As the final feeble pretence of democracy dissolves, with the selection process of a new prime minister exposing the sick joke we are obliged to accept, it has been good to see and hear alternatives. John Harris’s ‘Any new prime minister is doomed if they don’t fix Britain’s democracy’ says much of what I might have, but better.
His article refers to an earlier one which describes some of the revolt at a local level that has built on Frome’s Independent Movement. I hugely enjoyed spending time with the Devon Quintet of towns recently, where unexpected people have chosen to try and radically up the game in their communities (unexpected by themselves as much as anyone). Perhaps I should not have been surprised at the extent to which the old guard have tried to hang on, and the twists and turns (especially at a District level), which have enabled the Party faithful to retain power. Too often we resist change, even when everything possible is screaming out that we need to.
Jon also mentions David Runciman’s ‘How Democracy Ends’. Runciman has no solutions, but points towards democracy in a midlife crisis rather than its death throes. That was the tone of his Radio 4 series ‘‘Rethinking Representation’ too – which included my thoughts on the farce of today that I started this piece with. Having set the scene for really radical change, the series fades a bit towards the end, proposing tweaks rather than a Guy Fawkes approach.
Personally, I’d like to see the momentum of Extinction Rebellion’s third demand – for a Citizen’s Assembly – catapult us into mass participation, starting with how to implement a response to the climate emergency, followed by taking on other key intractables that our current political system cannot possibly deal with. While engineering Citizen’s Assemblies may start expensive and daunting, if they start to be used more and more, the cost and challenges will quickly reduce. We might even get to a point where decisions are made based on information and expertise! Or am I just trying to cheer myself up?