Why our Common Decency campaign might just fix British politics


Polling station

Why Common Decency? What’s it all about? Well, it’s not a political party. It’s a plan to give us a Britain free of the corruption and inequality which is driving us all mad – a Britain in which our voice will truly be heard.  Many people have asked me why I decided not to stand as an MP in the coming election. I hope this will explain. I’m hoping to achieve something that could not be done by standing for election. I treasure my “colour blindness’ as regards political parties. I believe there are good, decent MPs in every party.  But too many – a majority – of the current MPs are sitting there, arrogantly ignoring our wishes, following party lines, and blurring the edges of what is decent behaviour in an elected representative. Over the last five years lobbying in Portcullis House and in the Parliament building itself, we have seen close-up how Parliament really works.  We have seen debates for which only a handful of MPs turn up, followed by a division bell signifying a vote, upon which hordes of MPs swarm out of the bar and the restaurant, or wherever they’ve been hanging out – with no idea of what they’re voting on, but obeying the party whips.  This is democracy ? We have seen debates brought about by petitions on the Government’s own website, not least our own petition, eventually signed by over 300,000 people who were disgusted by David Cameron’s doomed badger cull.  Following these debates we have seen votes carried against Government policy, yet the ministers involved openly showed their indifference and contempt, and carried on as if nothing had happened.  We see inequality everywhere.  We see the poor getting poorer – we see the rich, protected by Cameron’s clique, getting richer, through exemptions from taxes and even, shockingly, through government subsidies to their businesses – for instance the cruel bird-shooting industry.  We see MPs voting on issues in which they have a financial interest, or family links – and this is democracy ? We hear ministers telling us the National Debt has been halved, when in fact it has increased over the last five years.  

Outside in the street we meet people everywhere who are disgusted and disillusioned with the behaviour of MPs, but who feel that voting is a waste of time … since the ‘first past the post’ electoral system ensures that their single vote can make no difference if they live in a ‘safe seat’ constituency.  There is an old saying that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it.  Right now we are seeing thousands of billboards going up, shouting propaganda at us.  They all cost money.  The Green Party last time spent roughly 325 thousand pounds on their entire election campaign.  The Conservative party spent … ?  Guess ?  Over 14 million pounds.

That’s fair, is it ? That’s the kind of democracy we want ? And this funding was provided by obscenely rich sponsors – the very people whose riches are protected by Cameron’s gang.  Surprise, surprise !  It’s going on as we speak.  You and I have just 15 hours every five years to influence Government policy by our vote.  Powerful business interests influence policy every day.  There are so many abuses I am running out of space, but you can read more on the Common Decency website. 

After you’ve realised how shocking the truth really is, and if you agree with our conclusion that things are desperate enough to warrant a radical change, read on!  What do we do about it?  I believe I have a scheme which could give us a better Parliament on May 7th, the first step towards eliminating the corruption which is depriving all of us of our voice and robbing us of the democracy we deserve.  Here is a quick summary of the Common Decency plan:  

1) Even if you think it’s a waste of time, VOTE! In the past, so many of us have not actually got as far as the polling booth because we perceived our constituency as a ‘safe seat’, and felt that our one vote would make no difference. I believe not just that we all ought to vote because people died to give us that right; more than that, I believe if we all adopt the Common Decent strategy on 7 May, even safe seats can be toppled, creating a new kind of parliament. 

2) Vote colour-blind; ie don’t worry about which political party you’re voting for – look for the person who will actually listen to your views and represent you in parliament. Assess them on the basis of the ‘Pillars of Common Decency’ (listed on the Common Decency website home page).  We are talking about a commitment from MPs to vote according to their constituents wishes and their moral conscience rather than what the whips tell them to do.  Question your candidates.  Ask them if they will protect the National Health Service from being sold off to businesses for profit.  Ask them if they will support the Hunting Act to protect wild animals against sadistic blood sports.  Ask them if they will support badger culling when all the evidence tells us it can only make the bovine TB problem worse.  Ask them if they will work for reform in the House of Commons.  If they have already been in the House, find out if they turned up for debates, and how they voted … for their own advancement in their party, or according to your wishes … you who put them there.  

3) Then give us feedback via the Common Decency site … tell us your decision – who you think is most decent – and why.     

4) Look at the pie chart for your constituency on our CD website (it’s in “May 7th 2015 – search constituencies to find your MP”). Notice what happened last time.  Look at how many people DIDN’T vote last time – and realise that, of the power of the non-voters could be unleashed, no seat would really be safe, and no vote would wasted.  But to achieve this, we need to coordinate our efforts.

4) LOOK FOR OUR ADVICE on May 7th to confirm the best strategy – we will be advising on the basis of the feedback we’ve received and what we think will produce the best result for a new compassionate order for people, and animals in Britain.   

5) TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS (who also think their vote would be wasted) to do the same !  If EVERY former non-voter in Britain followed this course (including me!), we would definitely turn the whole system upside down. In reality we will not succeed in every case, but the more people that come on board, the more we will achieve – hopefully enough to secure a new standard of behaviour in Government.  

How will this work? Breaking the vice-like grip of the outdated Two-Party system, and putting instead a mix of decent MPs of all ‘colours’ in that ancient House of Commons will make sure that issues have to be discussed honestly and fairly, according to what is best for the public, rather than what is best for one all-powerful political party. That’s how we get our VOICE back! Once this new order is in place, we can REALLY get to work reforming Britain … rooting out the rotten core of unfairness which dominates our whole lives. JOIN US !  

Edited version published in THE GUARDIAN
17 April 2015

© brianmay.com