The whole thing began with a political decision. In the words of
the Prime Minister of the day:
You know better than I that we a have a problem. Membership
of political parties is down, the last election saw a record low in voter
turnout and you, the people just arent engaged anymore. We havent
given you anything to be engaged about. I recognise that and today I make a
commitment to you, the Great British public, to change that.
This democracy of ours, one that has been adopted by nations
across the globe, is based on basic fundamental human rights. The right of the
people to have a voice and to be ruled by the majority. That is what underpins
our freedom, our prosperity and our social justice.
Without that voice, that true representation, our democracy
will fail to operate in the way we all need it to. Which is why this Government
has decided to do the opposite of our predecessors and tackle this issue once
and for all, tackling it in a way that is not only fit for purpose but fit for
So today, it gives me great pleasure to launch what I
believe is one of the most radical constitutional changes this, or indeed any
other nation, has seen for many generations. What I am announcing today will
put power back where it belongs, where it comes from and where it should
remain. In the hands of every single one of you.
This new policy will mean the end of an old fashioned and
frankly inconvenient means of administering democracy. Its remarkable to
me that we still expect you all to take time out of your busy days to go to the
local school or community centre once every four or five years, mark a bit of
paper and then head all the way back home.
Thats just not feasible in todays digital age
and I just dont think it is right to expect you, the voters, to do that
anymore. Which is why we are, and I say this will no little pride, changing the
face of democracy.
Today we are launching the Peoples Politician, a
unique opportunity for everyone in this country to vote for one of their own
into a position of power in Parliament. This individual, who will be chosen by
you through a rigorous selection process in a brand new reality TV programme to
be screened on the BBC every Saturday night, will bring your hopes and dreams,
your fears and troubles direct to Parliament. This individual will be your
voice. Their sole purpose will be to represent your views as voted every
Saturday night. It is a direct, immediate and proportional democracy for a
I simply will not entertain the idea that a remote and
unrepresentative Parliamentary system is acceptable any longer. You deserve
more and we are giving you more. So I implore you, accept this challenge and
watch the Peoples Politician which starts this Saturday. We are bringing
democracy to you in a manner that suits you direct to you living rooms
where you can now make the decisions that matter from the comfort and safety of
This is a unique opportunity and I urge you to grab it with
both hands or both remotes [chuckle and smile here] and make the choice
for who you want to be the Peoples
Have you seen this crap?
I turned to see one of my colleagues pass the draft speech to
Have I seen it? I responded. Im running
Which, unfortunately, was true. I had never before, in all my
years working in the civil service, come across such a cynical, patronising and
disrespectful government initiative. One thing in that speech was true - there
was a problem with engagement of the electorate. They just didnt care
anymore. They didnt vote, they didnt listen to the political
debates of the day and it didnt seem to bother them which party was in
power at any given time. As long as they were allowed to get on with their
lives, they were happy enough for whoever had the desire to run the country to
do so. On behalf of the people of course.
The government knew it had to do something. There had been a
steady decline in voter turnout since the 50s and in the last election, it
hovered close to the 50% mark. Politicians may not be the brightest bulbs in
the box but even they could recognise that if fewer than 50% of people actually
bothered to vote, our democracy, our whole political system would begin to look
a bit shaky. A sham at best and corrupt and broken at worst. So this lot took
action, as they put it and responded to the growing constitutional
crisis. In tackling an issue that their predecessors had avoided, they were
going to do the right thing and get the people engaged in the political process
Only they didnt. Rather than look at the root cause of the
problem, which was of course themselves, they thought up this ridiculous
Peoples Politician idea. Rather than understand and accept that it was
their behaviour as a class that had turned the people off, they chose to
believe that it was the fault of the populace, which was just too damned lazy
to get off the couch to vote. Rather than recognise that they, the politicians
had long since stopped genuinely representing their constituents, the decided
to install a representative of the people in their grand little club.
This was the bit that really got me, that made me realise that
the whole system was genuinely rotten and was probably, heartbreakingly, beyond
repair. The very fact that the politicians believed that the people needed a
representative in Parliament showed just how far gone they really were. They
werent just out of touch, they were in another dimension.
They seemed to have forgotten, either wilfully or through
intellectual neglect, that the very reason they were in Parliament every day,
the very reason they were travelling to London, the very reason they were
sitting on their little committees, was to represent the will of the people.
That they were so brazen about the fact that the populace
currently didnt have a representative in Parliament and needed to get one
through some trashy reality TV programme, deeply depressed me. If this was a
success and people actually took part, the politicians would have won. They
would have been able to show the people, without shame or any sense of decency,
that they had robbed them of their constitutional rights with the consent of
those same people. Raped them without a whimper of refusal. Taken the last
vestiges of self respect from us all.
I never did have the highest respect for the intellectual vigour
of our politicians but in this instance I dont believe it was stupidity
they were exhibiting. They knew exactly what they were doing and why they were
doing it. The system worked insofar as we voted them in and furnished them with
prestige and power but what was increasingly missing was the validity of their
position. If the people were not transparently engaged and having a real say in
the political process, as a political class and system, it stank of illegality.
The real reason they did this in the way they did was that their
arrogance, their sense of entitlement and their belief in the stupidity of the
masses led them to the conclusion that they could get away with it.
They genuinely believed that the people would fall for it and
would get on board with this new Peoples Politician programme and vote in
numbers that they had never done before. The politicians had no respect for
their voters, they had long since dispensed with that.
Its difficult to pinpoint in my memory when it became
clear to me that the political class had ceased to give us respect. I had
joined the civil service from university and in those 18 years I had seen
different parties take control and many individuals pass through, with their
own ideas and agendas. But I had always believed the lie MPs were the
representatives of the people. They were in Parliament to push forward our
agenda, argue for issues that mattered to us, fight our corner. That was why we
voted for them, why they existed at all.
But by the time the Peoples Politician was launched, I had
discarded those juvenile beliefs. Although I was often dealing directly with
MPs, saw them in the cafes and bars in Westminster and bumped into them coming
and going in Parliament, you didnt need that proximity to see that they
were all acting in a play, performing for our benefit. They were approximating
what they thought people wanted to hear because they just didnt know
anymore. They had long since stopped listening.
You could see this whenever they appeared on TV or were quoted
in the papers. When they mugged for the camera at the opening of some school
sustainability garden or touring an ice cream lid factory in Sheffield or the
tender touch offered to the sick at the new ICU unit at some hospital
somewhere. The most offensive aspect of that was the pretence of care. They
were acting, always acting because it was what the pollsters and their advisers
told them that we, the people, the ones that vote them in, wanted to see. They
really didnt give a shit about any of the photo opportunities they went
to or the people they feined empathy with. Believe me, I had the
privilege of hearing them talk about such events.
Where are we going? Why? Oh, right I see. So should I be
looking concerned in this one or is it more of admiration of their stoicism?
OK, Im with you. So initially concern at their condition and then I move
on to admiration then a bit of you are what makes me proud to
British stuff? Great, lets get this over with. Ive got lunch
with the Saatchis at 12.30.
Politicians have been performing like this for time immemorial
but what started out as glad handing and baby-kissing in constituencies had
become the cynical and wholesale exploitation of people for the benefit of
political careers. We were there simply to facilitate the pursuit of their
career - a prop, a patsy and we gladly participated in it.
Worse than this, politicians had lost all sense of ideology, of
purpose, reason for doing what they did. They did nothing because they believed
it was the right thing to do. The only did what would help their career, get
them into positions of power or keep them there once they had won them. The
idea that they would believe in an actual idea was frankly ridiculous. One MP
told me the days of ideas were long gone. Now was the age function
Parliament and the political process was about allowing the country to
function. It wasnt about guiding the country in a certain direction in
the pursuit of an ideological ideal. It was to perpetuate the status quo, a
status quo that benefited only politicians and their chums in business. They
were custodians. Well-suited, well-fed, expensive and entitled janitors.
And you could see this lack of conviction when they were
interviewed on the late night news shows. Traditionally these news programmes
would pick a contentious issue of the day, drag some MP in to talk about it and
then give him a verbal kicking. It was a parody of holding politicians to
account. The interviewer represented us, the people but it was a charade. Both
the politician and the interviewer were going through the motions. A puppet
show to keep the people clapping, happy and infantilised.
What was most telling about these interviews was that the vast
majority of politicians, when pushed on their position on something, just could
not talk around the issue. They would simply repeat the same three lines over
and over again. I got the idea that they simply didnt know what they were
talking about and were parroting what they had been told to say by their
advisers and PR people. If theyd had any idea whatsoever of the rationale
behind the subject, the decision or the strategy, then as cognisant human
beings, surely they could have argued the case with some passion, some
But no. They acted like robots programmed to say three things
and three things only. Any deviation from the script and they experienced a
malfunction of the nervous system, repeating the same lines over and over,
regardless of the question posed. If you have a look youll still find
some of those old clips. Watching them now is chilling. These people used to
run our country. They used to make decisions for us. We used to permit them to
make decisions for us. They used to be our masters, our masters until that
first Saturday when things began to change.