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Democracy for the 21st Century

The Existing Political Regime

Once every five years, our political system enforces an election which costs in excess of £120million. The Obama election in USA cost $7bn, enough to pay for 60,000 nurses. An election only allows us to put a cross on a piece of paper to select candidates who adhere to Party policies in which we have had no input nor any recourse if it transpires that our MP is incompetent. This we are constantly told is ‘Democracy’.

The nation is disillusioned with our outmoded political machine, governed as it is by Party dogma. Politicians fail to act decisively because they are afraid that they may not be re-elected. Even though with declining resources and world population predicted to increase by 50% our current consumption is unsustainable. Party politics and political in-fighting has inculcated apathy and boredom in the electorate because we are forced accept the decisions of our representatives yet if we could take part in the decisions which influence our future welfare we would be very interested.

Parliament, initiated in the 13th Century when the population was ill-educated, is now a self-perpetuating anachronism. MP Zac Goldsmith has said that it is dysfunctional with MPs little more than lobby fodder, voting for laws they do not understand. Will Hutton states, “politicians find it hard to think beyond the next election; they owe favours to close supporters that have to be settled; they overpromise; they are prone to vanity and hubris.” Al Gore in his book The Future says politicians are feeble, dysfunctional and servile to corporate interests.

Ministers with no experience are expected when appointed to be immediate experts in Education, Industry, Environment etc. Often after a short period in office they may be moved to become expert in Transport, Health or the nation’s Finance. In February 2011, the Regulatory Policy Committee found that 44% of proposals for reform in 2010 were poorly conceived and had no analysis of costs or benefits. As one ex Cabinet Minister said, the largest thing he had run before being appointed was his constituency office. After his appointment, he had a staff of thousands and a budget running into £billions. Baroness Shepherd was given an irrelevant 20 minute talk by John Redwood to prepare her for becoming a Minister. In 2010, the Institute for Government issued an unsurprising report which said that Ministers should undergo training, but no action has been taken.

Roger Bootle emphasised the naivety of politicians. He points out that Keynes highlighted the need in a depression to reduce taxes and increase spending but Prime Minister Cameron in his speech urged people to pay down their debts, thereby reducing purchases and spiralling the economy downwards. Bootle thought this was complete economic illiteracy. We would never allow a lawyer to perform surgery on us yet a lawyer as Minister of Health is allowed to decide on the resources that surgeons need. In spite of the frequent changes Ministers of Education have made over the past decades we still send out students ill equipped for the modern world.


Change through Alternative Democracy

We have been so conditioned by the status quo that there has been little debate on alternatives. In my novel Shadows in the Wall I propose that we work towards a system where we replace the current machinery of Government. How can this be achieved and what would we replace Parliament with? We obviously need Government but we cannot afford the waste engendered by MPs and Ministers who have been selected by Party Committees because they are articulate, have good television presentation and accept Party policies.

The vast majority of us have mobile phones, email and web access. For many years it has become evident that this technology is capable of initiating enormous cultural change. This is very evident in Africa and India where this e- technology (e-tech) can advise farmers when to plant, fertilise and irrigate crops, can provide a route to education in remote villages, allow transfer of money in for instance Kenya and affects many other transformational innovations. Yet even now it has not been accepted that the small machine in our pockets has the potential to dispense with the need for elections by allowing us to vote easily and rapidly at miniscule cost on issues that concern us. Software exists which can analyse our voting intentions in an instant.


The Role of the Convocators

There are fewer than thirty Party Members who currently attend Cabinet meetings. Their responsibilities would be taken over by individuals with professional backgrounds in medicine, education, business, transport etc. Ministers and ex-ministers from all Parties could also offer themselves; this would overcome the current weakness where those who had been in Government but after an election are in opposition and are thus emasculated. These people will be known as ‘Convocators’ because their role will be to ‘bring together’ disparate viewpoints. The systems would be known as ‘Convocation’. The Convocators would have positions as Ministers with the same responsibilities. As at present, they would act as a Cabinet under the authority of a Prime Minister.

Professionals who put themselves forward for the positions of Convocators would be given a platform by the media for speeches and interviews on radio, television and newspapers and the web. They would then be chosen by the public by e-tech voting. It is recognised that not everyone would want to be involved in voting for these candidates but everyone would have the opportunity. This group of qualified Convocators would derive at least three different policies.

There would be a media and web based debate on these policies. The policy selected by an e-tech majority would run for three years with opportunities to amend policies as world events change. This Alternative Democracy would render the role of Parliament redundant. MPs would be released from the need to attend the House. They could then base themselves in their constituencies, advisors to the electorate as they are now but with more time to concentrate on real issues and be more cognisant of the nation’s needs and able to offer advice to the Convocators whose role would be to prepare policies for the nation to vote on.

There are many talented and experienced members of the House of Lords. These Members can act without concern for re-election and would be able to analyse issues without the restrictions of Party dogma which characterises the Commons. It would be reduced in size and would act as a Think Tank to the Convocators, debating aspects such as future energy needs and energy saving, poverty, social welfare and education. Lobbyists would meet with Members of the Lords but would not have meetings with the Convocators. Their responsibilities would be to act as policy makers. Discussions on issues which impact on the populace would be reviewed in speeches and debates so that the nation would be informed on the issues.

An example of a situation which would be put to the people for an e-tech vote would be:

‘If Syria were invaded, the cost would be, say £10billion; this would need to be borrowed and the interest on this loan would add to the tax burden. Alternatively, if we did not invade, the money saved could be used to fund say 500,000 nurses, teachers or care workers.’

To a large extent, wars and invasions are engendered because Ministers want to appear to be decisive and to ‘act in the nation’s best interests’ even though there is no mechanism for gauging the nation’s views. Under existing Government, we are never given facts such as this because it wants to be able to decide on action without consulting the people. It is doubtful if UK would have invaded Iran or Afghanistan if the electorate had been allowed to voice their views. It is estimated that the £30bn cost of these invasions would have paid for 1,464,000 more NHS nurses, 408,000 NHS consultants and hundreds of lives would not have been lost.

We would also be able to decide if we want to spend more than £50billion on HS2 when, before it can be completed, it is predicted that driverless cars will be able to pick us up from our homes, deliver us to our offices or to meetings at the other end of the country, visit geographically distant relatives or go on holiday. On the journey we will be able to talk with friends, listen to music, read, sleep or have a meal in complete safety.

The expenditure of maintaining our political environment is in excess of £500million per annum. This would be substantially reduced while efficiency would be optimised.

In Summary:

  • Parliament’s responsibilities should be taken over by qualified professionals who would be called ‘Convocators’.
  • The electorate would vote for these Convocators via mobile phones, media and web-based ‘e-tech’.
  • A reduced House of Lords, free of Party dogma would provide a debating Chamber with limits on debating time.
  • Existing MPs would return to their constituencies, there to listen and advise their constituents and also to provide input      to the Convocators.
  • The role of Convocators would be to devise at least three policies on which the nation would vote.
  • The selected policy would remain for three years but could be modified by the e-tech route in the event of changes in world events or a proposal to invade a nation or a dissentient grouping.

No structure which is administered by human beings is without fault but Alternative Democracy, giving us all a voice in our own futures would be an advance on the present inadequate and anachronistic form of government.

From ‘Shadows in the Wall


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