The Blog

A Revolution Is Necessary, But We'll Have To Vote For It.

Russell Brand was right to assert, in effect, that the basis on which we are governed is not set in stone. We can change it if enough of us act in unison. But the fact remains that the only legitimate means to constitutional change is the ballot box. Violent revolutions inevitably result in misery for the populous and a greater centralisation of power.

I'm not a comedian or a celebrity. Neither am I a junkie or a cheeky monkey. I'm not promoting a tour or a book or a career. I'm not a wannabe politician, a journalist, a lobbyist or a political propagandist. I'm not even an academic.

I am sufficiently well educated to string some complex thoughts together but I work in a parcel sorting office on a zero hours contract for the minimum wage. Thanks to the government's austerity programme, my situation is deteriorating by the day. I have no investments, no savings and no private pension plan. In short, I'm an ordinary person, a common man, subject to the same privations as most people in this country.

That's not to say I have more right to an opinion than Russell Brand or anyone else for that matter, but no one can accuse me of pontificating from a position of wealth and privilege.

Unlike the smarmy establishment figures and smart-arsed journalists that flocked to defend the status quo by rubbishing Brand and his unorthodox views, I know firsthand what hardworking ordinary people actually think, which is that Brand is correct in his diagnosis if not in his prescription.

Our representatives, distinguishable only by the colour of the rosettes they wear during elections, don't, in fact, represent us. They've abdicated responsibility for the state to cartels of rapacious corporations. Stupidly, in the name of progress, they've eroded the rights our forefathers fought and died for and they've reduced the remedy of elections to a sick joke. To vote for them would be to validate the pretence. Fuck 'em! Fuck 'em all!

'Voter apathy' is one of those derogatory terms the political elite uses to sidestep the blame for its own failings. It's not that people 'can't be arsed' to vote, it's that they're not interested in voting for more of the same bullshit. They want something better but they've learnt from bitter experience that voting in what amounts to an electoral oligarchy doesn't bring change.

Where Brand stands head and shoulders above his detractors is in being able to imagine a more equitable, more efficient and more effective system for organising human affairs, even if he can't put a name to it or suggest a legitimate way it might be achieved. He is not alone. Parliament's own research charity, the Hansard Society, recently published research suggesting more people are interested in participating directly in government (42%) than intend to vote at the next election (41%). In its 2012 report on the state of British democracy, Democratic Audit concluded, 'all available indicators suggest that representative democracy is in long-term, terminal decline, but no viable alternative model of democracy currently exists'.

An alternative model of democracy does, in fact, exist, at least in theory. The New Model Democracy is a system of government in which decisions are made by an informed representative sample of ordinary citizens that are selected at random (like jury service) to serve for three months at a time, rather than by a cabal of career politicians chosen by a small proportion of the population in elections. A straightforward, non-hierarchical network of community assemblies replaces the present anachronistic mishmash of national, regional and local government. Each assembly has two allotted chambers, a deliberative policy forum and a majoritarian 'plebisary' where legislation is approved or rejected by a simple yes/no vote. To ensure that each position is represented equally in debate and to prevent corruption by vested interests, evidence is presented to the assemblies according to fixed protocols by 'advocates' (specialist lawyers) selected at random from regional pools. The decisions of multiple assemblies are aggregated - on a local, regional or national basis depending upon the extent of the matter being decided - to arrive at an outcome that represents the 'will of the people'.

A collegial (joint and severally responsible) executive of technocrats, elected by and accountable to the assemblies, is tasked with implementing policy. This means that government departments would be run by people who know what they're doing rather than by party-line political placemen and that the civil service would be directly answerable to the people. It also means that ministers would have the latitude to plan for the long-term and the power to act decisively in the short-term, but that they could be removed by a vote of no confidence at any time if they don't measure up to expectations.

Elections would be held to select non-partisan local ombudspersons that would work within a beefed-up Citizen's Advice Bureau to carry out the current constituency duties of MPs. They would be invested with the powers necessary to intervene in disputes between citizens and the authorities.

The New Model Democracy represents radical constitutional reform but it's a pragmatic rather than Utopian solution. It accepts capitalism as a given, for instance, but its adoption would separate capital from politics and erect formidable barriers against corruption. It gives representation to the entire spectrum of political opinion whilst incorporating checks and balances to counter potential misuses of power and prevent a 'tyranny of the majority'.

Most importantly, through common ownership of public services, complimentary currencies and mutual responsibility, it redefines the state as an extension of civil society rather than as a neutral entity separated from society and the economy, or as a partisan instrument primarily serving the interests of a political and economic elite.

From my position on the shop floor, it looks as though Britain has sleepwalked into post-democracy. Cynical policies, such as the government's logic defying Help to Buy scheme, are targeted at floating voters in marginal constituencies whose only political agenda is what's in it for them. Either that, or they're developed for the benefit of the corporations that fund the mainstream parties' perpetual electioneering, which nowadays amounts to little more than an exercise in exploiting cognitive biases, such as a fear of foreigners or a hatred of scroungers.

Russell Brand was right to assert, in effect, that the basis on which we are governed is not set in stone. We can change it if enough of us act in unison. But the fact remains that the only legitimate means to constitutional change is the ballot box. Violent revolutions inevitably result in misery for the populous and a greater centralisation of power.

It's hard to see how trust in professional politicians can ever be restored. Without trust, they have no basis on which to govern. Change is both necessary and inevitable, both in Britain and throughout the world.

If humankind is to establish a normative basis for resolving injustices, such as the disparity in the quality of life between developed and developing nations, the inequalities that contribute to social unrest or the threats posed by corporate power, conflict and global warming, it will be necessary to adopt a new model of democracy.

We can make a start by forming local constituency groups to select strong local candidates that agree to stand on a platform of constitutional change, ordinary people who will serve in parliament only for as long as it takes to gain a majority, hold a referendum, test a new democratic solution and dissolve the current system. That should give Russell Brand and the millions of people who watched his Jeremy Paxman interview a reason to vote.