The People's Manifesto
February 9, 2010 1:48 AM   Subscribe

Comedian and activist, Mark Thomas, has been touring the UK over the past year, compiling a set of policies that his audiences want to see implemented in Britain. As part of the publicity for the resulting book, The People's Manifesto, his publishers are offering to pay one lucky applicant's £500 deposit and campaign expenses to stand for public office at the upcoming general election, on the condition that they will base their campaign on the policies gathered in the book.

There are plenty of worthy, serious policies:

Make political manifestos legally binding.

There should be a maximum wage.

The 1967 Abortion Act should be introduced into Northern Ireland.


But a more splendid time is to be had perusing some of the sillier ones:

To save money and the environment, instead of the Olympics being held in one country, people could run around in circles in their own country at the same time.

We should disguise leopards as foxes to fuck up the gentry.

Goats are to be released on to the floor of the House of Commons (no more than four); MPs are forbidden from referring to them ever.
posted by idiomatika (35 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love Mark Thomas. That time he got Jack Straw to get some poor copper to arrest a bloke with (iirc) MS for smoking a pretend spiff was TV gold.

That said, Jack Straw's still in office. Hmmm...
posted by pompomtom at 2:07 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes. A spiff. That's what all the cool kids call them these days.
posted by pompomtom at 2:07 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I liked that a lot more than I thought I would.
posted by seanyboy at 2:50 AM on February 9, 2010


There should be a maximum wage.

Worthy and serious? Really?
posted by Skorgu at 3:51 AM on February 9, 2010


What's not worthy or serious about that? Denominate it in multiples of the lowest wage paid by the company. It's not even a particularly original suggestion.
posted by pompomtom at 3:54 AM on February 9, 2010


Ah, good that left-wing Mark Thomas gets to filter the results. The BBC's Radio 4 morning politics programme, the flagship of their current affair coverage, ran a competition in 2008 to let listeners nominate a Private Member's Bill in 2008. We the listeners decided for "Householders should be allowed to shoot burglars" and they dropped it quick... Transcript on pro-gun website.

Will the People's Manifesto include the death penalty? That's pretty popular (though less than it was). Or leaving the EU? More than 50% support leaving the EU.

Which lucky Labour Party MP gets to stand against the candidate the Manifesto puts up? Probably worth only a couple of hundred votes, but there are some really marginal seats out there.
posted by alasdair at 3:59 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Denominate it in multiples of the lowest wage paid by the company.

Seven is usually seen as the maximum, isn't it? After this you get negative effects in the lowest paid. (I'm sure there is a good article on this out there but my quick Google didn't turn it up.)
posted by ninebelow at 4:11 AM on February 9, 2010


There should be a maximum wage

Ah, yes, I heard this one. The proposal was that the maximum wage should be ten times the minimum. That would make it about $20,000 per annum, or about £14,000 pounds.

What's that? You meant poor British people, not poor people globally? Ah, so you meant "people with more money than me should be poorer" not "rich first-world people like me should be poorer"? Well, how's that different from a banker saying "my peer group earns $10,000,000 a year, I should too!"?

Oh, I'll be honest. I'm not particularly picking on the Manifesto programme: I enjoyed the show. I just think it is symptomatic of a knee-jerk, cynical, wilfully-ignorant attitude to politics. I mean, the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland is a great proposal, but it's almost as though we have to have every grown-up discussion wrapped in a sugary pill of populist revolutionary sentiment, or restricted to three minutes on the Today programme, or on American websites. Why is MetaFilter better than the level of public discourse in the UK? grumble grumble grumble
posted by alasdair at 4:11 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


That would make it about $20,000 per annum, or about £14,000 pounds.

Just curious, why is the assumption made that the current lowest wage would be the starting point, instead of the current highest wage, or, gasp, a compromise where the lowest is brought up some and the highest is slashed down to something reasonable?

I mean, assuming the lowest is £10 an hour, the highest would still be £100 an hour (assuming a 10x factor). Are you saying that folks will be starving on £200K per year?
posted by maxwelton at 4:23 AM on February 9, 2010


Well, how's that different from a banker saying "my peer group earns $10,000,000 a year, I should too!"?

Because wealth inequality in a country of 60 million leads to far greater social issues than wealth inequality in a peer group of a couple of thousand.
posted by ninebelow at 4:24 AM on February 9, 2010


Because wealth inequality in a country of 60 million leads to far greater social issues than wealth inequality in a peer group of a couple of thousand.

And even more so when the wealth inequality is between a world of 6 billion. So we should apply the rules globally, not just nationally: trafficking, civil war, starvation...

The global average income for a poor person is about $2,000 per annum (about $1 per hour). So we should pay UK citizens a maximum of 10 times $2,000, or $20,000. Sorry if that was unclear.
posted by alasdair at 4:34 AM on February 9, 2010


What's that? You meant poor British people, not poor people globally? Ah, so you meant "people with more money than me should be poorer" not "rich first-world people like me should be poorer"? Well, how's that different from a banker saying "my peer group earns $10,000,000 a year, I should too!"?

Cost of living, for one thing. Even when I was a poxy clerk I used to get a "London allowance", because everything cost more where I lived. Eventually, I moved countries and got a lower wage, because the cost of living was generally lower.

Of course more equality globally would be better, but the perfect is the enemy of the good (unless, of course, one is being disingenuous).
posted by pompomtom at 4:35 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gosh, that was incoherent. Try again.

Because wealth inequality in a country of 60 million leads to far greater social issues than wealth inequality in a peer group of a couple of thousand.

And even more so when we look at wealth inequality in a world of 6 billion, not just a nation of 60 million: trafficking, civil war, starvation.... So we should apply the rules globally, not just nationally

The global average income for a poor person is about $2,000 per annum (about $1 per hour). So we should pay UK citizens a maximum of 10 times $2,000, or $20,000 per annum.
posted by alasdair at 4:36 AM on February 9, 2010


So we should pay UK citizens a maximum of 10 times $2,000, or $20,000 per annum.

So are you for or against this proposal, alasdair?
posted by pompomtom at 4:40 AM on February 9, 2010


(or should we consider your particular straw man well and truly thumped?)
posted by pompomtom at 4:44 AM on February 9, 2010


My point is simply that there are good reasons for having income disparity, and people will quickly find them if their own incomes are threatened - see above. But that kind of dispassioned analysis is not available. No, it's all "hurrah! Soak the rich!" It's that "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

I mean, I love it when these kind of questions or proposals are made as part of an intellectual, detailed analysis of a problem. Talk to some economists, some philosophers, add some people living on different income levels for human interest. But usually it's just "hurrah! Down with the rich/politicians/poor/judges/police/lawyers/journalists/artists/philosophers/businessmen/feminists/whatever" Public discourse consists of ignorant opinion, the quick laugh, the dubious statistic, the story-telling. And it makes me angry.

Clearly just advancing age.
posted by alasdair at 4:45 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's like government is this big toy that we're all fighting over how to put more wheels on, stick longer arms to, paste more decals on and generally make bigger and more awesome until it rolls toward us over the hillocks of our bedclothes with that minatory, sub-audible rumble that accompanies the appearance of massive, screen-filling objects pasted over with thousands of meaningless parts from miscellaneous model kits -- fulfilling our dream of self-annihilation and escape from the frightening responsibilities of adulthood.
posted by Faze at 5:06 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


The biggest problem I see in the "maximum wage" proposal is that the richest people are not wage earners. It would also create a perverse incentive to find alternative ways to compensate high-flyers (whether they deserve that compensation is a different matter altogether) outside of the wage system. Alternatives such as stock options and bonusses in equity, and we know just how well those have worked out. Moreover, since wages are much easier to tax than other income, it would lead to egregious levels of tax avoidance.

Believe me, I know what I talk about. I work in a country whose completely unfair tax system socks wage earners to the benefit of income from equity, and quite unsurprisingly, not only has this encouraged all sorts of financial shenanigans and strange labour contracts from the lower middle class upwards, it has also led to tax evasion on an epic scale.
posted by Skeptic at 5:14 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


So we should apply the rules globally, not just nationally: trafficking, civil war, starvation

That only works if there aren't any national borders. No point setting rules on wages when you can still treat your workers like chattel in every other aspect of their lives.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:19 AM on February 9, 2010


The biggest problem I see in the "maximum wage" proposal is that the richest people are not wage earners.

Also, I have to laugh at the middle-class mentality of a maximum wage.

It's like saying, "There needs to be a maximum shackled-in-leg-irons rule across the board!"

Just put a 90% tax on all inheritance and you're good to go. So, if you really made your money, great! Go spend it! Go move some mountains or build a giant statue of yourself in gold. But once you're dead? Money goes back into system. Your heirs will still be able to live without lifting a finger their whole lives. But not in the ludicrously lavish lifestyle that they've grown accustomed to… not many tears will be shed.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:33 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I mean, I love it when these kind of questions or proposals are made as part of an intellectual, detailed analysis of a problem. Talk to some economists, some philosophers, add some people living on different income levels for human interest. But usually it's just "hurrah! Down with the rich/politicians/poor/judges/police/lawyers/journalists/artists/philosophers/businessmen/feminists/whatever" Public discourse consists of ignorant opinion, the quick laugh, the dubious statistic, the story-telling. And it makes me angry

One thing you could do, of course, would be to engage in an intellectual detailed analysis of the content of this post, on this forum (whic also qulifies as public discourse) instead of seemingly defaming the content as "ignorant opinion, the quick laugh, the dubious statistic..."

Comedians (and Mark Thomas started his public life as a comedian) have often been the only voice in society that can discuss / raise and disseminate certain issues.

That may or may not be the case here but dismissing the channel through which information comes because, as your post implies, it is not intellectual and detailed, does tend to suggest that you are not actually looking for 'intellectual blah blah blah...' as much as some opinions that you agree with.
posted by Boslowski at 5:40 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's like government is this big toy that we're all fighting over how to put more wheels on, stick longer arms to, paste more decals on and generally make bigger and more awesome

Generally speaking I think people mostly just want it to suck less. Make the wheels round instead of square, put someone who knows how to drive behind the wheel, make him ask politely before he uses the lasers on us, that sort of thing.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:42 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


...fulfilling our dream of self-annihilation and escape from the frightening responsibilities of adulthood.

"Like swimmers into cleanness leaping", to take national governments to their logical conclusion.
posted by atrazine at 6:02 AM on February 9, 2010


Generally speaking I think people mostly just want it to suck less. Make the wheels round instead of square, put someone who knows how to drive behind the wheel, make him ask politely before he uses the lasers on us, that sort of thing.

This is incorrect. Most people can't even decide on the destination.
posted by atrazine at 6:03 AM on February 9, 2010


In America, the richest 20% owns 85% of the wealth. Dan Ariely (Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke) says that when you ask American people, regardless of their wealth or politics, they tend to think that the richest 20% should own about 33% of the wealth. So people are less divided on macroeconomic issues than we are led to believe.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:04 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Limited to 10x lowest wages? Easy, fire all the low-paid people and replace them with slightly more expensive robots, eliminate the service, or automate in some other way. Keep doing that until ALL the unskilled people are unemployed, and the CEO is making £10,000,000.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:09 AM on February 9, 2010


alasdiar: "... but it's almost as though we have to have every grown-up discussion wrapped in a sugary pill of populist revolutionary sentiment, or restricted to three minutes on the Today programme ..."

Or is this just what you get in a democracy that has only one election every five years, decided by fewer than 200,000 voters, for a lower house that subsequently grants almost limitless power to the executive, including the right to appoint members to the only house of review, to delegate legislative functions to any non-elected body the executive wishes to create, and to abolish or constrain the operation of any competing political power base, such as local councils?

What would political discourse might look like in such a country?

Oh.
posted by bright cold day at 6:12 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Further.
posted by bright cold day at 6:12 AM on February 9, 2010


One thing you could do, of course, would be to engage in an intellectual detailed analysis of the content of this post

Well, I am, thank you. The post is about the existence of a comedy programme dedicated to political humour. I'm discussing that.

There is also an interesting discussion going on about one of the proposals made in the comedy program, the kind of interested discussion - as I wrote above - that I see as missing in British public discourse, but MetaFilter does fairly well.

Back on topic:

Comedians (and Mark Thomas started his public life as a comedian) have often been the only voice in society that can discuss / raise and disseminate certain issues.

Yes, to a certain extent I agree. His left-wing analysis is refreshing and all-too-rare. But it's best when he's doing thoughtful asides: it's worst when he's getting the gags in. For example his line, after an interesting discussion: "maybe we should limit Prime Ministers' terms: Thatcher and Blair! ho ho!". But term limits - as I understand it, do correct me - were imposed on American Presidents because of the Right's loathing of Roosevelt and his "socialist" ways. It had nothing to do with better government: you could have had Clinton again instead of Bush. So I can argue here that looking at the immediate past is a poor argument, but no-one got to say that during the show because it would have been a tedious policy discussion, not suited for a comedy show. But what will people take away? The Thatcher/Blair gag, not the interesting discussion before. We end up with "we should have term limits because we don't like Thatcher or Blair."

I'm frustrated at not being able to put this more clearly, but I'm not a great writer. Apologies. I just do not feel that our civilisation is well-served by our tendency to treat everything as a laugh and to approach everything with cynicism. And to some extent I've picked the wrong battlefield here, as you might observe, since this is a programme that puts some money and time where its mouth is and tries to engage with the political process. What could be more positive than creating a manifesto and trying to get elected with it? That's great! So maybe I'm just being cranky.

Still wouldn't like to be the Labour MP who ends up with them in his constituency, though.
posted by alasdair at 6:33 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mark Thomas is a naive, self satisfied loudmouth. Having said that, the idea of putting live chickens on roundabouts is brilliant.
posted by Major Tom at 6:52 AM on February 9, 2010


If you like Mark Thomas' Manifesto on Radio 4 then you'll love Genius on Radio 4. Because it's the SAME SHOW.

The TV version of Genius has a second series.
posted by Brian Lux at 7:48 AM on February 9, 2010


Policymaking goes open-source.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2010


It's like government is this big toy that we're all fighting over how to put more wheels on, stick longer arms to, paste more decals on and generally make bigger and more awesome until it rolls toward us over the hillocks of our bedclothes with that minatory, sub-audible rumble that accompanies the appearance of massive, screen-filling objects pasted over with thousands of meaningless parts from miscellaneous model kits -- fulfilling our dream of self-annihilation and escape from the frightening responsibilities of adulthood.
posted by Faze at 5:06 AM on February 9


Solution: destroy all toys and make bloodthirsty joyless hatred of your fellow man the cultural imperative.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:38 AM on February 9, 2010


so basically alasdair, you are saying that the wages in england should be based on wages earnt in third world countries, the $2-a-day sort of wages? what kind of stupidity is this? are you seriously suggesting this? and if that is how you are calculating the maximum wage, what would the minimum be? how would that help poor people in england rise out of poverty?

you seem to be expecting england to pay based on other countries rates. how that helps the average brit i don't know.
posted by marienbad at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2010


And to some extent I've picked the wrong battlefield here...

Fair play, I think that's a good call. As you say Mark Thomas can and does add a great deal of well thought out reasoned content in pursuit of his political ideals. I think he moved from funny (with serious on the side) to serious (with funny on the side) some time ago.

Last year I bought his DVD 'serious organised criminal' - it was very interesting, but if I'm being honest not very funny. It was his way of railing against the banning of protests from parliament square and he found ways to use the system against itself and to demonstrate how fundamentally daft the law was being. I am just grateful for the fact that someone thinks it is worth making a fuss about.

Anyway. Yes, sometimes (often times) it would be good if there was more serious and representative discourse on important topics.
posted by Boslowski at 6:26 AM on February 11, 2010


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