Introducing the Science Party
Science writer Michael Brooks is running for Parliament in Bosworth, representing the new Science Party against Tory veteran David Tredinnick. I asked him recently what set him on the road to Westminster.
Why run for parliament?
We were having a discussion in the New Scientist office between a few of us and decided one of the best ways, you know we talk about science issues we talk about trying to raise the profile, and we realised that one of the most powerful things we could do would be to put somebody actually up for election. And it seemed like I was the person most willing to do it and most exercised about it. So it was kind of an idea amongst science journalists, but really once we started looking at the ways in which we could raise the profile of science in the election it seemed like a great way to go forward.
Really, the sitting MP, David Tredinnick. He’s been sitting for 23 years now, he’s effectively anti-science, in that he works quite hard to promote thing that scientists say, actually, maybe this isn’t the best way forward. He has a history of, for instance, trying to introduce astrology into the NHS. One of his expenses claims was to do with buying astrology software and training to see whether NHS practitioners should be using astrology to help diagnose their patients. And this seems ridiculous. Then he challenged the outcome of Science and Technology Select Committee on homeopathy, basically saying it wasn’t very well researched, because the conclusion was that they couldn’t justify homeopathy on the NHS, even as a placebo treatment it just didn’t provide value for money. He set up an Early Day Motion against this and persuaded 70 other MPs to sign it. And so it seemed like this in an MP who we want to hold up with a question mark over his head. Is this the kind of MP we want in a scientific age?
People in Bosworth are amazing. I put out word that I was interested to a few people like the Sceptics in the Pub based in Leicester, who then tweeted it and I tweeted it and through e-mail and various contacts I got the 10 nominations that I needed to stand. I got those within a couple of days, and they’re still coming in. People are still saying to me, "if you still need help, if you want help distributing leaflets or doing any campaigning." I’ve had offers to help produce fliers and thing like that. So lots of people are very supportive about the whole thing. I've been quite bowled over by it.
How are you campaigning?
I’m not from the locality, I’m going up occasionally to see people and to try and raise issues. We’re doing it on a shoestring, there’s really no budget for it at all. What we’re trying to do is raise the issue nationally as well. So we’ve set up a new political party called the Science Party, I and a few colleagues from New Scientist, and we’re hoping to create a groundswell of feeling of we want a different kind of MP this time, somebody who is sensible, who doesn’t support nonsense, and actually is capable of making decisions about the scientific issues that face us. So I’m not able to campaign hugely, I haven’t got the people on the ground like the major political parties, but we can use all kinds of modern technologies, the power of the internet and the power, obviously, of national media coverage, to really make people think twice about whether they want to keep their current MP or whether they’re ready for a change.
How do you go about setting up a political party?
With fear and trepidation. We registered it a couple of weeks ago, it takes a while to set up. You have to have various officers of the party and you have to put up, I think it’s £150 for the registration, you have to have a constitution and things like that. You put in everything to the electoral commission and a week or so later they told us that we’d successfully registered. It’s not as hard as you might think.
What do you think are your changes of getting your deposit back?
Oh, very slim I would say. If you look at the prediction of what’s going to happen in this constituency, I think The Times had Tredinnick winning 93 per cent of the vote or something ridiculous like that. I’ve already had Lib Dem activists telling me I shouldn’t be doing this because I’m in danger of splitting their vote, but really I think they’re overreacting.