Jury Team – restoring democracy and accountability to politics
Hence his name for the new party: the Jury Team.
Sir James Goldsmith was worth around £3 billion. He poured £20 million into his Referendum Party, and although it polled over 800,000 votes in the 1997 general election, it achieved little and died with him. Sir Paul Judge is worth a paltry £30 million, and his Jury Team is about to achieve even less and go exactly the same way.
The Jury Team website explains its objectives:
‘We are an umbrella organisation for Independent candidates who want to run for public office. We’re a group of people who are sick of the way politics is conducted in this country - where politicians show greater loyalty to the party whip and climbing the greasy pole than voting in line with their constituents’ needs and priorities.
‘We think the whole system is becoming rotten - that the expenses scandals aren’t just a case of ‘a few bad apples’ but that the barrel itself might be contaminated. The recent ‘cash for amendments’, the second homes fandango, claiming for nannies, hiring relatives - all of this points to a system that is lacking in accountability. Senior party figures are not reprimanded, because it would be harmful to the parties to lose them. There is collusion across the parties on this, and as a result, there seems to be little fear of reprisal.
‘We think Parliament would be better if it had some representation chosen as directly as possible by the voters, without the parties getting in the way. We think that Independents, winners of an Open Primary election, would be more accountable to their constituents and thus would be more transparent in their dealings.’
It is not that Cranmer does not support the objectives, for they are noble. Any initiative which seeks to reinvigorate democracy and enfranchise the alienated is to be welcomed. But by fielding a full complement of 72 candidates in the European elections in June as a prelude to the next general election, Jury Team risks perpetuating this appalling Labour government and damaging the only political force which can remove it and repair the damage it has inflicted upon the nation.
And the party scene is becoming a little over-crowded, with many now professing the same objectives of anti-sleaze, openness, accountability, transparency, Libertas UK launches this week, and then there is UKIP, the Libertarian Party UK, and the New Britain Party. Not to mention the Christian Party.
But at least they all have a mission statement to which all aspiring candidates must subscribe. Even the Libertarian Party has developed a method of herding cats.
But the Jury Team ‘party’ has no specific policies and no manifesto, for is not a party: it is a platform.
The theory is historical and sound. Prior to the 19th century there were individual MPs with either ‘Whig’ or ‘Tory’ leanings, but there was no clear-cut division in Parliament and no comprehensive party organisation. Jury Team candidates will attempt to be selected by local people who have concerns over local issues. But these are usually called councillors. To elevate dustbin collection in Grantham or the neighbour’s plans to build in his back yard to the principal criterion for a path to Westminster will diminish democracy by bringing it further into disrepute. Each candidate will be a unique ego, persuaded of the infallibility of the rightness of their own cause and dedicated to achieving what they set out to achieve, however antithetical such objectives may be to the other 645 members of Parliament. Each voice will be isolated, each hope dashed, each objective frustrated by mutually exclusive and diametrically-opposing forces. Ultimately, no-one will be heard and nothing achieved, leaving the supranational European Union to continue along its merry way. This is the ever-fracturing postmodern politics of post-democracy.
The era embodies a shift from the muffled majesty of grand narratives to the splintered autonomy of micro-narratives. Society is splintering into hundreds of sub-cultures and designer cults, each with its own language, code and life style. Postmodernity evidences a willingness to combine symbols from disparate codes or frameworks of meaning, even at the cost of disjunctions and eclecticism. It embraces spontaneity, fragmentation, superficiality and irony. It is pessimistic wishful thinking or nihilism with a smile.
We live in an age of market dominance and media branding. People may despise Labour, Conservative, Nike and Coca Cola, but the brand heightens awareness and symbolise an ethos. The brand is the incarnation of something less tangible. Of course, definitions become blurred and philosophies become indistinct, but that does not negate the power of the brand.
David Cameron has spent three years ‘decontaminating’ the Conservative brand. Whatever people may think of his efforts, they have worked. The Conservative Party is once again a credible electoral force, and one dedicated to cleaning up British politics and eradicating ‘sleaze’. The swift action taken against Derek Conway and certain MEPs is evidence of David Cameron’s intolerance of anything which brings politics into disrepute and of his desire to purge Parliament of corruption.
There is, of course, nothing to stop members of the BNP applying to Jury Team and using the platform for their odious message. This will do for Jury Team what the extremists did for UKIP. The moment there is one headline juxtaposing ‘Jury Team’ with those who wish to legalise paedophilia, throw homosexuals off a cliff or repatriate the Asians (for all of these personal manifestos would be permissible), the brand would be contaminated beyond repair. Jury Team will not survive the pathological leftward obsessions of the media.
The only restriction on potential candidates is that they must be ‘committed to the principles of good governance, including selflessness, integrity, openness and honesty’.
It is not clear who will scrutinise this ‘selflessness’, and all of these restrictions certainly permit Hizb-ut-Tahrir to use the platform for its religio-political objectives.
Jury Team says it hopes to attract some big names as candidates – those who are identified with a particular cause like Shami Chakrabarti, head of the human rights group Liberty, who has campaigned against the introduction of ID cards. But the fate of independent MP Martin Bell ought to sound a warning. He only entered Parliament on his anti-sleaze ticket because both Labour and the Liberal Democrats stood down to give him a clear run against Neil Hamilton. When he stood at the following general election against Eric Pickles, he lost.
Political parties need vision and coherence, for the modern electorate is attracted by unity and purpose. A ragbag of independents may sound laudable, but it is the politics of Cloud Cuckoo Land. Now is not the time for a new party, or even a new non-party. Now is the time for a new government.
According to a YouGov poll commissioned by Sir Ian, 55 per cent of people said they would vote for an independent if they thought the person stood a reasonable chance of being elected.
Aye, there’s the rub.