THE BLOG

Never Having to Vote in Another Election Could Be Something Worth Voting For

18/12/2014 09:45 GMT | Updated 16/02/2015 10:59 GMT

What if you could vote to exchange your right to vote for an equal opportunity to participate directly in government? How about if that meant an end to the political parties of which the data suggests you're unlikely to be a member and the career politicians in whom opinion polls suggest you have no trust?

Imagine that, instead of turning out to vote for the least unappealing option every 5 years, knowing that your vote is unlikely to make any appreciable difference to your life, you are entered into a lottery every quarter. If your name comes up, you'll spend three months on your normal salary - or benefits if that's your situation - plus expenses, pension contributions and a subsidised canteen, as an allotted citizen who decides policy, scrutinises and passes legislation, approves budgets, appoints members of the executive whose job it is to carry out whatever policy you decide and holds the appointed executive to account.

Not on your own, obviously. You might start a war in the Middle East on a promise to a mate. That wouldn't be very democratic would it?

Sadly you won't get to spend three months living it up in London where your neighbours can't keep an eye on you. You'll attend your local Community Assembly, one of the linked national network of assemblies that replaced both the Palace of Westminster - now turned into nice little earner for the National Trust - and the anachronistic mishmash of old national, regional, municipal and local authorities that hardly anybody bothered to vote for.

On your first day, you'll be allocated a place in either the Forum, which decides policy by deliberation, or the Plebisary, which scrutinises and approves legislation, passes budgets and appoints members of the executive cabinet by ballot. In either chamber, you'll sit with 29 other ordinary people, each of you representing approximately 6,000 of your fellow citizens in a reasonably representative, but randomly selected, model of society.

Since the lottery is weighted to ensure gender balance, approximately half the allotted assembly members are men and half women; approximate since no one is excluded on the basis of gender, or disability for that matter. Being random, it's faintly possible that all of those selected could be manual workers, say, but it's practically impossible that they'll all be members of a political party since the universe of party members is so small.

Of course the written constitution protects minorities from a tyranny of the majority and the majority from misrepresentation by a minority - media owners, for example - and provides exemptions for not having to attend. But should an entire section of society seek exemption - hedge fund managers, say - they would inevitably have limited influence on government.

You'll spend your time serving the community in a comfortable, relaxed, non-adversarial, non-confrontational, non-coercive environment, hearing evidence for each position presented by advocates allocated at random from a collective pool known as the Advocacy, a division of the judiciary.

The assembly at which each advocate appears and the position they represent is also allocated at random so, if you wanted to influence an outcome, it would be tricky to know which advocates to nobble. Protocol dictates that a decision is aggregated across a multiple of assemblies representing the population affected by the decision, so the entire system is difficult to corrupt. If you're absolutely set on starting a war in the Middle East, you're going to have to convince all 1,050 assemblies - with conclusive evidence.

Worried about your lack of expertise in matters of state? There's no need to be. Your experience of everyday life is more valuable to the public good than a private school education, a PPE degree and a political internship.

Concerned you won't know what to say or feel shy about expressing your opinions? Moderators will guide you through the processes and protocols, which are designed to include your opinions whether you're good at public speaking or not. You'll get the hang of it after a few days. You'll reach decisions quickly and efficiently. You may even enjoy governing yourself.

By the time you go back to your job, before you become institutionalised and disconnected from everyday life, you'll be well informed on a wide range of subjects. You'll probably feel a greater sense of responsibility and possess a new authority that you'll take back to your place of work. Importantly, you'll have a better understanding of the needs and aspirations of other people.

You won't be expected to run the country or even manage the provision of public services in your community. That's the job of the collegiate - joint and severally responsible - cabinets whose individual members you appoint and hold to account. Unlike the old system, where cabinet members were appointed to further the interests of their party and its leaders, these people are technocrats, experts in the field of health provision, education, transport and the competences of each department of government.

To do their jobs effectively, they'll need to come to the assemblies seeking policy decisions, requests for legislation and approval of budgets. You will help to decide what powers to give them and, in the event you believe they're not doing their job well enough, to remove them from office. As a result, the civil service is now directly answerable to the people via its heads of department, rather than through obfuscating political placepersons.

Ordinary citizens, charities, interest groups and business organisations will also petition the assemblies, presenting their evidence via the Advocacy. Since policy is now evidence-based rather than a matter of ideology or self-interest, you might decide to reduce crime by decriminalising drugs, protect society from avaricious shareholders and bankers by criminalising wrongdoing, or maybe close private schools to ensure social mobility. You might even decide to bring back hanging if the evidence convinces you it will benefit society.

You will have to decide whether you want the status conferred by nuclear submarines or the security of a national health service. In the event you want both without having to run a budget deficit or increase government borrowing, you might decide to increase income tax for a while, something politicians would never have been able to do under the old system.

Freed from the tyranny of electioneering, you'll be able to consider measures that will benefit the lives of your children and grandchildren.

Of course you'll make mistakes. No system is perfect. But when you do, your successors will be able to correct the problem without the need for political expediency. After all, you're sharing collective responsibility with around 30,000 other people from all walks of life and every shade of political persuasion rather than with a few dozen members of a tiny ideological interest group.

Corporations might find a political system without a market for policies or peerages a tad less convenient. But with a well-informed, confident and collaborative labour force to recruit from, the rewards to business will far outweigh having to pay corporation tax or curb executive bonuses. Social responsibility will be good for business.

When an ungrateful electorate dumped Churchill from office, he quipped that 'democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms of government that have been tried from time to time'. But what he actually meant by 'democracy' was 'allowing the plebs to vote'.

What Emma Goldman actually meant by 'if voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal' was 'plebs voting for factions of a political oligarchy' rather than the act of voting itself. You'll still need to vote in elections for an ombudsperson to lead your community branch of a beefed up Citizen's Advice Bureau with powers to represent constituents in disputes with authority.

Can you imagine the political elite ceding to a system of government that will make it redundant? Of course you can't, not even if political collectivism is a more effective method of organising human affairs in a complex modern world. In an anachronistic political system where the only thing that can't be vetoed is the status quo, it ain't gonna happen.

There's an obvious solution. But you'll have to vote for it.

Organise a Meetup group in your electoral constituency and take to social media to encourage people to support it. Select a local candidate from amongst your number who will commit to representing the constituency on a platform of constitutional change via a referendum. Then work with other constituency groups to get your candidates elected to parliament. With a majority in parliament, you'll be able to change the constitution and your reluctant representative will be able to stand down.

The status quo is not sacrosanct. The rules by which we are governed are not set in stone. If you feel your representatives don't, in fact, represent you, you have the means to change the system that keeps them in business.

Or you could just carry on voting for the least unappealing option and hope that somehow things will change of their own accord.