Manifesto, Manifesto, Manifesto

Strange times bring forth strange fruit, what will the wine-making be like.
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
19 February 2010

Listened to Mark Thomas on BBC Radio 3 engaging with an audience on what they want in his People's Manifesto. The book has some hilarious suggestions you can get if from Amazon Mark Thomas Presents the People's Manifesto. I distrust entertainers leading our politics, they reinforce the sense that it is all a game. But this is more democratic than most, gives form to popular anger and validates it and displays an English wit and inventiveness. Thomas has a genuine sense of anger, what in his case can justly be called 'edge'. Also he works hard and engages with the public. The proposals run from renationalising the railways (under private ownership the public subsidies are much higher), to 'none of the above' on ballot papers, to bombing tax havens. The most radical refers to a two-year old idea from the Ministry of Truth of making it an offence for any elected official to make or publish a statement they know to be false, misleading or deceptive. They made a TV film, you should have seen Jack Straw's face when the proposed legislation was put to him on camera! You can get the DVD and also vote to support (or oppose) the Abolition of Deception Bill, over 80,000 have done so, here.

It matters more now because of the change in mood that is generating many initiatives. One of the earliest attempts to turn from, lets call it "profound unease with the whole system", to a coherent response was Douglas Carswell's The Plan. The right has been just as busy as the left. I see that Eamon Butler of the Adam Smith Institute has produced The Alternative Manifesto, described by a friendly reviewer on Amazon has so outside the box that he has thrown the box away.

And today, The Jury Team bounced back as a copy of their General Election Policy Document 'Working Together for The People Politicians Forgot' dropped through the letter box. It is the creation of Paul Judge, and it has turned from being a policyless venture apart from having independent candidates chosen by an open primary to a full scale list of policies based on market research. As Judge puts it in his introduction, "The distinguishing feature of an entrepreneur is that he or she does not just have a good idea but also expends effort and resources in actually implementing it". Sounds just like an agitator to me (that's a compliment).

At least he doesn't talk about being an "alternative", a dreadful conceit taken up by many a hippy after the sixties.

Guy Aitchison and I have started to collect all the new initiatives in a spread sheet and we will publish the initial results soon. And suggestions welcome.

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