Making Democracy Work

“My vote never makes any difference,” is the universal complaint, and one that’s hard to argue with given the crude way that we currently do democracy.

But instead of complaining we need to do something about it.

We will never reach our destination of Universal Sustainable Prosperity until we devise a better way of making collective decisions.

The current system which hands almost absolute power to a tiny remote ignorant elite by way of party patronage has long since lost the confidence of the people who it is supposed to serve.

There’s an appetite for change, a gap in the market, so let’s fill it with something more useful than populist posturing over flags and borders.

Better democratic government means elected representatives with real power who are rooted in local communities and work solely for their constituents.

Here’s how we could make it work:

 

Structure

The current multiple layers of elected government are abolished and replaced by single layer.

This means that, in the UK, we get rid of all of our community councillors, parish councillors, local authority councillors, mayors, MSPs, AMs, MLAs, and MPs and replace them with a single tier of Elected Representatives (ERs), which means that a single layer of elected government is responsible for everything. We know exactly who’s responsible for what – there’s nowhere to pass the buck.

All of the functions of government remain as they are. The civil service and public services continue to operate as normal until the new system of government is established and decides, in due course, what changes are required.

The only immediate change is in the election and organisation of our representatives, and their relationship with the civil/public service.

ERs represent local constituencies of their choosing.

ERs determine policy via a system of committees and working groups.

ER committees delegate the delivery of policy to the heads of public services who are supported by the civil service and empowered to deliver policy in whatever ways they consider to be most appropriate.

Public service and civil service heads are appointed by and report directly to the relevant ER committees or working groups.

ERs from the same constituency, or, if they wish, overlapping or adjacent constituencies, form a Local Committee (LC) that is the primary point of contact for their constituents.

Local Committees must comprise of a small number of ERs to ensure that the LC remains truly local and the number must be odd to ensure that a majority vote is always possible. A minimum of three and a maximum of five ERs would seem to be appropriate.

ERs may employ assistants who are empowered to speak and act on the ER’s behalf within their constituency area and sit on the LC as non-voting members, or they can be authorised to vote on behalf of their ER if he/she is absent.

ERs form local working groups that determine policy for specific services at local level.

ERs from different LCs can sit on the same local working group. This allows the system to accommodate variable definitions of “local”.

ERs may appoint unelected non-voting experts to local working groups.

Local ER committees appoint ERs and unelected non-voting experts to Regional Committees (RCs) which determine regional strategies, policies, legislation and appointment of service heads.

The geographic coverage of Regional Committees may vary. For example your Education RC area may have different borders to your Health RC area, and your Energy RC may be different again.

Regional Committees co-ordinate inter-regional collaboration via national working groups which determine universal (i.e. national and international) strategies, policies, legislation, and appointment of ministers of state.

Ministers of state are unelected appointees who are empowered by the Regional Committees, via the national working groups, to represent the interests of all of the Local Committees at national and international levels.

In summary:

Elected Representatives with overlapping or adjacent constituency boundaries form Local Committees of three or five ERs.

Local Committees are the primary unit of democratic power within the system.

Local Committees form local working groups to determine policy for and oversee delivery of local public services.

Regional Committees are established, empowered by, and are answerable to their parent Local Committees.

Regional Committees form regional working groups to determine policy for and oversee delivery of regional public services.

National working groups are established, empowered by, and are answerable to their parent Regional Committees.

National working groups propose national policies and legislation and oversee their delivery on behalf of Regional Committees.

Ministers of State are appointed by and are answerable to the relevant Regional Committees, via the relevant national working groups.

 

Citizens’ Commission

The Citizens’ Commission is the body that owns and operates the machinery of democracy on behalf of the citizens.

It is independent of government and the judiciary and its workings can only be amended by a decision that is supported by a super-majority of Local Committees (e.g. 80%).

Everyone who has citizenship has a Citizen’s ID (CID) – a secure digital identity that is held on their behalf by the Citizens’ Commission.

All of the data held under an individual’s CID is the property of that individual and may only be accessed by a third party (including government) with the explicit permission of the owner or, under exceptional circumstances, by a court order.

Everyone who has a CID and is at least 16 years old is automatically eligible to vote for the duration of their life.

 

Elections

ER candidates must log into the system using their CID to register their candidacy.

They must verify their home address and then define and register the geographical extent of the constituency that they wish to represent.

The candidate’s home address must be within the constituency area that they choose to represent.

The constituency area must be contained within a single continuous boundary.

The population of the constituency area at the time of registration must be no more than 20,000.

This self-selection of constituency boundaries will encourage the emergence of constituencies that more accurately reflect the ways that communities interact with each other than is currently the case.

It is highly likely that there will be overlaps between constituencies which will encourage collaboration between ERs on local and regional issues and reduce the chances of one area being dominated by ERs that represent a partisan majority.

 

A candidate must be nominated by at least 50 members of the electorate whose home address is within their chosen constituency area before they can be included on the ballot.

Each nominator must declare membership of any campaigning, lobbying, or trade organisation.

No more than 10% of a candidates nominations can come from individuals who declare membership of any one campaigning, lobbying or trade organisation.

Each nominator must contribute £10 to the candidate’s election deposit.

An individual can nominate up to three candidates.

These nomination restrictions will increase the chances of candidates with broad support being included on the ballot and discourage frivolous and partisan candidacies.

 

Votes are cast via an electronic ballot system that can be accessed by voters at any time during the four week period of an election campaign.

A voter logs into the voting system using their CID.

Voters who lack the equipment or skills to use the system can do so at an authorised location in their community.

On logging into the system the voter will be asked to verify their current home address.

The home address will confirm which candidates appear on the voter’s electronic ballot paper.

The electronic ballot paper will display a map showing the boundaries that have been chosen by each candidate along with a link to their biography and election pitch.

The voter can select up to three candidates immediately or log out and return to the system to make selections at any time up to the election deadline.

Voters can change their selections at any time up to the deadline.

Votes are cast automatically for all selections that are current at the election deadline.

 

All candidates who poll above a minimum threshold of 5,000 votes, will be elected.

If none of the candidates that are voted for by an individual voter reach the minimum threshold for election the candidate with the most votes will be allocated the votes from the less successful candidate(s).

This increases the chances of every voter having at least one of their chosen candidates being elected to office.

If a home address is in a constituency area that fails to return any ERs the closest winning constituency boundary will be extended to include the unrepresented address.

 

Beyond their personal lives, an Elected Representative’s sole responsibility is to their constituents.

ERs are elected for a five year term.

ERs may be removed from office before the end of five years if a super-majority (e.g. 80%) of the electorate in their constituency has submitted a formal notice of no confidence in them within a single calendar month.

If an ER dies, resigns or is removed from office before the end of the five year term a by-election is held for the vacant seat using the same constituency boundary. The candidate with the most votes is elected.

 

Decision-making

The Reporter’s Office is a department of the Citizens’ Commission that has responsibility for authorising and managing the progress of policy proposals through government.

All policy proposals must be made by an ER.

Proposals must be submitted in standard format to the Reporter’s Office.

Before a proposal is accepted for debate the Reporter must check it for conflict with existing policy and legislation at local, regional, and national level.

The Reporter decides if a proposal is of local, regional, or national interest and which committee or working group should consider it.

Proposals that have been authorised as competent by the Reporter must be debated by the relevant committee or working group and approved for continuation before they are opened to the public.

Proposals that have been approved by committee/working group are published online by the Reporter along with a record of the initial debate.

Using their CID to access the system any individual, including ERs, can comment on the debate using a standard format, supporting or opposing a proposal, or suggesting an amendment to it.

The Reporter organises the contributions to the debate into opinion groups to help everyone see their relative popularity.

Individuals can modify their contributions as the debate progresses and request a transfer to a different opinion group, or suggest a new opinion group.

When the proposal returns to the committee/working group for amendment ERs are informed of the popularity of each of the opinion groups.

Amended proposals are re-published by the Reporter for another round of comments before being returned to the committee/working group for final amendment and voting.

 

Decisions on local interest proposals are made by majority vote in the relevant Local Committees.

Decisions on regional interest proposals are approved by majority vote in the relevant Regional Committee(s) and then passed to the parent Local Committees for review and endorsement.

A majority of Local Committees that have representation on the relevant Regional Committee(s) must endorse a regional proposal for it to be adopted.

Decisions on national interest proposals are recommended by majority vote in the relevant national working group and then passed to the relevant Regional Committees for review and approval.

A majority of Regional Committees must approve a national proposal before it can pass to Local Committees for review and endorsement.

A majority of Local Committees must endorse a national proposal for it to be adopted.

 

ERs are free to vote for or against a proposal regardless of the popularity of opinion groups.

The voting records of ERs are published online by the Reporter alongside summaries of the grouped opinions and their popularity at the time of the vote.

ERs can publish the reasons why they voted a certain way alongside each voting record.

 

Transparency

The Citizens’ Commission is responsible for regulating, managing, and enforcing transparency within the systems of democracy.

Full details of candidates and nominators are published online by the Reporter.

After being elected as an ER the termination of all other forms of employment and membership of other organisations are published online by the Reporter.

ERs, Ministers and appointees are issued with an official electronic identity that they must use for all communications related to their role.

Each ER, Minister and appointee must submit a daily communication log to the Reporter.

The Reporter publishes online all communications logs along with all proceedings from committees and working groups.

ERs, Ministers and appointees may request that details are omitted or redacted from the published version of their communication logs.

Details that the Reporter deems to be legitimately sensitive (e.g. private or security-related) are omitted or redacted from the published records, but these may be revealed via a court order.

 

Rules For Voters

A voter must only use their own Citizen’s ID for casting votes.

A voter must be at least 16 years of age at the time of the election deadline.

The home address of a voter must be within the candidate’s constituency area.

The maximum total amount that an individual can spend, in cash or in kind, on campaigning for the election of candidates in the 12 months leading up to an election is £99.

Individuals and organisations are prohibited from distributing money to individuals to fund activities that aid election campaigns or to encourage individuals to vote for, or avoid voting for, any candidate.

Organisations are prohibited from campaigning for the election of any candidate at any time.

During the four week period of an election campaign media organisations must restrict their coverage of candidates to verbatim reporting of candidates’ manifestos, statements and public debates, and opinion based solely on the content of these.

Individuals and organisations may not fraudulently or maliciously misrepresent the character, words or actions of a nominator, candidate, or ER to the Citizens’ Commission or anywhere else.

 

Rules For Candidates

At the time of registration a candidate’s home address must be within their registered constituency area.

At the time of registering a candidate must not be a member of any campaigning, lobbying or trade organisation and must declare all such memberships held within the previous 5 years.

At the time of registering a candidate must declare all current sources and amounts of income and all historical sources and amounts of income for the previous 3 years.

Any new source of income that arises between registration as a candidate and election day must be declared immediately.

The maximum donation that a candidate can accept from an individual is £10.

Candidates may not accept donations or any form of in-kind assistance from any other source.

The maximum amount that a candidate may spend on campaign materials and assistance within 12 months of an election is £1,000.

 

Rules For Elected Representatives, Ministers and Appointees

An Elected Representative’s home address and working office must both be within their constituency area for the duration of their term as ER.

Within 30 days of being elected an ER must terminate all other forms of employment and membership of all other organisations.

All electronic communications related to the role must be made using the official digital ID issued by the Citizens’ Commission.

Daily communications logs must contain the substance of every communication, verbal and non-verbal, that an ER, Minister or appointee has made and received in the course of their role.

Deliberate mendacity and omission are strictly forbidden.

 

Enforcement of the Rules

Anyone who thinks that they have evidence of a voter, nominator, candidate, Elected Representative, Minister, appointee, or employee of the Citizens’ Commission breaking any of the rules of democracy can make a formal submission of the evidence to the Citizens’ Commission.

The Citizens’ Commission considers the evidence in each case and decides if there has been a breach of the rules, and, if so, whether to issue a public warning to the transgressor or refer the case for potential prosecution.

A public warning must be responded to with an immediate acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an unequivocal apology which are published online by the Reporter.

Failure to acknowledge wrongdoing and apologise for it will result in immediate removal from office.

ERs who are thus removed from office may not be candidates in the ensuing by-election.

Ministers and appointees who are thus removed from office may not be reappointed within five years.

Anyone who has been referred for potential prosecution cannot act in the role of voter, nominator, candidate, ER, Minister, appointee or employee until the case has been dismissed.

Anyone whose case has been dismissed may be given a public warning.

Anyone who is prosecuted for and found guilty of breaking the rules of democracy is disbarred for life from the role of voter, nominator, candidate, ER, Minister, appointee or employee of the Citizens’ Commission in addition to any judicial sanctions that are applied.

 

Making It Happen

These changes to our system of democracy might seem to be a huge disruption to the business of government but compared to Brexit or Scottish independence they are relatively easy because all we’re going to do is change the way in which our representatives are elected and how they make collective decisions.

While we’re preparing for the change our public services – local, regional, national – will continue to work exactly as they do now.

Ironically, the only legitimate way to get rid of the idiocy of government by parliamentary party majority is via government by parliamentary party majority.

We need a party that is dedicated to making the necessary change.

I think we should call it The Last Party Party because its primary aim will be to make itself and all other parliamentary parties redundant.

The Last Party Party will seek a mandate to abolish the current charade of democracy and replace it with a system of locally-rooted government as outlined above.

It will gather support by promoting the following:

  • Your vote will always count towards electing representatives who will be directly involved in government.
  • Your representatives will always have real power over local, regional, and national policy decisions.
  • Your representatives will be there to look after the interests of your constituency first and last, without interference from a party, or a ruling clique, or a wealthy paymaster.
  • Your government will be rooted in your local community and have real power to make decisions that work for you and your neighbours.
  • Your representatives will have real power over the strategies and policies of regional and national government.
  • Everything about your democracy will be transparent and everyone who works within it will be accountable to you via a Citizens’ Commission.
  • We will implement a version of the new committee system  for local and regional government within three months of being elected, which will give your representatives (councillors, devolved parliament members, MPs) real power to change things that matter to your community while you wait for the new system to be established.
  • We will have your new system of government fully operational within the five year term of the parliament.
  • As soon as your new system of government is fully operational we will abolish parliament and call a general election under the new system.

 

What About The Money?

Democratic power doesn’t exist without access to money.

For our new democracy to work we have to empower it by making public finance work properly.

Here’s how we could do it … Coming Soon.

 

 

 

One thought on “Making Democracy Work

  1. Pingback: This Is Not Democracy | Views From The Boatshed

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