Politics is too important to leave to politicians.
I wanted to write a few words about why I'm standing for election on December 12th.
I don't want to be an MP. That might seem like an odd way to start my pitch for the job, but I suppose that depends on whether you agree with Billy Connolly that "the desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever becoming one". It looks like a horribly stressful way to earn a living, especially in the current political environment that sees many of our more sane and moderate politicians making a beeline for the exit. I already have a job that I enjoy, and if truth be told, a pretty comfortable standard of living. I'm alright, Jack.
So why throw my name into the hat for a seat in parliament?
Something is rotten in Westminster.
When I talk to people about politics, I often hear the view that "you can't trust any of them", or "they're all the same, they're all in it for themselves", or "I don't vote, because it doesn't make a difference". I used to try to convince these people that they were wrong, but as time has gone on, I've found myself struggling because I understand where they're coming from.
Disillusionment and disengagement from politics is a natural consequence of the growing polarisation within politics. Far from being opposites, they're two sides of the same coin, and both are symptoms of something rotten in our democracy. That's a serious threat to our future.
If you don't do politics, politics will do you.
We've reached the point where many people see the corruption going on, but can't see a way out. The media landscape that encourages politicians' flexible approach to the truth means that it can be hard to know what to believe any more. Combine that with the nastiness that often accompanies online political discussion, and it's little wonder that so many people just want to tune it all out. It's too hard, too stressful, too time consuming, and it makes too little difference anyway.
This toxic environment has allowed those with vested interests to manipulate our political narratives. Despite a decade of politically motivated austerity that has devastated our public services and communities, the politicians responsible have largely succeeded in putting the blame for it elsewhere. Predictably, the people who have lost out the most are also the least likely to be engaged in politics or to have faith that their voice can make a difference.
I'm not going to pretend that there are easy solutions.
Real change is hard.
The world is complicated. Real, meaningful change has to start from an understanding of how things work, and it's rarely straightforward. We can't go back to a past that no longer exists: we need to look forward to a future that uses the tools of science, technology, business and politics to build sustainable, connected communities where individuals can thrive. It means avoiding the temptation to reach for knee jerk, populist, soundbite policies that sound good, but don't work. It means bringing together those with different views and political beliefs to come up with collaborative solutions. It means listening to experts; but also giving people a real voice at all levels of politics. It means electoral and constitutional reform nationally; and an emphasis on local decision making that engages those from all different backgrounds and walks of life. It means investing in people.
I believe that for the future, we need politicians who care deeply about all the people they represent, who listen to and empathise with those who are not like them, who can bring people together rather than dividing them further and who want a society that works for everyone. We need politicians who understand the importance of science and evidence in driving policy change, without losing touch with the concerns of individuals. We need politicians who can lead, as opposed to mouthing the right words to get elected.
I've always believed in putting my money (and time, effort and reputation) where my mouth is. I'm standing because I want to give people the opportunity to vote for someone who is committed to doing things differently. I'm willing to do the job if you want me.
Politics is too important to leave to politicians. Your vote matters.
[Next up: why I'm standing for the Green Party]