Friday 18 December 2020

Sortition .

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. 



Thursday 10 December 2020

The House of Lords by numbers.

 Nothing typifies the pityful state of our democracy than the numbers now associated with the HofL.

In the HofL Act of 1999 the bulk of the hereditary peers were removed and a cap of 600 set for its members.

However the current total is 794, of whom 665 are life peers which makes 84% appointees of Prime Ministers.


The size of the Lords has varied greatly throughout history with initially around 168 English peers which increased to 184 with the addition in 1707 of 16 Scottish peers. Then in 1801 28 Irish peers were added bringing the total to 212.

After the Life Peerage Act of 1958 and the Peerage Act of 1963, allowing women into the Lords, the numbers grew to an alarming 1,330 in October 1999 albeit a fair number never attended. The Lords reform of that year reduced the numbers to 669 but since then they have steadily risen to around 800.

In 2011 a cross party committee called on David Cameron to stop appointing new peers as he had created 117 since becoming PM in 2010 which was a faster rate than any previous period in history. Ironically the huge expansion of the Lords occurred while Cameron unsuccessfully tried to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600! Well I suppose as an epitath that about sums Cameron up.

At its current total, just short of 800, the chamber is the second largest legislative body after China's National Peoples Congress and dwarfs the upper houses of other democracies such as - USA Senate 100, France 348, Australia 76, Canada 105, India 250 and is even larger than The Supreme People's Assembly of N.Korea with its 687 members.

The serious review of the Lords in 2017 recommended  a maximum of 600 members (even thought the seating capacity is a maximum of 400), a fifteen year term limit for new peers and a two-out one-in limit on new appointments. This report to their credit was largely approved by the Lords.

The current total of 794 is of course well above the 600 cap and above the total of 669 in 2000.

Our current leaders manipulate democracy for their own ends ensuring thier MPs are in the main compliant 'nodding donkeys' and filling the second chamber with their cronies who have so often achieved little of worth as MPs or in other walks of life.

In our third demand 'A Separation of Power' we suggest a HofL of 100 and HofC of 300. On reflection I feel 300 and 500 would be nearer the mark. As to the 300 in the Lords I'm currently minded that a fixed term is essential with a third elected, a third appointed and the last third selected by a system of sortition. Sortition, as practised in ancient Rome, sees the selection by lottery from people who have put themselves up to do the job and a serious job of work it is rather than one senses now that it is just a glorified private members club for political has beens. 

There are many aspects of our democracy that need urgent reform but a reform of the Hof L, starting with cutting it down in size, is pretty high on the list.

Thursday 3 December 2020

How do you sack your MP?

 The answer to the question in my title is you can't apart from at a General Election. Then the electorate are usually more focused on voting for a party than the actual candidate who, however inadequate, ends up living to fight another day.

Between elections there is nothing you can do even if what he says he will do he contradicts with his actions. The simplest reason as to why what politicians say and do diverge is I believe because in the end they put party loyalty above their own principles and beliefs which are in any event usually pretty flexible! I would also point out that in supporting their party they may well be disregarding the views of the majority in their constituency.

Recently the Tory MP Bob Stewart was interviewed on Talk Radio about the PM's new Tier System and said he had no choice but to support his PM. He however admitted that in his constiuency there were those who supported the measures and those who didn't. What of course he will never know is what the majority felt.

In our second demand 'Real Local Government' we suggest it should be up to each constituency whether they wanted a system of recall and if one now existed in Bob Stewart's constituency then if enough people wanted to they could raise a vote of no confidence in him. Then there would be no question as to whether his support for his party was also accepted by his constituents.

A system of MP recall is 'Real Local Democracy' and, I cannot help feeling like so many Tory MPs, the 'gutless' Bob Stewart might just find that it helped stiffen his backbone to put his constituents first.