If we are to heal the wounds of Brexit and change society for the better we need to start by preparing the soil. Only then can we expect healthy shoots to flourish and prosper.
For too long, power has been concentrated in the hands of a small elite, largely white, largely male, largely public school educated. This has to fundamentally change. Its no good placing your bet on the knight wearing a blue favour or the knight wearing the red favour – the problem is the existence of the knights. We are not damsels in distress. We are sovereign individuals with a right to determine our own future. We need a democratic system that reflects that.
How do we do that?
- We should create a system of regional Citizens Assemblies to debate the core political issues of the nation – immigration, wealth distribution and taxation, the health service, education, public services, our environmental responsibilities, devolution, our relationship with Europe (more accurately, our role in global trade) Etc.
- People will be randomly selected from a cross-section of society to serve on these Citizens Assemblies. As with Jury Service, attendance if selected will be mandatory unless an individual has a compelling reason not to to attend, and employers will be obliged to release staff to serve.
Having won the tournament, the knights and their entourage sit in government for five years screwing things up and telling us what’s good for us. They are at the beck and call of powerful lobby groups and vested interests. Faced with an impossible task, most of the time they lie to us, and when they’re not lying they’re demonstrating near-criminal incompetence.
It’s our country, not theirs. We need to hold MPs to account not for what they say, but for what they actually do with the power we entrust to them.
How do we do that?
- The Citizens Assemblies will determine what kind of a Britain the people of Britain want. It will be the job of MPs to deliver on that vision. An MP will be answerable to the CA (or CAs) in their constituency for the decisions made in Parliament. The Prime Minister, as now, will be answerable to Parliament.
- Individual voters will still vote in General Elections based on our individual opinion of a candidate’s, or political party’s, ability to deliver the Britain we want. There should also be a system for individuals to gather support to table topics for discussion at the Citizens Assembly.
The standard of debate in Parliament, on social media and in the traditional media, in the pub or on the street corner has gone down the pan. We shout slogans at each other. We make snap decisions based on nothing much more than an emotional response and defend those decisions against any logical argument. We’ve been taught to sneer at experts. We ask figures in the public eye to explain complex issues in a soundbite and lose interest when they can’t. When it comes to the nuances of democracy, we argue passionately about it from positions of supreme ignorance.
While this might be entertaining for some its hugely damaging to our country and our prospects. It has to stop. We’ve got to move on from playground politics, if not adversarial politics.
How do we do that?
- All children should be taught the rights and responsibilities of being a British citizen. This includes those attending state schools, Academies, public schools, private schools, special schools, faith schools, and those who are home educated. It should include Young Offenders and military cadets. Everyone, including immigrants wanting to take up British citizenship, should be taught the same syllabus, which would cover how Parliamentary democracy works, how the justice system works, how the taxation system works, how the health and benefits systems work and the contributions every citizen is expected to make to these systems. Serving in a Citizen’s Assembly. Voting. Filling in a tax form. Claiming benefit. First Aid. Parenting. Jury Service. Military service. The role of carers, doctors, teachers, police and emergency service workers. How a business works. How the public sector works. What the difference is.
- All children, specifically those in state education, should be taught debating skills. How to frame, examine and interrogate an argument. How marketing works and how to tell fake news from real news. The difference between scientific evidence and unfounded opinion. Mindfullness and the role of emotion in decision making. Root cause analysis and scenario building. Cause and effect. How to reach consensus.
- Older children should have the opportunity to contribute to the political debate of the day, either in school-based mock-ups of Citizens Assemblies, or from the age of 16, having the right to participate in actual Citizens Assemblies.
What is to stop such an agenda getting cross-party support? It doesn’t propose any political agenda, other than putting power in the hands of the people. Not the politicians.