Editor ~ This is the second part in a series by David Allen. You can read the first part on UkipDaily here.
SAGE is part of a process whereby grassroots members have a say and a vote on party policy. It stands for Spokesmen’s Advisory Group Experts (a bit clunky, I know), and is the process by which policy will be developed and through which members can become directly involved.
The full outline of the process will be presented in detail by the leader shortly, but I will explain the SAGE part of policy development as it applies to Electoral Reform and the importance of developing robust internal communication structures within the party.
A SAGE group will be led by the relevant spokesperson (cabinet member) for a particular discipline so there will be at least as many SAGE groups as there are policy groupings. Each group will seek applications from the membership for people who want to work with the group and have skills and abilities pertinent to that area of policy. Needless to say, the posts are voluntary but the opportunity to influence and shape policy is, in itself, extremely rewarding.
In the broader system, any member may formally present a policy idea to the respective SAGE grouping which will then be considered by that group. Depending on the policy idea, it will either be pursued through to full policy development or not. Where a policy idea is not seen as appropriate to pursue, the originator will be advised of the reasons for the decision.
We already have a committed policy of electoral reform, of which voting reform is a major part, so the principle task of the SAGE grouping, in this case, is the development of the strategy, arguments and mechanisms needed to actually make this happen.
In the past we’ve not been very good at developing policy and selling it. A major failing has been the lack of engagement with and by the members; but that was not the choice of grassroots members. The party was very central in this respect and, whilst we are generally of like mind with our political outlook, nobody knew enough about our policy ideas early enough to help us disseminate the best arguments. Typically, a manifesto would be created just before a general election and of no use to all the borough and county council candidates trying to get elected in their constituencies and between general elections. For electoral reform, though, this will be very different.
Getting the party behind a particular policy or a strategy is more than just announcing it. There is huge benefit in interacting directly with members by means of live presentations, social media and, to a lesser extent, video production because it provides an opportunity to refine and improve upon the arguments as well as better preparing our members to speak with authority to the general public. By engaging with as many members as possible, they will be better informed, we will refine our approach and arguments to better effect and we will, through a network of contacts, gain support that might otherwise have been lost.
I intend to follow the same thinking to bring on board those outside the party. By engaging with supportive groups, other political parties and influential individuals, we can collectively pursue the strategy I outlined in ‘Electoral Reform (Stage 1), a strategic overview part 1’. In order to get people interested, this group will have a specific and quite different approach.
It begins with a process of evaluation to determine which proportional voting system we would collectively campaign for. It is a critical factor and one which has held progress back. Currently, different groups favour different systems and, once a choice has been made, it is difficult for them to deviate from that course; and it will take something quite persuasive to achieve that. However, it is a decision that, sooner or later, will have to be made, though some want to avoid that preferring, instead, to secure legislation in principle (whatever that means) then, presumably, foist a voting system onto the British people.
I, on the other hand, believe there to be massive benefits in making a decision now as to which system to campaign for and I will outline my reasoning in the next bulletin.
The process, to date, then, would be to create the SAGE group for those with a keen interest and something to offer, spread the word, the strategy and the arguments throughout the party and, at the same time, offer the opportunity to like-minded organisations and political parties to become involved in a ‘first of its kind’ evaluation process to further the national argument.
The end-product will be a simple but powerful message to encourage people to vote for parties that support voting reform. ‘If you want this, then don’t vote for that’.