Political Promise

The next generation of politicians? Spending a month on Jolitics.com

In Garry Lee on May 18, 2011 at 9:00 am

Garry Lee explores the pros and cons of Jolitics.com, a new website giving ordinary people “a platform for political proposals”.
When I had noticed that three of Political Promise’s writers – Charlie Edwards, Michael Indian and Archie Manners – who all held very different political opinions had signed up to a website I was unfamiliar with, I was understandably intrigued. I instantly joined the website using my Facebook account, and I was instantly part of this new online community. The website was called Jolitics.com, and its tagline was: “a platform for political proposals: debate, vote, campaign”. As a student of public policy, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to get some experience of debating the merits of a number of different policies, and convincing people to back my own proposals; both arguably being useful transferable skills.

The website from the onset was very easy to use. The acts of putting together a proposal, voting on issues and suggesting for and against arguments were all straightforward enough for anyone to grasp. My first proposal, to allow tax breaks for fair trade foods and fashions to remove the pay barrier to responsible consumerism, was accepted by the community at a vote of 93 to 15. To see people convinced of the arguments that I had made for the issue was a motivating experience, and it made me want to contribute even more to the process of shaping and improving other people’s own suggested policies. At least, this was accurate of my first two weeks on the site.

What I hadn’t expected was exactly what I was to encounter afterwards. I had envisioned a forum of politically educated students with non-discriminatory, informed suggestions on parliamentary reform absent in the House of Commons. Instead, I have witnessed an overwhelming number of identikit proposals of the illogical, unnecessary and absurd variety. The most regularly reposted proposals are those suggesting a change to the voting age to 16 and that we simply remove ourselves from the European Union because it costs too much money. Many of these proposals, while accepted, did not meet any real academic standard and did not contain any supporting arguments that had the potential to really change your mind on the issue at hand. Sadly, these arguments seem to take precedence from the genuinely intelligent proposals such as that of Darren Moore, to change the organ donor register in the UK to an opt-out system. This could proposal could potentially save many, many lives.

In the time I have spent on the website, the nominating system, that allows users to nominate a candidate to vote on their behalf when they have no opinion on an issue, had been taken advantage of by several users, which in my opinion gave too much power to an individual with quite extremist views. The founders of the site defended the voting system in a blog post that played down some of the more sensible suggestions for change. The mere fact that they addressed the situation was admirable, but their reluctance to make the proposed changes was, while somewhat expected, still pretty disappointing.

Could Jolitics.com help us to find the political stars among those of the next generation? The answer to that is, possibly. Sadly, the people currently making the most sense are the ones without representation, and it is mainly those that shout the loudest and say the most controversial things that are dominating. Although, if the website is getting people of many different levels of interest to talk about politics in a way that, in theory, should penalize uninformed opinions and encourage real debate, then I’m sure that Jolitics.com will have a positive effect on a large number of its members.

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