Following on from the pieces about the government policies inspired by the Centre for Policy Studies, Policy Exchange and the TaxPayers' Alliance, Douglas Carswell, the MP for Clacton, highlights the policies being pursued by the Government which were inspired by Direct Democracy, which he co-founded with Daniel Hannan MEP.
A new idea in politics passes through three stages before finding acceptance. Initially it is likely to be dismissed as madness. Second, comes the stage when politicians accept that it may be a good idea, but convince themselves it is impractical. Finally, former sceptics will merrily tell you how it was their idea all along.
Frustrated with the barren Tory script of the 1990s, Daniel Hannan and I set up what became the Direct Democracy group in the early noughties. Our radical agenda to disperse power at first seemed outlandish.
Shortly before the election, David Cameron gave speeches that didn’t merely touch on the same themes. As ConservativeHome and Guido Fawkes both noted at the time, the actual text of what Cameron said borrowed from what we had written in The Plan (2008).
Indeed, as Charles Moore has put it, “Mr Cameron's policy guru, Steve Hilton, ...has enthusiastically lifted several bits of The Plan. So much so, he continues, “the localism of the Carswell/Hannan "direct democracy" movement is now good Coalition orthodoxy".
Here are some specific examples of Coalition policy that were first put forward by Direct Democracy:
There is no such thing as plagiarism in politics. We're all in the business of spreading our ideas, and the more of our proposals that the Tory leadership want to pilfer, the better. But a policy wrenched from its context can be a dangerous thing. If you want to abscond with the new engine, you ought at least to have a word with the mechanic who built it.
For example, I am delighted that the Coalition has taken up the idea of open primaries - the single best way to make MPs independent, to strengthen the legislature against the executive, and to shift power from party bosses to voters. But primaries should take place at the initiative of local people, not in 200 constituencies arbitrarily chosen by central government. The current proposal is not just useless; it is actively harmful, since primaries, instead of being a mechanism to increase accountability, would become a weapon in the Whips' arsenal: "You'd better not vote against this Bill, or we'll make sure there's an open primary in your patch".
The same is true of recall mechanisms. A vote on whether to make a sitting MP fight his seat again should take place when local electors want it, assuming they can gather enough signatures (most systems that allow for recall votes set high enough thresholds to deter frivolous campaigns). But what is being put forward is a scheme to allow for recall only when Westminster grandees judge an MP guilty of wrongdoing. Stop and consider this for a few seconds and you will realise that a good idea has been turned into a very dangerous one. A group of MPs, possibly from partisan motives, can effectively remove any of their colleagues from the House of Commons - for who could survive a recall vote having been labelled a malefactor?
In other words, policies designed to disperse power could end up having precisely the opposite effect because they are being bungled in the implementation.
I know that Cameron's policy wonks have been reading our manual; they might get more out of it if they also consulted the engineers.
The Direct Democracy group - established by Tory parliamentarians Douglas Carswell and Dan Hannan - has welcomed the moves towards 'people power' that are widely expected to be announced in today's Queen's Speech:
DD also listed six other initiatives that they hope to see the Coalition deliver in future: