Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Independent candidate Denny de la Haye answers Blood and Property questions

Hackney South and Shoreditch independent candidate Denny de la Haye answers Blood and Property questions. The questions assume some knowledge of Denny's manifesto. Details of his campaign to become an e-democracy MP can be found at getavote.org and in this Open Democracy piece. I'm hoping to ask him some more questions at a later date.

Blood and Property: What sort of issues that aren't directly related to voting in Parliament - and your system for canvassing your constituents - do you think you'd have to deal with? Will there be parts of the job that cannot be defined by your constituents?

Denny de la Haye: I'm worried about the short timescale on which some votes are called - I think these tend to be minor amendments rather than full bills, which have more forewarning although there's still room for improvement from what I understand of the way the Parliamentary timetable is set.

There are also some votes which are purely procedural as I understand it, along the lines of "I propose we break for lunch now", which I don't think anyone will mind me voting in however seems appropriate at the time.

In any situation where I find myself having to vote on something significant without a mandate from my constituents, then I'll either vote as I think they would want me to vote if I think that's clear, or abstain if it's not. In either case, I'll immediately post such votes (and how I voted) on the website for discussion. This has two aims - firstly, to give me a better chance of knowing how to vote on similar issues in future short-notice votes, and secondly, to call attention to how much Parliamentary business is done on a timetable too short for public participation. I believe the latter to be a significant problem which would be fairly easy to address if there was a will to do so - running the country shouldn't (usually) be done on a short-notice timetable, one would hope there's a lot of planning ahead being done, and that should carry through to allow the public time to participate if they wish.

Blood and Property: Does the job require an element of leadership? Or what other personal qualities do you think an MP should have?

Denny de la Haye: As far as 'qualities an MP should have' are concerned, I think an honest desire to represent the people of their area should be very high on the list. My manifesto not only offers but actually enforces that, in a very open and transparent way.

Blood and Property: Judging by what I've seen, the blogging or online community in Hackney is not very big - at least not in terms of showing an interest in Hackney politics. Does that mean that your system could be beholden to the same few people?

Denny de la Haye: It's a possibility, but I'm not sure it's a probability, and if it does work out that way, I'm not entirely sure it's a problem. Firstly, regarding 'Hackney politics' - most of the issues which people vote on in Parliament are national in scope. They will have local impact, but they're national issues, and nationally there's quite a lot of political blogging and single-issue campaigning. One challenge for the site will be to explain how and why each national issue relates to Hackney, and why people might want to vote on that issue.

Secondly, regarding participation levels... if people are given the right to actually change the way I will vote on issues, I think that will have more pull in terms of numbers than the chance to write a blog or take part in political campaigning which has no guarantee of causing
a response. This is further helped by the fact that clicking on a poll is pretty quick and easy, once you've gone through the initial pain of creating your account on the site and logging in. That ease of participation leads to far higher poll-vote totals than comment totals
on every site I've ever run, and I think it'll be the same in this case - a few contributed issues, more comments, and way way more votes.

Finally, regarding 'keen participants' biasing the polls... to steal a software joke, I'm not sure if this is a bug or a feature. If there's a group of people who feel really strongly about a particular issue, and they're organised enough to keep track of it and vote in polls about it, they're probably quite well informed about it and very entitled to their vote on that issue. If their position is contested, then presumably there will also be people voting against them in equally keen numbers.

If an issue doesn't arouse such interest on one or both sides, then does it matter if the only people who do vote are the people who really care about that issue? If nobody cares enough to vote at all, is the outcome actually important to the people of Hackney? Maybe not.

Blood and Property: Would you set up your system anyway and make it available to whoever does become MP - if it's not you?

Denny de la Haye: Yes, absolutely. I intend to continue setting up the system and make it available to every MP and PPC in the country. The difference is that I (and perhaps some other independents, over time) will agree to be bound by the polls - whereas any party MP is ultimately bound by their party whip.

Blood and Property: Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

Denny de La Haye: I've never had a supernatural experience. I tend to be sceptical about the supernatural, but not so sceptical that I wouldn't happily change my mind if I did have an experience myself. It would take some impressive evidence to change my mind without such an experience.

Other Blood and Property interviews:
Meg Hillier (22nd March 2010)
Jules Pipe (11th March 2010)
Diane Abbott (11th Feb 2010)

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