Direct Democracy

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Direct democracy is where everyone gets to directly vote on policies. It allows the voices of the public to be heard; free to express the society’s greatest wishes. It is the only true form of democracy - in contrary to representative democracy, we are ruled by the minority of 650 MP’s who govern all our decisions for the population of the 66.04 million citizens. This is an unfair, undemocratic system. No MP can ever represent the opinions of everybody’s desires, wants and wishes on so many issues that directly affect our daily lives. They make campaign promises, but fail to follow them through. Such false promises result in a damaged Democracy. They represent the views of a very narrow section of society. These are the privileged few that live way beyond the earnings of an average person, therefore they cannot relate or understand the daily struggles of its society and the citizens it rules. These elite politicians are given the right to impose their own visions of what they want their society to look like by shaping our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes and who we should fear and respect.

The Brexit vote made a very strong case for direct democracy. Brexit exposed the underlying frustration and anger towards our government’s failure to tackle a whole host of issues. With each successive government comes with another nation of unhappy electorates by continuing to ignore the voices of the people. Our society is showing increasing misery. We have housing shortages, increasing pressures on our NHS, rising rents, rising violent crime and starving children. We have a centralised government that appears to ignore the rest of the country. The fact that Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement was ignored proves my point. The question we should all be asking is, how much of the Leave vote was really about the EU and how much was about a feeling of alienation from London?

I understand there is concern that, for direct democracy to function, we will need a well-informed, educated populace and would rather leave it to the politicians. It is correct that most people do not read legal texts themselves. However, Brexit has revealed that sometimes politicians just don’t bother to do so themselves. Only 6% of the parliamentarians said to have read the Brexit impact statement in case of a ’No Deal Brexit’. Which may explain why some MPs are unconcerned about No Deal Brexit. MPs rely on information shortcuts: summaries, media reports, expert advice, just like citizens do. However, we often hear the frustrations of real experts with their advice being ignored by politicians on economy, education and science. Their Geography and Philosophy degrees (and so on) are commendable, however, it does not make them an expert on everything. “We’ve had enough of experts!” was the infamous quote from one prominent MP, which goes to show how much advice is often ignored. I’m fairly sure, in a nation of 66 million people, we could find informed experts that could rival the knowledge of 650 MP’s on any given matter.

Direct democracy is an amazing tool! We should not discard it because people are not educated enough to use it. We should educate people instead and bring it into the curriculum.

I agree, the Brexit referendum was not thought through well enough. A good referendum not only would have said ‘leave’, it would have made a clear plan of action to follow. However, it didn’t which is why we’ve had 3 years of political wrangling. So, I would impose some rules:

(1) Each side presents their arguments in a 5,000 word document which includes their plan of action.

(2) The documents are checked by independent experts who will fact check for any misinformation.

(3) To make a political change, a majority vote of 60% or more is needed, depending on the issue. Referendums can work well with guidelines and a clear plan. For example, the recent ones in Ireland were on same gender marriage (with 62% votes in favour) and abortions were allowed (with 66% majority votes). Ireland is a perfect case where referendum works.

Direct Democracy also works for Switzerland, I’m sure it isn’t completely the perfect system but I strongly believe it is a far greater system than our archaic, unfair representative system we currently have. I have no doubt that Switzerland has such a high quality of life precisely because of Direct Democracy. And in any case, any decision they make, they have to live with and any achievement they gain is their own achievement and direct power and responsibility is held by the people.

Some people argue that they can't spend their entire lives voting. For those people I would recommend a Citizen Assembly; a random representation from the population who will vote on your behalf and who will listen to experts from both sides of the debate, rather than elected representatives. Ireland’s inclusion of a Citizen Assembly within their referendum proofed that it works. And again, you do have a choice on voting on matters that matter to you most. If a member does not choose to vote then that is fine, no one is forced to do so. But, if people know that they can have a direct say on a better functioning society, I believe voting participation would be higher and mobilise people into action since citizens know their voices are being heard and their votes are counted.

Currently, our two main parties are split. The fact that the referendum result shows such differing views of MPs on the EU membership really highlights how badly broken our political system has become. We have no confidence that they can act on our behalf nor can we trust them with their constant lies. We have a warring nation that is heavily divided, yet there appears to be no strong party that is willing to take on the battle and lead us forward to a brighter future.

It’s time for a change. It’s time to take control, don’t vote once and leave it to someone else to speak for you! People need to have a say, a choice, a sense of power and a voice. Any society that is organised by the citizens is a true, free society. Only the people that live in that community understand the needs and wants and thereby create a society that fulfils the public wishes. More democracy and more freedom; that is what we must strive for.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/05/brexit-impact-papers-viewing-requests-made-by-just-6-of-mps-and-peers

https://inews.co.uk/opinion/brexit-politicians-dont-know-how-to-implement/

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https://www.involve.org.uk/resources/blog/opinion/citizens-assembly-behind-irish-abortion-referendum

Comments (2)

  • Olivia-Avatar.jpg Olivia @ the BNC 12 Apr 2019

    This is a brilliantly written Final piece that successfully draws on your learning from this Issue. I especially like your practical suggestions, based on evidence in different countries. It would be interesting to write this as a letter to your local MP and see what they have to think about your ideas, and perhaps you'd like to check out the Youth Parliament http://www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/! Well done.

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  • The-Ruth-Gorse-logo-250x250.jpg creative_sparrow
    The Ruth Gorse Academy 14 Apr 2019

    Thank you so much for your lovely comments! I’ve also had a look at Youth Parliament, I never knew you could start so young! I just want to say, I’ve learnt so much from this issue. I feel it has been such a valuable lesson and I hope others feel the same way. I also want to thank all the BNC staff and my teacher for giving us this great opportunity.

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