Monday, 2 May 2011

Fallacy about manifestos

Too much has been said of personalities in this election.

Yes, the integrity and ability of the individual candidates are important. But a first world parliament looks at manifestos. When push comes to shove, the MP votes with the party.

Therefore it is important to know what the party stands for.

For example after years of a Blair government that championed "education, education, education" it is clear that education has failed and the party has not met the promises of its manifesto.

In the corporate world, the business plan is very specific: we will achieve these (KPOs or Key Performance Objectives) by these dates. We will measure success in this way (KPIs or Key Performance Indicators).

Likewise a party manifesto must be specific, to some extent.

Even the 13-year-old boys in my son's school need to have a manifesto at the annual hustings for House captaincy. Some run on "better lunches", or "bicycle sheds" or "lockers to store music instruments", etc. (Somehow "less homework" is not accepted!!)

To couch a manifesto in extremely vague terms is (1) avoid making any real promises, and/or (2) to have forgotten what a manifesto means. As the saying goes, if you do not have a target you are certain to hit it.

A party election manifesto must spell out the general guiding principles of the direction they plan to take. But it cannot be so specific as to say how many dust-bins will be provided in which ward.

There is distinction between overall political direction and specific administrative goals. So to challenge opposition candidates on "what they would do" for a specific constituency is moot.

But Singaporean voters are not really used to such election protocol. I know. I used to be just like that. Until I started working overseas.

We had always gone with personalities: look! this candidate is more qualified, more experienced, has more grassroots experience than that candidate.

Or guess what, that candidate spiks liddat, only got 'O' Levels, and is a lorry driver.

That may be so. But remember that when it comes to voting in parliament, MPs vote with the party.

Could someone please help, enlighten me?

I've been asking this question but have not been given clear answers.

Is the Speaker allowed to speak for his constituents in the debating chamber? When my former MP was made Speaker he had to be "impartial". While he would still meet the people, he could not represent our views in parliament as such.

What's the point of having your MP appointed as a Speaker when he cannot actually represent your interests?

What about ministers?. When my local MP (in UK) was made a junior minister, he had to represent the cabinet view. So when my friend went to see him about a personal matter he said, "Sorry, I can't help you. As a minister I cannot be involved."

So what's the point of voting in MPs who are going to become ministers?

My question: does the same system apply in Singapore?

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