24 April 2023

Next year will be my third attempt to become the MP for the Forest of Dean in the UK Parliament. On the surface, this is me exercising my right to take part in what is commonly accepted to be a democratic system. But I don’t agree. It is simply in our leaders’ interest to promote our system as the democratic ideal.

Representative Democracy is a compromised version of true democracy. In the UK, it evolved over 1,000 years to include regional views in our London-based lawmaking. It was perfectly sensible when distances made communication difficult but times have changed. Now, communications are instantaneous and information is freely available. That challenges the need for voters to have intermediary representation.

But the challenge is about more than innovation. Establishments resist change until change is irresistible. Then, they set the boundaries of the minimal movement they are prepared to concede. Representative Democracy is currently being challenged by both  technology and dissatisfaction, weighing the minimum compromise it must accept.

There are other ways to do democracy

We should recognise that technology alone is not the solution. Existing power structures do not evaluate new systems based on their effectiveness. The UK’s establishment’s practices evolved to maintain a world that never imagined non-landowners having a voice, let alone women. This natural order is something that the three main types of modern democratic reformation can overlook:

The Rebels

Many Direct Democracy campaigners are frustrated by the apparatus of government. They instinctively push for fundamental change to existing systems. They see a future in which a new, ground-up model replaces the very structure of our democracy. But, this approach is flawed on two levels. Firstly, 1,000 years of self-preservation will not yield to new formulae based on logic and philosophy alone. Secondly, an all-new untested system is unlikely to be successful.

The Engineers

The alternative, then, is not to change the systems themselves, but to improve them. The Engineers offer technologies that promise greater integrity and more robust security such as online voting, electronic counting machines, multi-factor authentication, and biometric identification. It is a huge growth area because it increases the legitimacy of an outcome, rather than affecting the outcome itself. It’s the political establishment’s preferred approach because it represents their minimum compromise. A demonstration of this is the propagation of a widespread belief in voter fraud. It allows some incumbents to point to accuracy and security as democracy’s weak spot rather than inclusion.

The Regionalists

Regionalists accept that The Rebels’ wholesale change is nearly impossible. They also recognise that The Engineers are creating better systems, but with limited facilitation of change. So, Regionalists focus their efforts on local matters with increased public participation such as city-wide budgeting. This side steps involvement at the national level in favour of something more manageable.

The solution: Parliamentarians directed by constituents 

These developments have incredible value but leave room for a deployable national solution. To move towards better national engagement, we have to meet five requirements:

  • To work with in the existing systems (playing by established rules)
  • To be easy for voters to understand (technology as an enabler, not a replacement)
  • To offer disruption of the current methods without threatening destruction (change without chaos)
  • To accept our own partisan beliefs must be set aside (democracy without politics)
  • To design scalability (nationally and internationally deployable)

What’s the solution? Create a way that uses the existing Parliamentary system. I want to be one of the 650 Members of Parliament who vote on legislation and I want to allow my decisions to be directed by my constituents. At its heart, valuemy.vote is simple.

  • I declare my willingness to use our Parliamentary seat to vote on Bills exactly as I am directed
  • I provide the platform for information sharing, debate and decision-making
  • I offer the platform to others to do likewise in their constituencies

There is only one  fundamental reason why this might not be deployed in time for the next General Election – funding. That’s the real sticking point. Who’s going to pay (approx £500,000 for initial build) for a system that erodes the power of wealthy lobbyists, and does not offer a venture capitalist game-changing ROI?

That’s the most difficult nut to crack. I believe true democracy is inevitable but that shouldn’t fool us into being patient.

Julian Burrett is approaching his third UK election offering voters a direct say in the UK Parliamentary process. He lives in his constituency of the Forest of Dean and works as a Creative Director in marketing and customer experience.  If this article makes sense to you, you are already working on something similar, or you can help him with any funding guidance he would like you to get in touch.

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