A month ago I announced publicly that I no longer had any intention of putting my name forward for the European Parliament election list for Labour. I made the right call, and nothing that has happened since then makes me in any way question my decision. But now, a month on, I publish below the blog entry I wrote on the very same day as “I give up” giving the alternative point of view. Don’t cringe too much due to the idealism!
“Be the change you want to see in the world” said Gandhi.
So here – in a very small way – is my answer.
Wherever you look there are immense political and economic challenges. The European Union is caught between economic stagnation and a lack of democratic legitimacy. In the UK while the Labour Party continues to rebound, abstention and cynicism about politics abounds, while the populist appeal of direct democracy is an ever-present. In this context the change I want to see in the world – in London, in the UK, and in the EU – is the reassertion of the values of social democracy and of representative democracy, the resurgence of good and clean government, and the renewal of trust in politics.
So how can I be that change?
Having followed EU politics for a decade and having first joined the Labour Party in 1996 I have plenty of experience seeing what does not work just now, and in some small way want to set out to fix some of the shortcomings. I hence intend to put my name forward for Labour’s list for London for the European Parliament elections; the selection process starts this autumn. I do not embark on this process with great hope, but at least some of the issues that are important for representative democracy at EU level can possibly be aired during the selection process.
The central question in representative democracy is trust, and what to do about its decline.
Why then should you trust me? You shouldn’t. Or at least I do not have the means here and now to demonstrate that you should trust me. What I do have is an assertion of my values, underlined over the years in what I have written on this blog, namely the need for the EU to endure, for it to become more efficient, more democratic and more equal. The values of social democracy asserted at EU level.
Beyond that I commit to complete openness in my conduct, so anyone can see how I put those values into practice. I will list every meeting I have during the selection process, and how I raise all my campaign finance. All speeches or presentations I give will be available online. I will use a wiki to crowd-source contributions to my candidate selection statement. If I am successful these commitments will continue – complete openness about my conduct as a candidate, and eventually perhaps as a MEP. It will then be for every individual to determine whether I live up to my values, whether I have earned their trust.
The internet is the best tool yet invented for mass collaboration and feedback but in the Labour Party and indeed in EU politics we have only begun to understand how the internet can transform citizen engagement with the political system. The starting point must always be to consult, to trust the wisdom of the people, to collaboratively work to solve our common problems. From the ACTA protests to Hugh’s Fish Fight we are not lacking examples of citizen engagement in EU decision making – these need to be the norm, not the exception.
So that is the change I want to see in the world – a more transparent, democratic and socially responsible EU – and I am putting myself forward for Labour’s EP list for London for 2014 as a small step towards those ends. Will you join me?
Note: this is a counterfactual. As with the original “I give up” comments are closed.