Election time again. My heart sinks as the horrors of our adversarial political system spread out onto the streets and get even nastier than usual. I have been in a quandary about this one, and will probably feel compelled to tactically vote – the media bias has been extraordinary and the stakes seem higher than normal. But tactical voting for something that I don’t believe in, in order to thwart the frontrunner disgusts me – THIS HAS TO STOP!!
I believe very strongly that the time has come to stop giving power to the people who are seeking it, and instead build an entirely new expression of democracy with a sustained responsibility and engagement from the ground up, as opposed to marking a cross every few years and then moaning about it until the next time. The world has changed and our voices can be heard without self-serving representatives.
Is this possible? Yes. The way forward is sortition, in one form or another.
I have believed this for some time, but have always thought it could never happen – how would we get from where we are now to something so radically different? Well … I have some ideas about that … read on …
The Problem, very roughly …
So … companies, organisations, businesses and teams all over the world know that the best work is done when we are working together. Small fortunes are spent on team-building exercises, training in positive reinforcement and constructive criticism etc. But not in parliament. There, our elected representatives sit squarely opposite each other, tearing each others ideas, and each other, to shreds with very little listening, care and respect. Why? Well it’s easy to think of them all as devolved Banksy chimps, but I don’t believe that – at least some are there with genuinely good intentions I think. Unfortunately running the country is not the only agenda. Much energy is spent on one-upmanship, jostling for power, and an eye is always on the next election. Creativity and honesty is compromised further by party lines and ‘the whip’. How can we expect good decisions to be made in this nightmare working environment? Outside of the House the political parties seek and receive the support of businesses and organisations who of course have interests of their own …
Just as important is what the rest of us are doing, or NOT doing. Every few years we go and cast our vote. We can then pretty much forget about it until the next time. Some of us might get passionate about a party, or a politican; many of us will habitually stick with a party, sometimes down through generations of our family; most will simply leave the job of running the country to others and be disengaged.
There are lots of sortition models, but as an example I have outlined how one solution could work, very roughly …
MPs are randomly selected from the adult population, similarly to jury duty, except it would not be compulsory. There would be a fixed amount of time that a person could serve, say three years, with a third of the MPs changing annually. An annual rotation would allow an incoming MP to be mentored, and also mean parliament never has to shut down.
On a day to day basis parliament could be run from Regional Centres across the UK, meaning significantly larger numbers of MPs could be catered for – with a pool of, say, 1000 MPs across the UK parliament which could work to healthy hours 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Within each Regional Centre issues could be discussed and explored in small groups designed to allow everyone to have a voice, not just the loudest and most forceful. Because business, power and funding interests will have been removed the focus can be on evidence-based solutions, calling on an active civil service and scientific think tanks for resources and information. Results from each small group are shared and evaluated, possibly generating more questions, discussion or a vote. Regional Centres can be linked by video so that ultimately everyone can come together to share findings and for voting.
Larger decisions could be fielded out for the entire voting public to have a say. Yes – referendums. I know most of us are still traumatised by the 2016 fiasco, so let me briefly outline how I believe a referendum should be run …
If you are asking people to make a decision, you must make sure they have as much relevant information as possible, clearly and without obfuscation of any kind. And whilst everybody would be entitled to vote, only people who have actually understood the issues at hand would be encouraged to vote. No spin. No ‘for’ and ‘against’ parties. Perhaps the odd TV debate but basically, referendums based on non-partisan information packs, produced by a balanced team, and sanctioned by the goverment.
So if I had my way, there would be a load of career politicians all looking for work – indeed the very concept would no longer exist. In it’s place there would be a whole nation of people expected to keep up with what’s going on and make intelligent contributions, and a further proportion of those people would be making policy decisions every day. This is of course a huge leap from where we are now, and very different to what we are accustomed to, so how could this be achieved?
1. Replace the House of Lords with a House of Citizens. There is NO good reason why posh people and religious leaders are more qualified to check and challenge the work of the government than anybody else, except maybe they have the arrogance and self-confidence that comes with entitlement. You can read more about a Citizens House here …
BEFORE THE NEXT ELECTION FIASCO
2. Outlaw Political Parties. No more shortcutting by picking the Labour or Tory MP, or which ever party offered the least objectionable prime minister. We’d actually have to read the leaflets to find out WHO our potential representative is and what they believe. The elected parliament would then be responsible for appointing governments roles, with or without a ‘prime minister’.
3. Encourage more female politicians.
4. Rip out the oppositional rows of green benches and create a less confrontational horseshoe seating arrangement.
5. Start to encourage more frequent referendums, breaking the public in to being actively engaged with learning about tackling issues and creating a cost-effective ballot system.
5. Raise the profile of debating and decision making in schools so that children are aware from the get-go that they will be actively involved in the running of the country, and that they might have the opportunity to be an M.P. one day.
Whilst points 1, 2, 3 and 4 might seem like the bigger obstacles, I really see 4 and 5 as the most important bits – they are the steps that could really change our politics, our country, our world and ourselves.
If you are interested in knowing more about sortition you can read about that here: