20 May 2009

Open Source Politics

Douglas Carswell is the English Tory MP whose private member's enterprise yesterday helped to get rid of the Speaker of the House of Commons - a man who has had his snout, hands, and feet in the trough of the MP's expenses scandal, and who even more importantly has tried everything he could do to prevent the scandal being investigated. So - good riddance to a corrupt (and completely incompetent) functionary, and well done to a parliamentary newcomer for helping to bring about the first resignation of a Speaker for 300 years. But when he was interviewed on Newsnight, Carswell came out with a phrase in defense of his action which seemed to me like a bolt of lightning opening the way to the future - 'Open Source Politics'.

I have written about the benefits of Open Sources here, here, here, and here. It's an approach to technology which is powered by an ultra-democratic sharing of information, making software and data available free for people to use as they wish. And it has resulted in a revolutionary transformation of the way things are done - both in business and information technology. But I have never heard it used in conjunction with politics before.

He introduced the notion of 'open primaries' whereby local people select their own members of parliament - not having them parachuted in by the party apparatus, as is still the case in the rotten old-fashioned system we have now. This was supplemented by the equally attractive idea of recalling and de-selecting MPs who failed to serve the interests of their constituents. It's a bottom-up approach which clearly has enormous potential - even though it's likely to frighten the establishment, because it's so radical - which is perhaps why it appealed to me. When I checked, there's an entry on Wikipedia explaining more. I imagine copies of his book The Plan will start flying off the shelves pretty soon now.


skipper said...

Interesting ideas but not true to say candidates are 'parachuted' into constituencioes by party machines. Most are selected by local mamagement committees which jealously guard their independence, whether Labour or Tory. Many invite local memberships to select candidates after speeches in a free vote. For example, I was in the asudience when Ann Coffey was chosen for Stockport Labour back in the 1980s; mind you I wouldn't vote for her now...

This not to say open primaries would not be a good idea but is merely to correct the impression that we are already in the banana republic category cos we aren't.

MANTEX said...

I take your point – but some MPs have been parachuted in – look at Shaun Woodward in St Helens of all bloody places!

And they were trying to do that with the Gould girl – an attempt which I think has now failed.

But I am very intrigued by Carswell and Hannan's application of Open Source theory to the field of politics.

I'm on a mini-break reading week soon. Maybe I'll get a copy of 'The Plan' to read on the plane.