Tuesday 25 January 2022

Why the common sense of the people must be listened to.

Sortition as I explained last week is the selection of members of the public, by lottery, who have declared that they wish to hold position in their country’s legislatures.

The complete opposite of sortition is the form of governance called ‘epistocracy’ which is a system in which the votes of people who can prove their political knowledge count more than the votes of people who can’t. In other words, it’s a voting system that privileges the most politically informed citizens. Incidentally, of course, passing a test set by an elite!

If this was ever introduced it would be a small step to require those that wish to govern us to ‘qualify’ by having certain criteria like specific educational qualifications and levels of IQ.

Whether weighting the votes of the educated or the selection of candidates based on their qualifications this would be the rule by an elite who believe that only they know what is best for the rest of us. Ironically, given the mostly closed selection processes to become a party candidate, it is virtually what we now have here.

THA on the other hand trusts and values the opinions of all the people and aims to give everyone the mechanisms to be properly heard. The people's innate common sense should not be underestimated.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said :-

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people ..........they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty"

An informed public is the very antipathy of epistocracy and the more the people directly take part in their governance the better they will get at it. They will of course make mistakes but they will be their mistakes, from which they will learn, unlike our current politicians who make endless mistakes and are seldom if ever held to account for them.

 The trouble is on so many policy issues those that currently govern us have no interest in our views believing that they alone know what is best. They take us for fools and believe we are too uneducated to decide on what we want.

The arrogance and contempt that those that govern us have for our views will be their eventual undoing once the people decide they have had enough of the poor level of governance we have and the unrepresentative form it takes. The people need to be reminded that there are far more of us than them.

It is time the 'People' demanded real power so that what they want happens leaving our politicians in no doubt they are our servants and not our masters.

Monday 17 January 2022

Sortition explained.

I first came across 'Sortition' after reading '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 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 at achieving that!

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 have 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 completely.

My first choice, for a system of sortition, would be in the long over due reform of the House of Lords which I believe should be reduced to around 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 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. Sortition could also be used for the  selection of local politicians.

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'. We will only have real democracy when the people have real power of our politicans, the chumocracy is broken by sortition and our politicians become our servants and not our masters.



Monday 10 January 2022

Does Parliament need to be in London?


For a couple of weeks now I have been writing about changes to the layout of parliament that I believe will make for a more effective chamber to fulfil their primary role of holding the executive to account.


So, it was interesting to come across four letters to the press last week in and around this topic, which I include below with my own comments beneath each.


1.Renovating the Houses of Parliamentary may take 20 years and costs £14billion.Surely the time has come to ask if we need parliament to conduct its business in London. Why not take this opportunity for a brand new building with up-to-date infrastructure, security and technology, It could be located near the M62 between Manchester and Leeds, close to the motorway and rail networks. A new government complex could also provide accommodation for MPs to avoid renting expensive second homes. The cost might be covered by selling the Houses of Parliament to private developers to be converted into a museum, hotel or apartments. Stuart Bower Hove E. Sussex


I haven’t yet mentioned the cost of renovating the House of Commons which at £14 billion is considerable but would need to spent even if a new building was built in new central location. While Mr Bower suggests the existing building could become a museum, hotel or apartments I believe the ‘Mother of all Museums’, based on the history of democracy, would be the best option and a world class attraction.

2.Why not build new Houses of Parliament designed to look not at the past but to show our people and the world we are looking to the future with drive and creativity. Instead of the SE corner of the country, it might be more sensible to locate Parliament in amore central position or the North of England to help regenerate the industrial heartlands. It would also demonstrate that the Government is committed to levelling up. A step further could be to rearrange the seating by constituencies rather than two opposing sides. The Prime Minister, Cabinet and Speaker could sit on a platform. Ted Wisedale, Bolton.


Again Mr Wisedale mention a building being in a central location, as I did, he also suggests a new seating arrangement but does not go as far as a hemisphere chamber that I believe would be essential to set the seal on the new workings of the chamber.  

3.The Queen spends most of her time at Windsor Castle, so why not turn Buckingham Palace into Government House. It's big enough for a reduced Commons to sit in. The Lords could be scrapped and an upper elected senate of 50 could meet in the ballroom. The other rooms could be offices and a block of rooms built for MPs who need to stay overnight. Simples! S. Shepley, Sevenoaks, Kent.


I don’t think this idea would be practical and of course would keep parliament as London centric. However, Mr Shepley’s idea for a reduced House of Lords is spot on although we suggest a ‘Senate ‘ of 300 with 100 each elected, appointed and selected by sortition.   

4.Spending £14 billion on refurbishment is excellent opportunity to sort out the Houses of Parliament by reducing the number of MPs to 150 and the Lords to 50, with no hereditary peers, no bishops, no subsidised restaurants and no bar. In most occupations, drinking during working time is a sackable offence. J Davies, Portsmouth.


Again, THA totally agrees with the reduction in the number of MPs and members of a second chamber but believe the House of Commons of around 500 and a second chamber of around 300 would be about right.


These reforms are covered in our second and third demands for ‘Real Local Democracy’ and ‘A Separation of Power’ and along with the other four come as a complete package albeit could be introduced in stages. However, if they are ever to become a reality, they will need the support of the majority of the people. Currently the people have other pressing considerations before thinking about reform of our governance but I do sense that they are very aware that the current system is no longer fit for purpose.  


As Benjamin Disraeli said – “Change is Inevitable Change is Constant”

Tuesday 4 January 2022

Our adversarial system of politics is out of date.

Last week I developed my thoughts about the advantages of a hemisphere parliamentary chamber which received a comment saying:

 "Our system is based on adversary just the same as our system of trials" to which I replied:

 " Yes and we once used cucking stools for witches!!"

My reply was obviously intended to be light-hearted while making the point that as time moves on things do change and I am now strongly of the opinion, something that I've come to fairly recently, that our adversarial system is out of date and not fit for purpose especially the task of holding the executive to account.

As I explained last week the purpose of ALL MPs in parliament is to make and scrutinize laws and  most importantly hold the executive to account.

A couple of weeks ago the rebellion by 100 odd Conservative MPs, to the government's Plan B, in place of any opposition from the Labour party, proved the point that MPs should vote on what they feel is right for the country and not what is necessarily best for their party.

The adversarial clashes in the House of Commons may provide some theatre and blood sport, especially since the introduction of TV cameras, but in terms of improving our governance I don't think it adds a single benefit. In fact, I believe it probably makes our governance considerably worse.

In our pamphlet we explain in some detail, under our third demand 'A Separation of Power', how the current make-up of the House of Commons contains around 200 MPs on the government benches, including the cabinet, ministers, whips, other office holders, Parliamentary Private Secretaries and ‘greasy pole climbers’ who are all compromised in relation to holding the government to account. If the cabinet/executive is taken out of the Commons then all the MPs in it will more readily hold it to account.

 Incidentally in the hemisphere parliament in Iceland, the Althingi, the seating arrangements, after elections, for the eight odd parties that make up the 63 seat chamber are allocated by lottery which obviously minimises conflict and maximises cooperation.

 Finally we should do the same in a completely new parliamentary building, housing only around 400 MPs, in a location at the centre of the population of Britain which is in around Derby, albeit that does not include the population of N.Ireland, so an adjustment to the North East of Derby is needed. This would leave the Palace of Westminster to become the site of one of the prime tourist attractions in the world based on the mother of all parliaments!