On 25 November 2014 I put myself forward as a People Power MP for the Stroud constituency. I've been working on the side-lines as a democracy campaigner for over 15 years, and a lot of people have been wondering why, all of a sudden - and it has been very sudden - I've taken the plunge into the heart of politics. Others, like the BBC, local press, other candidates and party members have misunderstood my motivations, which isn't surprising as my reasons for standing are unusual.
So, for the record: we are not trying to win, but to change the democratic system; and we are not setting up a new party, but hoping to improve how MPs represent the electorate, whichever party they are aligned with.
I dearly wish we could win, but within our political system, small parties and new entrants stand the tiniest chance of winning. Only three independent MPs have won since 1950. Not that I'm standing as an independent MP; rather, I'm standing as a MyMP candidate, which has one simple aim - for all MPs to commit to the following:
1. Hearing the people: Actively seeking and listening to everyone's opinion on all parliamentary votes.
2. Respecting the people: Providing 100% transparency on all meetings, spending etc.
3. Trusting the people: Holding local referenda of constituents on key parliamentary decisions - and voting accordingly.
It's a kind of "Hippocratic oath" for MPs, and reflects the explicit statement in the MPs Code of Conduct that an MP has "a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents." It's absolutely non-partisan. It's about ensuring that our MPs always put their constituents' views first.
Firstly, the current system of whipping and political patronage requires any slightly ambitious MPs to put constituents' views after the demands of their party seniors. Secondly - and just as problematic - backbenchers (that's over 75% of our MPs) are supposed to hold the government to account by checking the policy is good and scrutinising the motivations behind any bill. Sadly, again, most MPs do not do this, because if they did they would be labelled 'disloyal', risk being de-selected and certainly wouldn't be able to be a Minister. The reason for this is that MPs are not allowed to vote against the government of which they are a part. By definition, MPs are not allowed to put the interests of their constituents first.
This democratic deficit is hard-wired into the heart of our political system and helps explains why people think their MPs don't work for them. Sadly, usually they do not. It also helps explain the ashen faces of our MPs. Believe it or not, many do enter politics with the best of intentions; winning their seat off the back of huge dedication from local volunteers who place their hopes in them - only to be forced to go against their constituents and friends from day one in the job. This ancient systemic duplicity has corroded our politicians and our politics to the core. And now that has to change.
Our goal in Stroud is not for me to win, but for each of the candidates to sign the pledge above. This would ensure that MPs always put the views of the citizens first. It would invert the current systematic parliamentary duplicity, and start to do the opposite, to systemically prioritise the views of the people. Therefore, Ministers would sometimes have to go against their government, if their constituents wanted them to. It would relieve MPs of the impossible expectation to be "all things to all people". Instead we would know that their primary responsibility would always be to their constituents.
So in Stroud I'll stand until the other candidates sign the pledge, and we can be sure Britain get's its first MP who is formally required to put constituents' views first. This year marks the 750th anniversary of the birth of democracy in this country. I believe it's about time it started working.