You have no influence: how to use it

Where do policies come from?

Does a sweaty government minister abruptly wake in the middle of night exclaiming "We must do this!". Or are they contrived by a panel of senior politicos as they draft their election manifesto? Or perhaps the cabinet has a suggestion box, and every week one is drawn at random to be enacted. Or maybe a conversation on a Mediterranean yacht is transcribed into a memo a few days later, and then amplified into draft legislation by a gaggle of mandarins eager to impress their boss.

It's a serious question - where do the ideas that come to shape our world actually come from?
The public - or the political elite? Which would you prefer?

Consider the recently launched Robin Hood Tax campaign. The basic idea was elucidated by Yale academic James Tobin, who proposed adding a levy on currency transactions to deter speculation. That was 1972, since then the idea has marinated and evolved in the minds of various economists. Some governments have even talked about enacting it into law, but only if everybody else does it.

So where do policies come from? Say you think the Robin Hood Tax is a great idea, how would you get it into law? Perhaps one day you'll find yourself on a sunny yacht with the Lord High Chamberlain, you get on well, you have a chat, he likes the cut of your jib, he just loves your new idea... a few weeks later, it's on the order papers.

But more than likely, you're outside the inner circle. It's a small world, but not THAT small. You're still too many hops away from the high and mighty. No waterside pow-wows for you. Know your place, citizen.
Most individuals have no influence.
And yet, collectively, individuals have huge influence. Together, we elect governments.
So policies come from us, after all?
Not quite.

Voting in an election is like choosing which door to walk through. One door might be safe and sturdy looking, one might be slick and slimy, another might be downright scary. You pick your door and enter. You do not get to position and decorate your own door. Slightly inflexible, but them's the rules.

So how can you use your choice to further the prospects of something you believe in? For instance, you could ask your prospective MP if they will support the Robin Hood Tax. If they say yes, vote for them. If a majority of your fellow constituents agree, you have your representative. If not, no-one really cared. It must have been a half-baked idea anyway. Get over it.

So there's two challenges: first, you've got to convince the majority of your fellow electors this is an issue worth caring about. Talk about it. Individually, tweets and blog postings are insignificant, they won't change the world, but they might get your friends thinking. Who might mention it to a relative, who tells their partner, who...

The second challenge is holding your representative to account once they're elected. Here again, social media can help. If they renege, ensure every mention of their name is accompanied by #RHTliar, let your fellow constituents know they've been betrayed. These days politicians are very sensitive about their personal brand; they know if it's sullied, they'll be out of a job.

And if, collectively, you can get enough of the MPs to keep their word... job done.

Social media offers you the chance to say to politicians:
We'll decide on the ideas, you just implement them.
If you want it to, it might just work.

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