I first came across 'Sortition' after reading 'Against Elections' by David Van Reybrouck a couple of years ago.
In it he explains that for most of its 3000 year history, democracy did not involve elections at all as members of the public were appointed to positions in government through a combination of volunteering and selection by lottery. In fact, he points out that the original purpose of elections was to exclude the people from power by appointing an elite to govern over them - and haven't they been supremely successful.
The action of selecting or determining something, in this case a government, by casting or drawing of lots is called ‘Sortition’ and of course our juries are selected using this system today. Based on this and the fact that sortition was used to select the governments in ancient Greek cities the author believes that there is no intrinsic reason why all our governance could not be selected in this way.
I think the principle of sortition has a great deal going for it, after all if our juries can be selected by lottery then why should not elements of our governance. However, my own opinion is that it would not be practical or desirable to adopt it for all our governance.
The governance of our country or even local regions is now far more complex than the days of administering a Greek city in the 6th century BC. THA certainly wants to enable the ‘people’ to have a far greater say in the governance of our country but I believe the day to day running and technical detail of our governance is best handled by dedicated officials overseen in the main by elected politicians but who are, importantly, answerable to the people they serve.
The six demands of our agenda set out very clearly how the people will no longer be able to be ignored and provides them with the mechanisms to have their views heard and when applicable a majority will be able to stop government legislation. We have also been very careful to ensure that certain rules and procedures need to be followed to avoid the situation where we end up with mob rule.
I also still believe in our FPTP system for elections as, for all its faults, it still beats all the other systems and prevents the endless coalitions usually comprised of the same parties and people who perform endless deals behind closed doors. FPTP allows the people to get rid of a government they no longer trust.
My first choice, for a system of sortition, would be in the long over due reform of the House of Lords which, as I wrote last week, would be reduced to 300 members with a third each elected, appointed and selected by sortition. Also it could be used in part for the appointment of people to government official enquiries and quangos. Why should the members of the public not take part in such things which currently only go to the chums of our out of touch politicians.
Once sortition has been proved to work and is successful then I see no reason why the principle should not be extended to a reduced House of Commons of say 500 with the number of MPs allocated by county based on its population with at least a third selected by sortition.
In summary I believe the specific use of sortition should have its place in the long over due reforms to our system of governance as it gives the people real power and after all the defination of democracy is 'People Power'. Unless and until the 'people' have the ability to hold the upper hand over our politicians they will continue to take advantage of us and take us and treat us for fools.