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THE BEST MP?

17-09-2009

Julie Kirkbride MP

Julie Kirkbride’s decision to stand down as MP for Bromsgrove at the next election hasn’t quelled public anger about her role in the expenses scandal – so this week a campaign is being launched to find the best MP for the town. But don’t worry he’s not standing.

A number of the events over the last year have made me determined more than ever to see if we can lead to a different kind of politics.

Last year I had an incredible opportunity to interview the man most likely to be our next prime minister, David Cameron, for Panorama. I was initially somewhat nervous about this, but when I got my head around that this was essentially a job interview with Cameron applying for the job of PM, suddenly the task was straightforward as I interview dozens of people for prospective jobs.

Same principle, just a tad more public than usual.

When it became apparent that my MP, Julie Kirkbride, had somewhat questionable expenses and would not be standing at the next election, there was an opportunity for real change.

I felt that a different approach had to be taken - not least as I think many people have become disenchanted with the three major political parties. Even Labour think they are going to lose and locally the Lib Dems did not even put a candidate up in the local elections in June elections. You could vote BNP but not LibDem - the world has gone truly mad I thought when you have a BNP candidate standing in a place like Hagley.

Given that Bromsgrove is traditionally a safe Tory seat, it should be an easy win with an unpopular Labour government. However, that is what got me thinking - who would be the Tory candidate for Bromsgrove and how would be they be chosen? Answer- the same people in the Bromsgrove Conservative Association who cut the funding two years ago for our Sports Centre without telling the locals.

Hardly transparent? And given the importance of how a parliamentary candidate is picked - much more important than, with all respect, a Sports Centre - this got me thinking.

I’m still an undecided voter, but how we can improve the process so that local people get a chance to truly sound out the potential candidates? Then I realized that even with all the grumbles about MPs expenses, that really this boils down to us and whether we, the voters and hence the employers of MPs, are prepared to do anything about this.

I may be an undecided voter but I do know I want to have the best possible Member of Parliament. Thus if we have a series of local hustings before an election is called - to try and identify a high quality independent candidate(s) - then a similar hustings process after an election is called, this will provide a real opportunity for people to sound the candidates out and make an informed choice.

This would be significantly different to the way the traditional parties work, but not dissimilar to the way in which US primaries work (although clearly much cheaper and in a smaller scale).

I want the BEST MP so I have set up the Bromsgrove Electorate for Service and Transparency as we want someone who, first and foremost, serves the people of Bromsgrove.

So far at least one person has definitely said they will be standing as an independent. All I need is at least 1 more in the next month and we get started with the hustings. Politics in Bromsgrove could be about to get very interesting indeed.

Will this all be a ‘Stirrer’ storm in a Bromsgrove teacup or the start of a new way of doing politics?

More information on the Best4bromsgrove campaign will be on this week’s Politics Show Sunday 20th September at 1.35pm on BBC1.

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