best practice?

    38 Degrees was not set up for this purpose but within its 2m contributors lies far more expertise than is accessed by government, within its structure lies far more skill in coordinating that expertise than is accessed by government. In about a week 38 Degrees canvassed 100,000 people on a particular topic and presented a concise summary of that evidence to a Government committee, could a Government department have done that, and if so why hadn’t they. The members of the committee in their saner moments seemed to be asking 38 Degrees for help in liaising with their constituents, something they seem incapable of doing, even among those few who are trying to do so. Maybe the machinery of government which has operated for centuries can adapt to the demands now being placed on it but maybe it can’t and we need a new structure, a structure far more like that of 38 Degrees.

  • Icarus

    Hi David. Well, by “better” I would say they have to convey their propaganda in a more insidious way because of that stated aim of impartiality. At least with the right wing press they wear their hearts on their sleeves. With them you know that they are openly coming with a political agenda. With the BBC you have a much more sophisticated propaganda tool. Most people unquestioningly accept BBC coverage as unbiased and reliable but as you will see if you read in detail all the excellent research media lens has done, the BBC is a key part of the establishment power structure. Nothing is more important than winning the hearts and minds of the population.
    I think you are right in your assertion that access to the media has to be fair if there is to be any hope of an open society and democracy. I would say that media ownership should be hugely restricted and that all political parties of any persuasion get exactly the same air time and coverage.

  • Icarus

    I think it would be tough idea to sell with limited chances of general understanding Mikelroi. Why not just change the voting system so that it accurately represents all the Nazis, Communists, Gays, Tories, Socialists, Greens, Independents, Liberals etc in the country according to their true numbers. Then as people start to see that their vote does actually count, they will come back to voting and you might see a Green Party Socialist alliance running the country. This would much more accurately reflect the population’s views as we know that the majority of the nation supports broadly socialist views – that is pro free NHS, pro free education, pro decent minimum wage, pro decent pensions, anti-war etc, etc

  • Anonymous

    When I read that first bit Icarus I thought good grief – what are we both proposing! Better to keep what we have than loose complete anarchy on our country! My idea -refusing to vote for the usual suspects at all was meant more as a short term demonstration to all politicians of Voter Power. We surely need such a demonstration to say, “There – we control you – not the other way around. Now come up with a more equal, representative, and cost efficient system of running our country” In effect a bloodless revolution and – as you rightly proposed – a catalyst for serious change.
    I agree in principle however most of your final sentence which could be the ultimate aim. But frankly I think we need a new political platform, a new more representative “Peoples Progressive Party” or similar. Don’t be so sure of the majority accepting the core socialist principles, e.g Clause 4 of the old Labour manifesto which effectively summed up the way to break up the capitalist power strangleholds. The majority have sat on their hands and allowed the sell-off of prior state assets and industries, mostly at a considerable loss – without a strong protest!

  • Anonymous

    Agreed Louis. My Conservative MP has been exactly the same. Afraid to push too hard for ALL his constituents main concerns and merely acting as a party/government conduit in reply to my representations to him.

  • Anonymous

    Some good points in my view. But a bit harsh on the print section of the media. What about all the talking heads on the broadcast media? They also wield enormous power. I’ve watched some pure slanging matches on C4 News! Presenters? Political activists! The Broadcast lot are also very selective in deciding the news agenda. Let’s start by having more UK News and less journalists chat!

  • Anonymous

    There are only two constituencies in the country where the majority is greater than the number of non voters, a more valid strategy might be to encourage non voters to vote for the number two, if they all did it every MP bar those two would lose their job Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

  • Anonymous

    agree on much you say alex
    as usual we know now after the events that it was gross injustice on Iraq ….i do wonder what difference it would have made IF at the time 38D had had the following it has today
    and if the members had been voting a] how many would have voted and witch way

    and if it was millions

    against the invasion …
    would it have made any difference ..
    against the very powerful Yankee influence
    ??? what thinkest thou

  • Anonymous

    Yes, possible. But I would have thought that summing up all the criticisms that David got is often boiled down to “They are all the same” “all in it for themselves” “They don’t seem to care about us or our views”. Just electing one of the three main parties candidates is just going to help that party – not solve the issues! So I maintain that by boycotting the three main political party’s candidates will guarantee some sort of seismic shift in outlook. Imagine – most Con/Lab/Lib MP’s losing their deposits and all power over us. Did you not notice how panicky all the leaders became when UKIP started eating in to their voting shares? They have started to come up with new policy statements nearly every week to try and win back the initiative. So just think of the effect of all three losing their voter power base! It would say (in a very LOUD voice) we the voters are in charge! I cannot think of a simpler, easier plan to implement for a quick result. Make the 2015 General Election the biggest upset in British politics ever! There would not even be a need for NOTA on the ballot paper either – just don’t vote for any of the “big” three, simples. We could bring them to their knees – overnight – Wallop!

  • Tachyons

    I have just watched the video of David Babb’s submission to the Parliamentary Committee, and it was an eye-opening hour of my time very well spent. Not only did David give an excellent account of himself, and of the views of the 38 degree members, but he did it with grace, tolerance and good humour. This contrasted strongly with the manner and demeanour of some of the committee members. From their behaviour, one would not have realised that David had been invited by the Committee to submit evidence, which, to some, seemed to be unacceptable before he even had a chance to present himself. They rather unwittingly demonstrated all that is wrong with the relationship between some MPs and the public at large. I emphasise ‘some’ MPs, because other members of the panel, especially the chairman, conducted themselves in an engaged and respectful way.
    It is not at all clear to me what will result from the Committee’s deliberations, and for those who would prefer to shoot the messenger rather than hear the message clearly little will be achieved. However, I can only wish the chairman well in drawing useful conclusions from this submission, and hoping that he can identify ways to change the culture in parliament in order to facilitate greater engagement by the public in the political process.

  • Tim Hart

    After being flattered by your invitation into the corridors of
    power I expected that you would be seduced into joining the establishment. I believe this was the intention behind your
    invitation. The MPs, in the most inept rendering
    of the good cop-bad cop act, made that patently clear. Alternately brow-beating and enticing you in
    an effort to get you to join the fold; to concede to become one of those ‘chosen’
    to hold power, with the sombre responsibility to ‘guide the masses.’ I didn’t think it was possible for me to hold
    our parliamentarians in lower esteem, but after watching the antics of this
    group of MPs during your session I have an even lower opinion of them; perhaps
    even lower than MPs seem to have of their own constituents. In the face of this shabby treatment by MPs you
    conducted yourself with dignity and integrity by giving what I suspect was a
    fair representation of the survey of 38 degree members. As to the central question of democratic
    participation, I believe it is a mistake to propagate the myth that democracy
    can be strengthened by increasing voter participation. This will merely give succour to those that
    seek to perpetuate a parliamentary system which is contaminated by individual
    self-interest and whose members are beholding to a corporate elite at the
    expense of a hapless electorate. My view
    is that unless there is an option to vote for: ‘none of the above’ on the
    ballot paper, one’s civic duty is best fulfilled by not voting at all. Why not put this simple notion to your
    members and see what the balance of opinion is?

  • R5oss

    Well, I’ve watched the session through and noted several points, but must admit I’d have been less polite than David in my replies !!!.

    1) The lady MP who was TOLD not to bother consulting with her electorate, since she had been given a Mandate. The mindset behind this is just another example of the arrogance of the “Party MP’s”. When is she going to be de-selected ?.

    2) The male MP who left after 10mins, appeared to have no comprehension that the survey results did not indicate where any of our political alliances fell. Only that it showed how we voted previously / might vote in future. And his ability to misrepresent the results in the belief that they “proved his view”, yet another example of the arrogance of the “Party MP’s”.

    3) As for the “morally bankrupt” MP who felt the need to state (at least twice) that he only claimed/spent what he was “legally” entitled to. It’s one of those life things, if they are in the spotlight then ‘accuse/attack/cast dispersion’ on those around to try to deflect any inquisition of themselves. There was nothing “Right,
    Honourable, or Gentlemanly” about his behaviour, yet another example of the arrogance of the “Party MP’s”.

    4) There also seemed to be a lack of understanding by those on the Committee. We are not attacking Parliament, only the politicians / political parties / corruption & vested interests that are screwing the system.

    5) As for ‘only give positive things’ to help improve the situation, see 1-4 above.

    6) Finally the Chairman – the veiled threat that their support was only available if
    we did it ‘their way, don’t rock the boat, and come into the fold like good little sheep’. Ummm.

  • kevan


  • Leslie

    I have just watched the recording of David Babbs and found it truly inspiring. His manner, what he said, how he dealt with the MPs in a calm and assertive way, whilst always showing respect, was very impressive. He did not allow them to bully or patronise him, although many of them tried to do so and behaved appallingly.

    He was excellent in his responses, stood his ground and didn’t hold back.

    He showed great resolve and courage and behaved with dignity,integrity and respect, which is more than can be said for the majority of people on the committee. In my view, he definitely came out on top and showed them up for the pompous, arrogant, patronising bunch of people that we have become accustomed to, who are only in it for their own gain and self ego and care little about what their constituents think.

    The behaviour of two of the MPs, and, to some extent, the Chair, who told David off for being negative about Chope in his absence, even though Chope had rudely walked out, without having the decency to listen to what David had to say (why he bothered attending, I don’t know), has just cemented how I feel about politicians! No wonder the country is in the state it is! Gives us all very little hope!

    Very well done David and keep up the excellent work!

  • Judy Whitelegg

    Thank you David, I feel you covered a wide spectrum of concerns and general feelings the public raised issues they feel effect their voting or view on politics.
    Sadly you came across arrogance bad mannered and disrespectful MPs hence the reason this country has lost it’s back bone…….
    Nobody listens to anyone shouting.
    We’ll done David you have done the people proud xx

  • zoe

    Excellent work David! I watched you yesterday speaking with the M.P’s and think you handled it wonderfully.
    The chair person made it clear you should ‘work together’. My only fear now is that they may try to persuade you to hold-back, or to go about your work in a way that doesn’t have so much impact! I hope this won’t be the case!
    There are many many people right now who want to see change, and who believe you are the man to make it happen.
    I envisage they will likely now attempt to use to encourate people to vote int he elections, as people who are powerful are also useful. But then you are intelligent enough to know that!
    You handled their questions beautifully.


  • zoe

    I completely agree with this gentleman! I know of many people who do not vote, for the very reason that they see voting as pointless. All parties appear to sing-from-the-same-hym-sheet, and do not listen to constituents the moment they have been voted into power.
    The gagging laws in the UK confirm this.
    I also agree entirely the intention to invite you to ‘discuss matters’ was to seduce you into joining-ranks. That was transparent.

  • zoe

    I liked that you stood up for your self when the chair person objected (politely) to your questioning of the man who walked out. Perhaps he anticipated you might point out about his affiliations with the tobacco industry!

    An excellent come-back, in that it was not your fault he walked out.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone still want to play the game?
    More fool you if you think we have representation.

  • Grant McAlpine

    Good job David. There are many good comments below that I agree with so won’t repeat them.
    Listening to the presentation it struck me that 38 Degrees is at an interesting stage in the life cycle of activist organisations. And 38 Degrees does/will have this lifecycle. The uniqueness 38 Degrees has in using this particular application of internet technology, or “rent a mob” as some detractors would put it, is the facility to gather opinions quickly and make MPs aware of those opinions. It is not now safe for MP’s to consider that they can work in a vacuum that lasts approx. 4 years. That is the plus side. However, the danger is that the organisation may just become and be seen as another “us and them” style detractor. And I did hear that aspect start to come across during the presentation/debate when the pressure was on.
    Given an option to score the “debate” (and it did seem like one from time to time!) between David and the MPs and chairman that were there to listen, I would say it was a draw. A couple of points made from the committee I do find positive – try and maintain neutral terminology (gagging bill?) and the chairman’s persistent request to try to find some common ground to work positively. I think the chairman genuinely believes that 38 Degrees is one organisation that could provide the vehicle to understand how to re-engage the voter.
    I have just finished reading Charles Eisenstein’s latest book: The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. It maybe worth the core group of 38 degrees giving this a read if you haven’t already done so. Charles suggests that we are the same people looking at the same things but through different eyes. The trick for 38 Degrees to make the transition to become a uniquely responsible organisation in our journey of transformation, and therefor aiding the transformation of MPs, will be to work collaboratively and in a non-threatening way. Threats and an “us and them” style has only ever ended in replacing one unpopular organisation with yet another. Perhaps it might be time to embrace collective transformation. Just a thought….

  • Alan Crabb

    Couldn.t agree more. Once we stop pretending we have a representative democracy and act accordingly- don’t vote, the quicker things will change.

  • Gershwin O’Moomoo

    How will they change?

  • Alan

    It will change because the more of us that recognise those in power do not represent our interests and realise it is a con the more the legitimacy of those in power is weakened.

  • Bob

    All parties and all colours are the same, they all follow the “Corporate Bandwagon”. They are only interested in themselves and their pockets. If you have money you have power, if you have power you want more and then you get more money. The majority are from privileged backgrounds and go from private or very good schools to University and then in to Politics without knowing how people work, play and how they interact with each other, they are clueless. Don’t fall for their trap, give up voting now, and tell them so when they beg for your vote.