Why not join 'Hang 'em'?

Instead of a hung parliament being an unintended consequence of a close electoral race in next month's UK election, why not positively demand the frustration of the two main party leaderships and vote for democracy?
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
15 April 2010

Yesterday and today, a number of individuals and organisations (including volunteers from OK and Ekklesia) have been launching an online campaign to encourage people to vote for a hung parliament. is to get as much support as possible - starting with its facebook page - to prevent David Cameron's Conservatives from taking over, while making sure that Lord Mandelson and Gordon Brown do not ‘carry on’.

We need as many Green, independent candidates, SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs as possible. We want to open up the political system and defy the political class. We have got to renew democracy in Britain. They won't, so hang 'em until they do.

I am used to those who get called ‘trusted and experienced observers’ in politics saying “it isn't possible.” Given their influence and dedication to making sure it isn't possible, they are probably right for this election, although you never know.


The aim of Hang ’em is to get as much support as possible to prevent David Cameron's Conservatives from taking over, while making sure that Lord Mandelson and Gordon Brown do not carry on. We want as many Green, independent candidates, SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs as possible. We want to open up the political system and defy the political class. And an increasing body of opinion and polling evidence suggests that the idea is very popular.

Something like Hang 'em is vital. Otherwise, the result is likely to be massive abstentions and those not voting will once again be the silent and powerless winners in numerical terms, and losers politically.

In this campaign, something has changed. To put it personally, I have been involved in campaigns from protesting against the war in Vietnam to Charter 88 to last year's Convention on Modern Liberty. All have been wake-up calls. They have appealed to both the government and the people to replace one course of action with another.

Hang 'em is different. We, the people, have woken up to the fact that (whatever the few honourable individual exceptions) the political class is rapacious, lying and incompetent and we want our country and democracy back.

Hitherto those experienced experts saying “it will never happen” went on to say “the people are fundamentally happy with the way we run Britain”. They were right. And I had to admit this through gritted teeth. Now, my jaw is relaxed. The political class may still be in charge, as conceited and shortsighted as before. But they know they have been found out.

When the expenses crisis broke in 2009, Gordon Brown said he always knew trust had to be "restored". Opposition leader David Cameron called for "power to the people", no less. As Timothy Garton Ash, one of our most distinguished international commentators, wrote in the Guardian it was "a constitutional moment", meaning one where the way we govern ourselves should have started to change.

It didn't. They missed the opportunity. They let off steam but didn't pour the kettle.

As a result, Hang 'em is one of a number of campaigns from Power2010 to Progressive Parliament seeking to make the constitutional moment happen the only way it now can – from below. The more we co-operate in this, the better.

And if all the various independent and Hang 'em campaigns were really successful they would make Nick Clegg prime minister. I think the Lib Dems should go for it. Yet they seem to think the idea is too radical. They say the right things. I'm sure they'd do many of them in power. But they behave too much like just another party.

I believe the Lib Dems should support the Greens in the two or three seats they could win in return for Green support in all Liberal Democrat marginals. They should say to the SNP in Scotland, and Plaid Cymru in Wales, that they will fight them like anything in future elections but this time given the crisis they should make electoral pacts.

They won't. It is as if they think they are the only pluralists (note the irony). It's a great pity and no one should expect gratitude if Hang 'em were to succeed. But in the present circumstances many would see it as a welcome relief if Nick Clegg became prime minister (and wouldn't the Labour and Tory bosses be cross!).

Such a scenario is very unlikely indeed. What is inevitable, unless we start to do something about it now, is that the political class will reshufle the pack, get the agreement of the media that it has "cleaned up its act" and carry on as before. Thanks to the internet and social media we can challenge this. If we can grow 'Hang 'em' through to the election we can demonstrate that it is now possible for voters to change the rules of the game - and refuse the frankly insulting non-choice the two main parties are putting before us.

The first start is to become a fan of hang 'em on facebook or sign up on its website. And ask your friends to do so as well. There are lots of links on the facebook wall to a growing body of opinion that wants a hung parliament and longer articles and discussion. We have got to renew democracy in Britain. They won't, so hang 'em until they do.

Earlier version appeared in Comment is Free at the Guardian and on Ekklesia. Click here to add a Hang 'em banner or button to your website. 

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.


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