An organisation is needed but this will not be a conventional political party, rather it will be an association of like-minded people who are (in the language of the networked economy) loosely coupled. The organisation will act in ways that align with the core values of holistic political economy to be an exemplar of the changes that are proposed.
Aims and Objectives for the HoPE Association
The vision of holistic political economy can be summarised and translated into the aims of the association as follows:
To act as a catalyst for the creation of a holistic political economy where all citizens are able to develop to their full potential within sustainable global limits. To bring this about by working towards a political economy in which the state is the property of its citizens and operates for their benefit.
- The transformation of politics from a competition to control the state, into a collaboration to achieve good governance
- With the maximum workable participation by as many citizens as possible, extending and introducing new forms of representation
- The greatest practical decentralisation of power balancing the need for wider planning with local participation
- The transformation of the economy from a winner takes all game aimed at maximising shareholder returns into an endeavour to increase the commonwealth
- Supporting the creation of long-term value through investment and innovation in sustainable business models
- Insisting on responsible and accountable forms of organisation and ownership, supplemented by employees and external stakeholders on boards of management
Additional organisational aims should be;
- To undertake activities that will help bring a holistic political economy into being
- To ensure that the way it and its members behave are designed both to advance its long-term vision and values and to demonstrate them in action by acting as exemplars of what it advocates
- To develop activities applicable to the stage of development that has been reached, so activities, at this stage, are going to be directed towards the initiation phase as described in baby steps.
- In the pursuit of these aims the members of the association will act collectively, supporting and respecting each other and have a good time doing it.
The activity undertaken is likely to fall into three broad areas; support and advocacy, research, education promotion and campaigning.
Support and Advocacy
I envisage an organisation that exists to sponsor and support any and all activities that will help bring holistic political economy into existence. It would provide some support for the loose coupling of all organisations and individuals that work and act in the new ways.
The organisation will spread lessons learned and best practice, in so doing it will be helping to lay the foundations of the new holistic political economy that will gradually replace the exiting one. We already have the collective knowledge to be sure that such foundations exist.
The organisation would propose, sponsor and undertake research into the new politics and new economics. The agenda will cover such things as
- Where has sortition been tried and with what results?
- How far can a Delphi process used and be scaled up (Note: Delphi Process)?
- How can voluntarism be brought back in a world of insecure work?
These are merely ideas, the HoPE Association should develop links with other organisations, including universities where primary research is being done.
Education, Promotion and Campaigning
As a way of promoting its values, ideas and agenda the organisation should undertake education. This could include the host of soft skills needed such as (but not limited to) how to use facilitation as a form of leadership, effective meetings, dealing with difficult people, and conflict de-escalation. More traditional advertising and campaigning utilising traditional and new media would be also undertaken.
Membership, funding and constitution
The HoPE Association is decidedly not a traditional political party - just pursuing its aims makes it very different to any existing political party.
- Membership would be open to all based on agreement to the aims, it will work across all sections of society to create a shared sense of solidarity and citizenship
- Funding would be voluntary, if there were large donations the association would specify, up front that they will be accepted without strings or commitment. A donation may come to help an existing project not a future one (unless agreed by the whole membership)
- The constitution would include the necessary protections against the association being turned into something else – such as a political party – but should be worked out by the membership and kept under review, if the objectives are transformational it would seem likely that the association would also change and evolve.
So, supporters and volunteers please get in touch so that we can form storm and norm…
Suggestions for early work
Here are my views on some very specific tactical activities (and the justification for them) that HoPE Association members should consider and decide upon;
- Building a knowledge/resource base
- Looking at new forms of representation
- Looking at further constitutional reform
- Sponsoring independent politicians
Let me stress these are ideas to be used to get started, the membership will need to go through a process to select and prioritise work.
1. Building a knowledge/resource base
The HoPE Association needs to curate and maintain
- How To materials that can be used in the emerging political economy; these could range from setting up a and running a co-op (where it could plug into the advice that is also available from The Co-op) to running a meeting, facilitation, or conducting an open decision making process
- Educational resources for association members; covering all aspects of political activism from running meetings to non-violent direct action
In order to do anything a knowledge/resource base is needed; that is all the material that it will need to do training or undertake campaigns. A lot of material can be created, as you go, but it is important to plan from the start to capture and curate it. This will allow the build-up, over time of collateral and experience so that the HoPE Association can be a learning organisation. As well as having its own web-site the Association could run U-Tube channel as a vehicle for news, success stories, explanation and learning.
Rationale; best practice and collective memory
Best practice; Businesses use knowledge bases for specific activities e.g. technical support for computer systems are there not just to help end users find solutions to common problems but also to provide technical staff with details of previous faults. Where there is a work-a-round but the full fix has not yet been implemented it is important not to reinvent the workaround every-time the fault occurs. Consultancy businesses have details of their assignments so that those preparing for a new one can read up on similar ones that have been completed already. An organisation with the political objective of spreading the best practice in an alternative approach to political economy would benefit immensely from just such an approach.
Collective memory; The politics we have now is the result of a long historical process that had to be fought for. Now our knowledge has improved, and we can use it to mobilise people in a very different way – a better society can only come into being when that story is widespread, well known, and has more than just rhetorical power to back it up. With a host of working examples it can hope to build and eventually command majority support.
2. Looking at new forms of representation
The argument for holistic political economy included an analysis of the limits to our current form of representative democracy. Therefore, ways of altering the ways in which people are included in politics need to be examined.
Sortition is a model that provides a way out of this (Reybrouck) – it is akin to jury service, which has a long, successful history. We can break long term corrupting relationships, increase participation (and so commitment) and get a wider range of non-ideological views represented.
We cannot use sortition for everything but as a supplement and support to a revitalised electoral system it surely has potential. A great place to start would be the management of all government agencies, and arms-length management organisations – it could grow from there building on success and lessons learned.
We pride ourselves on the lack of corruption in our system, but the corruption we have comes in subtle and insidious ways. Anyone who had been told to upsell was made complicit in the PPI scandal, upselling is now just part of retail life.
Cronyism is rife, long-term professional political careers start with councillors who are paid enough in allowances to be full time and runs through the full gamut of interns, advisors and researchers. What this means is that that many politicians don’t have recent or relevant first-hand everyday experience. In addition politicians are able to build up the sort of relationships that used to be categorised as the old boy network but which are now reframed as networking. This has transmuted into the revolving door, conflicts of interest and a feeling of entitlement (Note; A Corrupted Culture)
3. Looking at further Constitutional reform
The argument for holistic political economy included an analysis of the limits to our current form of representative democracy. Therefore, ways of altering the current system to move it in the right direction need to be looked at.
The job is only half done, select committees are gaining traction, we have a supreme court, but the House of Lords is a mess and the most pressing issue is that political authority is illegitimate when a minority of voters can put in place a government with a majority of seats and the ability to impose its ideas.
We need to go back to thinking about local government and the regions, not just to shuffle off responsibility for the cuts (as in the recent use of local taxes to supplement social care) but instead to genuinely distribute power to bring it closer to the people it is meant to serve. Given the fact that politicians are power seekers getting constitutional change up the agenda is in itself a major political challenge. That is the reason that the HoPE Association needs to engage in non-party political and extra-parliamentary activity.
Governmental Reorganisation based on Systems (Note; Constitutional Reform Nov 2019)
It occurs to me that consideration should be given to reorganising government (the departments, agencies, outsource companies, local government and others) based on the systems that need to be managed sustainably.
To illustrate what I mean, consider that the chalk rivers of the Chilterns (unique and of world renown) are drying up because of water extraction from the underlying aquifers and the consequent reduction of the water table. This problem was first pointed out in the 1980's but nothing has been done. It would appear that is is at least partly due to a lack of joined up i.e systems thinking. Responsibility is spread across numerous bodies; The Environment Agency, The Rivers Trust, Water Utilities, Local Governments Housing and Planning Departments, and there are probably more. Each of these has different aims and objectives which do not align. The Environment Agency, which might have the power to do something choses not to exercise its power because it would be seen as "draconian", it choses a light touch regulation approach so works "in partnership" with the the water companies to help them meet their supply objectives. The water companies have a duty to supply and accept their political directive to maintain supply and keep water bills down. Water is too cheap. The utilities regularly use drought orders to continue to extract water from rivers that are already stressed. Local Authorities cannot withhold planning permission because of water stress. The recent Environment Bill contains no mention of water provision or measures for ensuring the sustainable supply of water. Water use in the UK, per capita exceeds what other countries can manage, no new infrastructure such as reservoirs, that would alleviate the extraction from aquifers, are being considered.
My suggestion is not a panacea, political will and vision are still needed and both of these are plainly lacking right now, but the point is that it is structurally impossible to look at the system as a whole using the political and civil institutions that exist right now. The problem cannot be articulated within government because its design does not allow the issues to be surfaced anywhere where there is any responsibility and accountability. When the problem is articulated outside government the government is structurally incapable of doing anything about it because it does not have the organisation to do so - any political will that may exist in the wake successful lobbying quickly runs out when it hits departmental conflicts and diverse competing and /or unaligned groups. This part of the problem can be fixed by design. Then at least the total system can be brought into view and a sensible discussion take place on what solutions might look like. Political will can be used building consensus, by mirroring the systems the structure of government would assist the solution.
By extension this approach might also be used across the board - Food Supply and Energy Supply to name but two can be viewed as systems. Then at least the total system can be brought into view and a sensible discussion take place on what solutions might look like. Political will can be used building consensus, by mirroring the systems the structure of government would assist the solution.
This becomes a matter for debate and research which would be coordinated by the HoPE Association; debate about what are the systems and sub-systems (what consensual model can be built in Soft Sytems terminology) and research into how they should be organised, what powers are needed and how management would work and be accountable.
4. Sponsor Independent politicians
The case for holistic political economy included a critique of party politics and is the reason why an association, not a political party is proposed. To follow through on this let’s take on the question of how we bump, nudge or force change in the current system which is massively resistant to change.
Clearly if the ideas take off people will push them in the parties that they belong to and some reforms may get into manifestos. Draft legislation can be prepared and advocated. Here is another idea. Suppose, in Parliament (or on councils) there were more independently minded people, people who would support any good idea (across party lines) that takes us towards the vision of alternative politics and political economy.
Why not sponsor independent politicians (who support the creation of holistic political economy)?
The objective would be to get a significant number elected (10-20 could be enough to create change). By targeting constituencies and focussing efforts where there is a chance of success this would be a way of overcoming the barrier to entry posed by the first past the post system. Once in parliament rather than being the awkward squad they would become the constructive squad. Alternative Independent MP’s could actively promote cooperation and collaboration supporting proposals from wherever they emerge across party lines. They would be free from the whip and refuse government positions. By their presence they would counteract the dominance of the executive in the legislature, amongst MP’s of the ruling party.
This may be for a later stage of development than the initiation stage but there is no harm in thinking ahead.
In the c18th Britain had a large number of MPs who were known as the Independent Country Gentry – generally they would support the government of the day (Namier) .To cite a recent example, Frome has a council where independents have made a significant positive difference. (Note: Independents for Frome)
Traditional parties exist to win power; they then implement a programme. Until the elected minority problem is solved forming a party and using the whip means accepting this. It also means they are accepting that what they do will lack the legitimacy to persist. Sponsoring Alternative Independent MP’s is a tactic to break this down not an end in-itself.
Putting up HoPE Independents in well-chosen seats is not without difficulties of its own, given the inherent barrier to entry that first past the post represents. However, it could be a powerful signal for “none of the above”. It could capture the imagination if campaigned for with flair. More importantly - it is (and always has been) possible to set the agenda from outside parliament.
A note on the Progressive Alliance and Common Platform
Compass (Part 2 - Examples of What Good Looks Like - Getting Organised) has and is promoting a Progressive Alliance together with the development of a common platform.
- The Progressive Alliance is (as I understand it) an electoral alliance whereby the broad left of centre parties (calling themselves progressives) field a single candidate rather than split the anti-conservative vote. This should make a centre-left government more likely.
- The common platform is the programme for that government following the success of the electoral alliance. The common platform is being worked on right now, one certain inclusion will be the creation of some form of PR so that after this landmark government all future ones will need to build coalitions that have at least 51% electoral support.
The electoral alliance was proposed in 2016 but failed to persuade enough people to make a difference. I assume it was the fact that the electoral alliance failed to gain much traction in the 2016 general election that has led to the idea of the common platform, because it makes the offer more concrete. The Progressive Alliance has a mountain to climb, which roughly summed up translates into this, its means and ends don’t match up as I explain below. This criticism does not make me happy, Compass has some really creative ideas and the Electoral Alliance is very seductive one, so let’s look at it in more detail.
- It is, in the end a tactic of the status quo; it is directed to the achievement of a parliamentary majority followed by the enactment of top down change.
Although the government elected as a result of the Electoral Alliance will enact a change so that all subsequent ones will require a coalition that add up to 51% electoral support, there is after that change (an other things in the Common Programme) has been enacted a return to the party-political process and a resumption of the competition to win control of the state. The problem is that there is no perfect form of representative democracy. Where first past the post delivers parliamentary majorities to parties with minority support in the country, PR delivers minorities in the country a powerful (and so corrupting?) role in parliament as power brokers. This is not just a design issue, the current problems in Israel where small right-wing parties have a disproportionate say, or the problems experienced in Belgium which failed to form a government for over a year, cannot be wished away, they are real problems. We just swap one set of rules for another, it’s not a transformational change.
Holistic Political Economy envisages a situation in which party politics becomes irrelevant. The critique is that it is party discipline, withers inevitable tribalism that is damaging. It reinforces confrontational behaviours. The mechanism, within holistic political economy, by which this negative behaviour is addressed is wide engagement of people in policy making using lots where necessary. Consensus is the by-product of open policy making and policy making itself becomes an integral part of the process. Policy is not longer the preserve of interest groups, think tanks and party back rooms. The practice of politics becomes the quest for good governance both in policy formulation and execution, this requires a fundamental change.
- Although those advocating the Electoral Alliance and Common Platform have a healthy scepticism of tribalism it relies on existing parties & collides with their party discipline.
Small parties find it easier to agree to an Electoral Alliance, but maybe the greens would have more support now if they had not agreed to it in 2016 (Note: Greens Review Electoral Alliance), large parties are still seduced by the prospect of winning on their own terms. Labour coming on side looks like a deal breaker, some members of the party were actually disciplined for supporting the progressive alliance in 2016 and since then Jeremy Corbyn has transformed the party boosting its membership to over 500,000 members this is hardly likely to make it amenable to standing down in any seats. Many left-wing activists have concluded that the better tactic is (as they see it) to ride the wave that is supporting Jeremy Corbyn even if they have doubts about his leadership. We should not forget that Tony Blair had an arrangement with Paddy Ashdown in 1997 only to abandon it because of the landslide victory.
- There may be alternative vision within Compass, but it is not widely shared, nor coherently presented.
After 30 years of the destruction of left positions as an intellectual argument, alongside the devastation of the communities, institutions and manufacturing base that supported it, we are starting from scratch. We first have to propose an intellectually coherent alternative story to neo-liberalism and then we have to propose a constructive alternative through the promotion of (and action based on) the long-term vision of what good looks like. The first step is to build the demand for an alternative, that is to build the culture that it will gain strength from.
- Although the electoral alliance is designed to overcome the first past the post barrier (which it can easily do on paper) it collides with the widespread disenchantment and disengagement with current politics and politicians.
I explore this in Present, Limited Participation and Disengagement – The structure of Disengagement. A side effect of this is that he electoral alliance is vulnerable to being criticised in ways that plays to this disaffection, for example that it is nothing short of limiting people’s choice at the ballot box. The potency of criticism like this, especially when, as I argue above, the Vision and the widespread culture to support it is missing, should not be underestimated.