Monday, March 14, 2005

Democracy in the 21st Century

Do you want to know the reason why there is so much apathy over political matters in the UK? Well, here's one. If the aim is representative democracy, then a multi-party or even worse bi-party system is a hopeless way of achieving it. Once every five years, I get the chance to vote for an MP who basically speaking represents a political party. In most constituencies, the MP that is elected will not represent an overall majority even of those who vote in the election, let alone of the electorate. When elected, the wishes and opinions of his or her constituency are largely irrelevant - the MP will vote in accordance with the wishes and opinions of his or her party. It is technically possible for me to have my individual concerns represented in parliament - but the number of people who achieve this over the course of a year per constituency is probably one or two.

In previous years, perhaps, society was more homogeneous; people were more happy that the large parties effectively represented their own interests. It has become increasingly clear in the last few years that even within political parties there are shades of opinions and factions - they don't even represent themselves properly. So is there an alternative to this anachronistic system?

Let's suppose we continue to have an MP who represents a constituency - in other words, they are elected from a geographical area, by an electorate of between 50000 and 100000. However, although in parliament they are allowed to speak to express their own opinions on any and every matter arising, they are only allowed to vote on any matter in parliament based on a majority vote of their constituents. These votes are electronically posted to the MP by email, text message or whatever other system seems appropriate - they are collated by his "staff" (which may actually just be a logging program), and transmitted to him as he enters the division lobby.

So every vote he cast in parliament would represent the expressed will of his constituency. Surely this must be a more representative form of government.

This pattern obviously looks as though it makes more sense if it relates to only a handful of MP's - if everybody was elected in this way, people will say, "Well, how would policy decisions be made? How would budgets be set? How would you ensure continuity?"

The policy side works OK - direction could be set by an organisation like this divided up into committees (it's how most voluntary societies, boards of governors etc are run - and it's how much of the real business of government is achieved anyway) - and with the assistance of civil servants who understood their role to be servants of government (like a clerk to a board of governors), who could provide the continuity and work with parliament, I'm sure something could be sorted out.

And by taking away all the issues of political point-scoring; new ideas and initiatives for the political ends of the parties; the wasteful party campaigns - I'm sure that government would be slimmed down as well.

But let's face it - how many MP's would vote for this proposal? Or more particularly, how many of the parties?!

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