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Vote For Honesty And Get Democracy Done by Ann Whitehead


Jo Cox, the murdered MP for Batley and Spen, in her maiden speech in Parliament, said ‘We are far more united and have far more in common, than that which divides us.’ 

I believe this is true. We share much and we want similar things. We are even agreed that we are all fed up with our politicians.

The ideas in this book are politically neutral. A requirement to be honest is not left or right wing. Wherever you sit politically, you are likely to agree with many of the suggestions in this book. If large numbers of us get behind the Vote for Honesty Campaign, then we can start to regain public trust in our politics.

We need to embed trust in the political sphere. That is, we need honesty to be explicit and legalised, with powerful sanctions against those who are not honest. To merely exhort our decision-makers to be honest is insufficient. We need the force of law behind the feel-good phrases.

With greater honesty comes trust. With greater trust between our representatives and ourselves, more people will want to become involved in politics, spreading democracy deeper and wider, and getting leadership from all corners of our diverse society. It is entirely reasonable to want new voices to be heard and new ideas mooted, debated and legislated.

Our economy is entwined with the political sphere. A climate of trust and a deepening of democracy will make our economy more efficient and effective, more transparent and productive. Honesty in politics saves the electorate money. This in turn can lead to more wealth, and perhaps even a better division of wealth. So we could all have more.

We need to embed trust in our political system and the sooner the better. Expecting politicians to behave honestly at work is entirely reasonable. It is shocking that in the twenty-first century there is such an apparent lack of it, and such an urgent need to address it.

People working as doctors, lawyers, teachers and in many other areas all have to adhere to minimum professional standards to work in their chosen fields. In these occupations, if you systematically mislead or lie at work, then you lose your job. These standards are usually legally binding. Standards like these can also be applied to politics, so that in future our politicians will work to the same standards of integrity that others already follow.

There already exists a code of conduct for our politicians, which includes the requirement to be honest. Much of it is, in effect, almost voluntary as the penalties for breaking much of this code are risible. For example, merely ‘apologising to the house’ is considered sufficient punishment for behaviour that in most other work places would involve a formal warning, suspension and occasionally dismissal.

Fortunately, there are many politicians who are honest. All we need to do is convince a chunk of these politicians to agree on three or four key new laws which will form the basis of the Honesty Bill. This bill will make it mandatory for politicians to behave with the same level of integrity as other UK professionals.

The Vote for Honesty Campaign promotes the idea of a cross-party partnership with honest MPs and candidates standing to be future MPs during the 2024 general election. It is a grassroots approach, working towards solutions to enable our constitution to be updated and become fit for purpose for the twentieth first century.

The benefits to honest politicians participating in the Vote for Honesty Campaign are significant. Improved political honesty will enable many MPs to feel better about their job, enable more attention for legislation for their desired causes and enjoy greater legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

People can and do make mistakes. Clearly someone may forget that they attended something or accuse an opponent incorrectly without any malicious intent. The Honesty Bill recognises that. Nonetheless it can be objectively proved that some politicians are routinely dishonest for the purpose of political gain. The Honesty Bill wants to start with tackling those people.

The Honesty Bill will greatly reduce direct lying for political gain. It could also address some aspects of the greyer areas of dishonesty, such as the dissemination of grossly misleading information. Politicians found guilty of lying will be deemed to have not done their job properly and suffer as a result. 

If dishonest actions have serious consequences, we can then make considerable progress.

In recent years voters have had a much greater willingness to switch voting allegiances between parties, rather than just voting for the party they have ‘always voted for’. For example, the Conservative Party asked people in the 2019 general election campaign to ‘lend them their vote’ to ‘Get Brexit Done’. It is widely acknowledged that many people who do not normally vote Conservative, did indeed do this, in part due to this pledge.

The Vote for Honesty Campaign also asks voters to ‘lend them their vote’ and only vote for candidates of any political party who formally commit to changing the law through the Honesty Bill.

The new requirements under this bill will not be onerous, merely reflecting the normal professional standards that most people in the UK already work to.

Voters can facilitate the election of honest politicians by following four simple steps before and during the 2024 general election:

Step One Register to vote

Step Two Sign the Vote for Honesty Campaign Petition

Step Three Write to their MP and asking him/her to sign theVote for Honesty Contract

Step Four Vote in 2024 only for a candidate who has signed the Vote for Honesty Contract

Around 83% of the population will not need to do step one as they are already registered to vote.

So for the vast majority of the population, there are really only three steps to take to dramatically change our political future.

The campaign will aim to persuade the other 17% to register to vote by suggesting that in future, politics will be different, better and more relevant to them and their lives. It is vital that a wider proportion of voters – people of all ages and background – become passionate again about politics.

The remaining three steps involve relatively little effort too. With enough people getting on board, we can have a better functioning democracy after the next general election.

If the candidate you normally vote for refuses to sign the Vote for Honesty contract the solution is simple: do not vote for them.

For some people that may feel very difficult, particularly if you really like a specific candidate. However surely this favoured candidate’s manifesto pledges are seriously lacking if they refuse to commit to being honest whilst representing you?

The Honesty Act could start a cultural change whereby MPs and other politicians will need to be more careful in both their language and behaviour. This is the ‘Get Democracy Done’ part of the project. Other ideas to strengthen our democracy weave through this book to help clean up politics. The public can then be confident of having more reliable sources available to access accurate information.

This book makes some suggestions for what the Honesty Act may contain. They are only suggestions. The key point is that a significant group of MPs needs to collectively agree a few clauses.

Once agreed to, a coordinated, mass-marketing campaign can be set up to raise awareness. This is much more effective than it being one political party’s manifesto pledge. 

Just as drink driving or smoking in public used to be acceptable only a few decades ago, we can make a similar shift in which overtly dishonest political behaviour by formally elected politicians becomes socially unacceptable.

History has countless inspiring examples of public opinion forcing beneficial change. Some of these successes are discussed in Chapter Six with the aim of inspiring you that the ideas in this book are both practical and achievable.

It is perfectly feasible for us to come together to elect better politicians we can all be proud of, regardless of where our individual political beliefs lie. Let us use the true ‘will of the people’ and make sure that in 2024 we elect members of parliament who will immediately vote for legislation that makes normal work behaviours a legal obligation in political life. Achieving routine honesty in politics is an outcome that would greatly help everyone and would ‘Get Democracy Done’.

Vote For Honesty is available in paperback and ebook

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