In the UK, as in most of Europe, trust in politicians and the political system is steadily declining year after year. Political apathy among all age groups is high and protests are getting louder, more frequent and more violent.
In the UK, many feel that they are not getting a fair deal and social mobility has stalled. The consequence of this is that people from less wealthy, less influential backgrounds remain disadvantaged for life.
However, the undeniable truth is that it is impossible to prosper as a society if we don’t include in our development every UK citizen, regardless of race, sex, religion and social background. In fact, inclusive development generates decent work, fosters stronger social cohesion and offers opportunities for every sector of the UK’s population, guaranteeing the reduction of poverty and inequality.
Even though inclusion covers social, labour and financial fields, these variables are interconnected as the momentum of electoral democracy.
My solution is simple; remove elections and replace them with sortition. Our system of government which is determined by the result of elections is not democracy. Far from it. Elections are popularity contests. Getting elected means making promises, most of which are discarded after the candidate and their party is elected. This is hugely frustrating for voters, and undermines the credibility of the political system. Our present system of government also divides us; we are categorised according to whether we are Left, Right or Centre, Red, Blue or Green, Conservative, Socialist or Liberal. All of these definitions were created centuries ago by people who lived in a different world to the one we have today. Sortition on the other hand unites us as one people. In simplest terms, sortition means appointment by lottery. In the UK, sortition would mean dismantling an unjust and undemocratic system by replacing our House of Commons with a Peoples House – an assembly made up of randomly chosen UK citizens. This random selection is very similar to our present day jury selection system; elected representatives are entirely eliminated. This is the most straightforward way of allowing ordinary people to participate in the running of the country. With sortition almost every responsibility of the legislative branch is delegated to a randomly subset of the population. Laws are written, discussed, and passed by ordinary people. Our judges are interviewed and confirmed by ordinary people. Sortition is not a new idea. Far from it. Sortition was the hallmark of the direct democracy of ancient Athens between 507 – 322BCE. It was also used in Venice (697–1797), Florence (1328–1434 and again 1494–1512) and the Swiss Landsgemeinden (1640–1837). From antiquity to the 18th century, random selection was used in filling offices and governments in order to prevent nepotism, corruption and electoral fraud. It was also considered a sure way to obligate citizens to serve their country.
Sortition is by no means perfect. However, it is much closer to an ideal political system than the system we have in the UK today. By placing political power in the hands of ordinary people, sortition encourages political engagement, civic responsibility and empathy among the populace. By putting an end to elections, we will be allowing UK citizens to have political choices beyond the two-party binary established hundreds of years ago. Sortition produces a society of informed and interested citizens, who value civic engagement and trust that their interests will be genuinely represented by the government. Sortition will not only change British democracy, it may save it.