A few weeks ago, I read an interesting and thought provoking book called ‘Against Elections’ by David Van Reybrouck.
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 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.
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 don’t have any major issue with the principles of sortition, after all what is good enough for our justice system is certainly good enough for me. However, I don’t think a wholesale adoption of such a system is either totally practical or desirable.
In my opinion governance of a country or even local region is now more complex and involves so much more than would have applied to the governance of an ancient Greek city. I certainly want to enable the ‘people’ to have a far greater say in our governance but I believe the nuts and bolts of our governance is best handled by dedicated elected officials.
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. 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 of elections which prevents the endless coalitions comprised of the same parties and people who perform endless deals behind closed doors.
However, I see no reason why sortition could not play a part in the long over due reform of the House of Lords or in deed in the appointment of people to government official enquiries or quangos. Why should the members of the public not take part in such things which currently only go to the illiberal elite?
In summary I believe the limited and specific use of sortition could have its place in the long over due reforms to our system of governance but in general I still support the election of our representatives so long as we give the people the ability to get their views heard and if necessary get rid of any elected official between elections.