Isn’t this lovely

That last point dovetails with the perception of insincerity. There is a problem with selection, a sense that politics is a career for insiders, people heavily invested in the status quo, who see their job as protecting it from the demands of the people. In 2012 a team of Italian physicists, economists and political scientists modelled a parliament in which some members had been chosen at random, like juries, and found the resultant system to be both more efficient and better at pursuing broad social welfare – as well as more diverse and thus more representative.

Party discipline perverts constructive action, while monolithic structures alienate voters with their tribalism and internecine wrangling. To choose all MPs at random would be to disconnect voters entirely from the process I prefer a significant element of deliberated choice, achieved through open primaries either within or across parties, in which voters rather than a party machine choose a candidate, based on open debate. The idea is gaining ground with Crowdpac, which, although the brainchild of Steve Hilton (whom I did not expect to namecheck in any utopian vision of anything), has a progressive pioneer in its chief international officer, Paul Hilder, co-founder of 38 Degrees and Open Democracy.

Ok, so add a bit of sortition to the system. More representative that way, results in a better system.

Well, could be, sure. Next line:

Once candidates are in place, progressives need to build an alliance,

I want to change the system because my peeps will dominate the new one. Yes, very democratic that one.

26 comments on “Isn’t this lovely

  1. Random selection will throw up all sorts that the leftist bitch wont like at all.

    When you hear the left whining it is axiomatic that more power for their gang is all they want. Bullshit beyond all human measure will be spewed to try and hide that reality but that is it.

    More power for evil tin gods.

  2. This could well be a useful elementioned within a reformed HoL

    However, open primaries? Jeremy Corbyn? Donald Trump? Hilary Clinton? Do we really have such a soft spot for fuckwits?

  3. Maybe the best of both worlds would be to have the Commons elected as at present and the Lords selected at random.

  4. House of Lords as “jury service” would work brilliantly I think. Perhaps to 1-2 days per week and use some clever tech for remote meetings, so people can have a normal life too. 1-year tenure. Go on, tell me why this wouldn’t work then?

  5. We had a HoL which was the result of sortition (of sorts) but then Blair started tearing it up. Time to restore that and reduce the number of life peers (since all sides have been guilty of abusing that system).

  6. Playing devil’s advocate, is jury service really a good example? Juries tend to self-select from the ranks of those who have free time. For example, any self-employed person will actively avoid jury service as far as possible. Most of the time this isn’t a huge problem; but there have been complex cases where jurors admit to not fully understanding the case.

    Applying this to politics, having a chamber of randomly-selected people would mean we end up with the civil service dancing rings around them.

  7. Are you trying to tell us that every member of the Commons and Lords thoroughly understands every measure on which they vote?

  8. Not if the College of Traitors known as the Senior Civil Service are fired en masse sans compo and their pensions.

  9. It is a poor analysis because it misses the essential point. It is the party system – whips and patronage – that is the problem. Not the MPs per se.

  10. “Not the MPs per se.”

    A gang of middle class Marxian pricks. Not to mention Remainiac trash.

    Sure–not a problem.

  11. To get a representative sample you’ll need somewhere between 385 and 2400 randomly-selected people (depends on your acceptable margin of error; tried some numbers at surveymonkey’s calculator)

    If you still want to have a bunch of elected MPs that means making parliament bigger.

  12. > Are you trying to tell us that every member of the Commons and Lords thoroughly understands every measure on which they vote?

    No; as others said, it’s the party system which means MPs couldn’t care less about most bills. But at least they’re bright enough to understand them, if they make the effort.

    On the other hand that may well be a feature of a randomly-selected system. If our laws are all simple enough for a 10 year old to understand, we might well end up with better legislation. I have my doubts though.

  13. As Groucho might have said, anyone who wants to be an MP should in no circumstances be allowed to be one.

  14. “the democratic to-do list will read: democratise renewable energy production; establish proportional representation; devise nationwide constitutional conventions; fund broad-based citizen journalism; ”
    Which being interpreted means “The Grauniad is going broke and I want to stay on a gravy train paid for by someone else”

  15. “having a chamber of randomly-selected people would mean we end up with the civil service dancing rings around them.”

    This I’m afraid. Plus the intelligence thing – many people just wouldn’t be up to understanding (or want to even try to understand) complex legal legislative ideas. And sensible people have better things to do with their lives anyway, and would move heaven and earth to get out of it. Or not turn up. What are you going to do, arrest your representatives and force them to govern at gunpoint? Such a system would also expose the representatives to far too much personal danger – both from criminal elements aimed at intimidating them to vote in certain ways, or to punish them (and frighten others) for voting in certain ways, and from terrorists. There’s no way that such constantly changing numbers of ordinary people could be protected, particularly after their period of service was over.

    Its a nice idea in principle, but faces some pretty insurmountable practical problems.

  16. Most of the detailed scrutiny of Bills and holding the Executive to account is done by Select Committees and they tend to be made of people who are knowledgeable about, or interested in so well make the effort to understand, the subject to hand.

    Not perfect but better than what we had.

    And I agree that its the Whip system that is the problem. We need more MPs who are prepared to tell them to Fuck Off, but that means sacrificing a career.

  17. The ghastly Zoe Williams has laid out a remarkable smorgasbord of leftist idiocy in that article. If those are her answers, then she’s (obviously) asking the wrong questions.

    As for a randomly selected HoL, Jim nails it perfectly: the practical difficulties are insuperable. And Clarissa correctly points out that the HoL was in the past randomly selected – by the accident of birth.

  18. > There’s no way that such constantly changing numbers of ordinary people could be protected

    We manage to keep the current 650 MPs and scores more former MPs safe. Members of the public randomly selected for Commons / Lords duty for five-year terms shouldn’t present any greater difficulty.

    > What are you going to do, arrest your representatives and force them to govern at gunpoint?

    We already have that problem in the House of Lords: they get paid just for turning up and punching a card, not for actually governing. Random selection doesn’t fix that; but it doesn’t worsen it either. But it does mean that we’re left being governed by people who believe that Something Must Be Done, rather than by people who believe that Nothing Must Be Done. Perhaps they could only be paid for votes cast?

    > the Whip system that is the problem. We need more MPs who are prepared to tell them to Fuck Off

    This sounds like a recipe for SJW-style posturing, as every MP gives a 10 minute speech about why she isn’t going to vote for the Baby Seal Clubbing Act. Even if there’s a serious problem with seal overpopulation.

  19. @ Jim
    “There’s no way that such constantly changing numbers of ordinary people could be protected, particularly after their period of service was over.”
    The hereditary Houseof Lords was not only much more effective at scrutinising and amending legislation (and, interestingly rejected more bills passed by a Conservative-majority Hoc than a Labour-majority HoC) than the current body dominated by superannuated political hacks, but was also much more able to defend itself. Numerous peers won medals fighting for their country (some even survived) – in my generation few have actually had the chance to fight but it was noticeable that in his CV Gerald Grosvenor listed his TA decoration and omitted all/most of the honours that came from just being Duke of Westminster and the richest man in the UK. I have met two hereditary peers who were Boxing Blues (so even excluding the ones I haven’t met that’s c.1600 times the average frequency). Lots of them know how to shout grouse and pheasants (someone is bound to re-write that).
    If you’re worried about the ability of peers to defend themselves, then bring back the hereditary HoL who were descended from the guys who survived the wars with France (and, to a lesser extent, Scotland and Wales).

  20. I can believe (though I have no real knowledge) that Singapore is run by technocrats and as a fly-speck micro-state works quite well. But isn’t Switzerland the place where they decide (almost) everything by referendum?

  21. @ Chris Miller
    Yes, which provides some stability to Switzerland.
    Singapore has a number of particular oddities that makes it difficult to argue that one can copy it in other societies.
    Singapore is a small island that was a British colony for generations before being granted independence as part of Malaysia, by which time it had an overwhelming majority of expatriate Chinese who were in a minority in Malaysia. Racial tensions and the demand from the Malayan majority for equality of outcome with the harder-working expat Chinese led to independence under a brilliant (double-starred 1st class honours in law from Cambridge) visionary Lee Kuan Yew, who moulded the state *and the civil service* to aim for self-improvement. Too many states have achieved independence under men and women who have studied economics at Cambridge (my wife remembers seeing T-shirts with the slogan “what’s left of Cambridge economics?” – to which the only answer was “Pol Pot”) or LSE, but Singsapore had someone with both brains and sense.

  22. Andrew M,

    “> the Whip system that is the problem. We need more MPs who are prepared to tell them to Fuck Off

    This sounds like a recipe for SJW-style posturing, as every MP gives a 10 minute speech about why she isn’t going to vote for the Baby Seal Clubbing Act. Even if there’s a serious problem with seal overpopulation.”

    I can understand the importance of the Whip system for important stuff and manifesto promises, but clubbing baby seals? And that’s my point, the Whip system is used far too often. Governments should accept losing some votes equanimity if they can’t win the argument and shrug off the inevitable press speculation about disunited party.

    We’re supposed to be a representative democracy not a party political party state.

  23. Singapore is an interesting place which was lucky enough to get what can best be described as an enlightened dictator.

    As an American ex-pat said to me when I was working there on a short visit in the ’90s, people laugh when they see signs in lifts saying no urination with a large fine for transgressing, but what they miss is that those signs were needed to bring the population up to a certain level of social standards. They may be a legacy, but they were needed.

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