Category Archives: UnParty

To take someone else’s rallying call ‘Be The Change!’

To say that the existing political system feels even more out of touch, potentially dangerous and most definitely out to protect its own over the last few days is probably an understatement. Part of the problem is the more it is like that, the easier it is to try and ignore, to decide that there is nothing you can do so why bother.
Turnout at election time is low, in the reviews of the day there are discussions about what could have happened if a greater number of people turned up but its a no win scenario. People won’t vote when they don’t see the potential for change, can’t see how they can make a difference.

Change is a good thing, though it can be both scary and difficult. So I want to ask you all to imagine something simple.

What if we could persuade at least one person to stand as an independent in each constituency in the coming general election. Someone who lived locally in the constituency, someone who was interested enough in politics to make a go at it, but also realised that this is not a career move. With an aim not to be in the Westminster Circle for the rest of their life but to help make their constituency, the country (and impact the rest of the world) for the better of everyone.

They would have to be able to listen to argument, to compromise, to speak up at times, to be willing to return to the constituency to listen to the thoughts of the voters they represent, to work across scales. Most importantly they must be willing to be transparent about their political life, and we should be respectful of the transparency on that life and respect a private family life.

I very much doubt it would be an easy job, if you stand as a part of a party you have a grander support structure but a structure that is becoming obsolescent in the modern networked world.

The #UnParty can be a new kind of support structure. By standing as an independent you declare that you are not subject to a Party mandate, your manifesto can be drawn from the best ideas, not driven purely by ideology. If the #UnParty can be a support network for independents, a place for those wanting to stand to discuss issues, problems and ideas without conflict, a place where volunteers can help independents stand and when elected do their job then I believe we can affect change to the system overall.

To stand for election is incredibly easy, at the moment there is no register, no one you have to tell, you can just wake up one morning and decide to do it. Then you can tell as many people as you like. Later on some paper work does come into play, and by the election you will need to have found the following:

* 10 people in the constituency that you want to stand in willing to sign your nomination paper.
* A deposit of £500. You get this back if you get 5% or more of the vote, otherwise you loose it.

That is pretty much the basics, yes there is a lot of communication, a lot of talking to people but that is not a bad thing. If that is not something you can do then maybe don’t stand yourself but help someone else.

If you decide to stand then read this article over at the Guardian which has some more basic tips on getting started.

Also go to the Electoral Commission website where there is a lot of information. You can call them as well and they are really helpful.

Finally, James Smith, who has been running the OpenPolitics Manifesto has decided to do just this, he is blogging and writing his experiences to share with everyone.

If you decide to stand or help persuade someone to stand then let us know and we will build out the #UnParty network to support them.


[[This was sent out as a TinyLetter, subscribed to via the Unparty Politics Website and was the first one.]]

UnParty Update

The Unparty

We held another UnParty meet up, this time hosted by Hub Westminster.

One of the outcomes of this evenings meeting was a better structure on what the UnParty is, and where it sits in relation to a number of other projects that are currently underway.

Firstly, we have the crowd sourced manifesto. This project is being led by James Smith (@floppy). Using GitHub as a place to collect, discuss and present an openly sourced set of manifesto policies.

Next we have Democracy Club. At the last election Democracy Club was started and built some tools to try and help people better engage with the whole election process. It started too close to the election, so now, the project is being re-invigorated by Sym Roe (@symroe) and is starting again now with more time ahead of the election. Democracy is about tools, things that can be built to help people to engage better with the existing system. Non-partisan.

Finally we have UnParty, UnParty is a way of framing discussion about politics, participation outside of the traditional party model.

Now for the sketch part, an idea on what the UnParty can be to help take things forward.

What the UnParty can also be, is a way for independants standing in elections to have the support of a cohort.

If you stand in an election at any level, you agree to take part in the discussion openly with everyone else. Sharing of ideas and openess to listen to others who take part. We dont expect you to sign up to the manifesto, policy for policy, though you should contribute to the discussion and if your stance on an issue or policy idea is different, then you should be willing and able to back it up with why you feel you need to take a different tack.

The UnParty cannot punish you for this, for the UnParty has no whips, no structure for discipline within an organisation since it is not that.

What it is, is an agreement and a conversation. Politics and policy will change, the issues change, the facts on the ground often change. New information comes to light, old tenants are disproved by new evidence.

There is nothing to stop anyone just using the OpenPolitics manifesto, nor in fact taking part in all but name of the UnParty, but it is there if you want it.

It feels somewhat odd to deliberately try to create something which isn’t anything beyond and ackowledgment but that is what I feel is the best way forward. The rigid party structures are not what is needed now. The ability to reach into a problem, past ideology and look at the evidence, discuss and shape, making sure its clear on ability (its not good promising to fix something that you can’t at the level of office you hold, that is just disengenuous).

So, we will announce the next UnParty meetup shortly and hopefully we will also be able to tell you about a meetup for people interested in building tools with the Democracy Club.

the UnParty UnConference meet @ Hub Westminster, March 2014

We are holding another meeting, to discuss ideas around policy, politics, activism and everything related whilst leaving our party politics at the door.

Hub Westminster have offered us the Library space at their venue, for March 19th 2014 from 1800 – 2130, so if you are interested in coming along then please add your name to the attending page.

If you are interested in holding your own UnParty UnConference meeting then please go ahead, but drop us a line and let us know how it went and what ideas where discussed.

Take Part!

ballot paper design

As a part of my research for LazyGov and associated projects I am interested in the design of ballot papers and the mechanisms of voting / selecting. Basically I want to find some resources of the designs that have been tried out there in the world, both paper and digital interfaces.

They do not have to be for governmental elections, any kind of voting process.

So if you know of any online resources describing the design of various ballot papers from around the world then please let me know in the comments.

politics and all that

Very quickly a couple of notes:

1.James has pointed to the Open Politics Manifesto site, currently hosted on GitHub.

2. Sym has a twitter bot reminding us of how many days to the next election:

3. Sym has also started collating a list of tools & projects that we could use to better engage, take part and generally have a better political life. When I started at the UnParty meetup in December I was wondering if we really needed more tools, but Sym, I think, very quickly persuaded me otherwise.

4. I am going to collate, collect and note ideas around this over at which I am re-launching. If nothing else, it will be the space to find what I am trying to write about academically.

interim notes

We held the first meeting of an UnParty Unconference and during the discussion I scribbled down some notes. What I have not done is made the time yet to write these up properly, which is one of the first mistakes in trying to do something. for those who turned up, I have scanned my notes and included the images below and will write these more formally as soon as possible.

I will also contribute these to the Open Politics repository.

— Mark








tooling and talking about policy – the UnParty UnConference

We are getting close to hosting a first, test UnParty UnConference, as space to meet up and spend a few hours talking policy, ideas and how to talk about policy.

To help this along I have started ‘designing’ a policy notebook, once again using bookleteer.

Policy Notebook #lazygov #bookleteer

Its still in alpha, so if you have any feedback then let me know, but it is just a tool to note down a policy ‘idea’ and has prompts through the booklet to help you start to think about it.

An interesting idea was suggested by Chris Thorpe, write a user story for your policy. If you can’t do that then there is probably something wrong.

Frankie Roberto also has an interesting site, Policy Positions, which he wrote up on his blog. It lists the policies from the UK.Gov site and allows you to declare your support or opposition to the policy.

So, please have a look at Frankie’s site and also the notebook, and share your thoughts and feedback on them.

When I have the date confirmed I shall post about the first meet up.

A Further UnParty UnConference Idea

In the film Sunshine the crew of the ship have to make a decision:

Mace: It’s a lot of assumptions.
Searle: It is. It’s a risk assessment. The question is: does the risk of a detour outweigh the benefits of an extra payload?
Mace: We’ll have a vote.
Searle: No. No, we won’t. We are not a democracy. We’re a collection of astronauts and scientists, so we’re gonna make the most informed decision available to us.
Mace: Made by you, by any chance?
Kaneda: Made by the person best qualified to understand the complexities of payload delivery: our physicist.

And whilst I do not with to dwell on the line ‘We are not a democracy’ I think the idea that those most qualified to understand the complexities of an issue, or a policy should at least be able to discuss it and give their informed response in a public forum.

So, I would like to suggest that expert organisations hold UpParty UnConferences, discuss the ideas that their domain of expertise touches up and shares their insight with everyone else.

So if you are in such an organisation and feel that this kind of discussion would be good to participate in, take part.

Scaling the UnParty

It seems slightly odd to write this now, we have yet to hold the first UnParty UnConference but it has been raised in response to the last post, why not deal with Global Politics and thus global citizenship with these UnConference meetings.

To which my initial response is why not, people should and will bring the policies, ideas and issues that affect them, the things that concern them. If that is about an issue that is local then that is fine as it is engaging them and they are participating.

If the issues that concerns the people at the UnConference are issues around climate change or international arms trading then they can bring these concerns to the table.

Everything is recorded digitally and everyone can contribute and discuss online.

So, we could tag everything local or hyperlocal through to global.

When I started LazyGov I thought, a space to share ideas about what government is, what it should do, policy, regulation etc. I was told by some that ideas are what we have plenty off, it was tools and ‘projects’ that we needed.

I would suggest that whilst we may have plenty of ideas what we do not have is the breadth of possible discussion, in an inclusive way as possible. At least, we have some amazing tools online to do clever things and eventually everyone will be online, eventually.

LazyGov only worked if you had your own weblog, James’s OpenPolitics manifesto only works once you understand how Git/GitHub works, we need better interfaces into the digital space we are creating to record, shape and disseminate these ideas on policy and issues and governance.

The simplest interface to this digital world is talking.

Returning back to the global point that was the start of this response, I would expect within an UnConference that ideas would be raised that addressed local issues and some would be global in scope.

The trick is to look at each from both ends, to examine a local issue and pick out the points that can be abstracted to a global guidance and within a global idea look at the issues that would allow its local implementation.

If we reduce things down to rules (algorithms for global governance) then problems will arise, instead if we work along the idea of case law, case studies, examination and recording. One size does not fit all.

Of course there is nothing to stop someone running an UnParty UnConference and suggesting that for that meeting they look at Global Ideas.

holding an UnParty UnConference

Have you heard Mark Thomas’ The Manifesto? Its been on Radio 4. The set up is simple, Mark visits various parts of the country and people are invited to submit their ideas to join the Peoples Manifesto. Some are very funny, some are a bit odd and others are very interesting. Mark will do research on some of the ideas, asking experts for their opinion etc.

You might also have seen a project by James Smith (@floppy) The Open Politics Manifesto hosted over on GitHub. Using the tools developers use to record, edit and ‘discuss’ manifesto ideas.

Yes, you do need a GitHub account and know how to use it a bit, James has written notes on how to participate but it can be seen as a hurdle.

Of course, participation in the Mark Thomas project is also limited, in fact I am not sure if it is still running,

Years ago I started a site called, which was based on the code that was written by Ben Hammersley to run a site he owned called, which in turn was based on an idea by Matt Jones. The idea was simple, using trackback you could post something on your weblog and it would get reflected on the lazyweb/gov page, linking to your post.

Again it was a digital tool when, in reality the number of us online was still low. It is not totally inclusive.

So the next intervention I propose is to hold an UnParty UnConference, or a lot of them all over the country and as often as needed.


  • Find A Venue
  • Tell people about it
  • Get policy ideas recorded online for discussion
  • Someone to facilitate the meeting
  • Hold the meeting, discuss and record

The only rule should be that you need to be non-partisan. This is not ideology lead, it should be a space to discuss ideas rationally and calmly. Use the tools of deliberation, debate, research. Encourage people to go out and find and present the facts to support or not an idea, be willing to compromise.

Once your meeting is over, record and share the conversations online, update the policy ideas.

Yes, there are plenty of steps to take next, from ideas though to action. This is just a stepping stone.