Dear Jeremy, 12 September 2015
Many congratulations on your election as leader of the Party. I support your aims and I am writing to you with a proposal that I believe can help you achieve them. This proposal is rooted in the belief that everyone matters in a democracy and everyone has political concerns. It should help encourage political engagement, democratise the political agenda, reduce press distortion and blunt opposition attacks on you. It would be a powerful symbol of a “new kind of politics”.
My proposal is for a monthly programme on which you would have conversations with voters and non-voters, selected to make a genuinely representative sample. It is crucial that the selection is rigorous and transparent. Each of those chosen would have 5 minutes of one-to-one conversation with you. The programme would come from a different part of the UK each month. It would be shown live on YouTube. I set out more details of the proposal below.
You would have proper conversations with people who come from the entire range of UK society. This in itself would be a marked contrast with the current position where it is rare for a senior politician to be questioned on live TV by anyone other than a well-off, middle-aged, London-based Oxbridge graduate.
I have been told by people in the industry that the combination of Reality TV and politics should mean high viewing figures.
This proposal is democratic and modern. It would help you connect with the people of the UK and help them connect with you.
In particular, this proposal should improve democracy and help you in the following ways.
Encourage political engagement
One of the great achievements of your campaign has been the engagement of many who were previously alienated from or apathetic about politics. Viewers of the programme would see you engaging with the concerns of people they could identify with.
Democratise the political agenda
Currently the national political agenda is largely set by editors on Fleet Street and at the broadcasters. On the programme, people would raise with you the issues that matter to them. These issues would then find their way on to the national political agenda through social media and other means.
Reduce press distortion
You are faced with an overwhelmingly hostile press. The programme would allow you to communicate directly with the viewing public without the press distorting your message.
Blunt opposition attacks
You would have conversations with many who would be suspicious of or hostile to you and your political aims. By genuinely engaging with them and discussing their concerns, you will be able to address the false narrative your opponents are already seeking to define you by.
These are the detailed proposals for the programme to be shown on YouTube: -
- Each participant would have five minutes for a one-to-one conversation with you.
- There would be ten participants per episode.
- Programme would be monthly in a different area each month, so that after one year all the UK would be covered.
- You and each participant would sit as equals, as with a conventional interview.
- No one should try and control the agenda. It will be up to the participants.
- It would be shown live (with a short time delay to guard against illegal or offensive language).
- There would be no one chairing and no studio audience. Just a voiceover at start and finish and when participants change over.
- Participants would not apply to take part. They would be selected by an expert organisation such as a polling company. The millions who are not registered to vote must be included.
- The detailed selection criteria will be published. The aim would be to select a representative sample of all people of voting age living in the area covered by that month’s programme. You may wish to include 16 and 17 year olds.
- If someone selected did not want to take part, then someone else in the area fitting the same criteria would be selected. However, “shy” people who are selected should be given encouragement and support to participate, without any improper pressure.
- Programme’s governance would be at arm’s length from the Labour Party. It would be the responsibility of a body, which itself would be representative of the public.
I developed this idea because I was concerned about the health of our democracy. I would, ideally, like to see all political leaders use it. However, it clearly has particular benefits for a leader whose views are opposed by the media.
I have no financial interest in this proposal. I would like to be consulted if it is taken forward. I have had many useful conversations with a wide range of people over the last few years. I have also had a great deal of positive interest on Twitter where I am @TomLondon6.
I hope this proposal is of interest and look forward to hearing from you.