A hundred sorts of democracy

I went along to Change: How? yesterday — an afternoon of 100 speakers talking about democracy and politics 100 (ish) days from out UK general election. I had a few thoughts:

  • Unsexy democratic reform is happening slowly and surely. My friend Peter Macleod told how they’ve been introducing citizen panels and juries in Canada and finding that they work. They don’t make the headlines though.
  • The interesting stuff in the UK is happening outside mainstream political parties. Richard Wilson and James Smith are both proposing interesting ways of being elected members of parliament — far more novel than any of the candidates or existing MPs from the main parties.
  • A lot of activist groups, single issue campaigns and lobbyists are just as vulnerable to the big change in the way politics is organised that I think is coming as the old parties. They’re more dependent on the current system than they like to think and I’m not sure they’ve really woken up to this.
  • The ‘southern Europe revolution’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There were speakers there from Syriza and Podemos who got rousing responses from the audience, I came away pretty unimpressed though. They’re protest parties, which is completely legitimate but they’re not the future of political parties. They still use words like ‘manifesto’, ‘policy’ and ‘narrative’.
  • The Alternative from Denmark might be more interesting. You can be part of their political organisation if you sign up to their six values and structures flow from that. Yes, they’re still a reaction against the failings of bigger parties but they seem to be trying to build something much more international and long-term.

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