Time for the people to decide on Britain’s democratic future?

June 10, 2009

Britain’s embattled political class are falling over themselves to modernise parliament, but given we have fully embraced the Internet age the proposals have a rather tame feel about them.

Gordon Brown’s latest proposals for “democratic renewal” — the reform of MPs expenses and an elected House of Lords to name but two — could hardly be described as Parliament 2.0.

Maybe Brown should take his cue from Barack Obama, whose U.S. presidential election success had much to do with the way his campaign embraced the Web and mobile phones to mobilise American voters.

If it worked for Obama, why not go one step further and allow voters to cast their votes in local, general or european elections by texting or via the click of a computer mouse.

Obviously an electronic vote raises the issue of electoral fraud, especially given the difficulties that have been encountered in the past with postal voting.

And on a similar theme why is Britain so coy about the use of referendums? Switzerland has a long established tradition of direct democracy which provides its citizens with the right to vote on the big political questions of the day.

Given how few people voted in the European elections last week in the United Kingdom and the low esteem our political representatives are held in by the public, has the time come for people to be allowed to vote electronically in elections and for Britain to explore the idea of a more direct democratic system?

4 comments

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I would be happy if Mr Brown could establish at the very least, a parliament based on democracy. Be it by hand, post or web.
The true reason why over 60% of the public dont vote, is because they dont beleive the system represents them. The voting process is simply a hinderance to the government, in its determination to do exactly as it wishes.
The public are here simply to pay for it.

Posted by Mr.Private | Report as abusive

What we know about postal voting:

Labour activists have used it in the past to increase the vote for their own candidate;

During the EU elections last week the Labour vote almost halved from its previous level in the two areas where postal voting had previously been used. We can draw our own conclusions from that;

There are no safeguards in place to prevent abuse of the system.

If postal voting is wide open to fraud, the potential for abuse of an electronic system is even greater. Would anyone like to buy an automated user-friendly multi-vote software package pre-programmed to vote for your favoured candidate as many times as you choose?

It is quite obvious that the only way to keep people (relatively) honest is to require them to vote in person and to produce their voter registration card when doing so. Even this system fails to stop people selling their votes, but at least limits the scope for abuse.

The only way to keep politicians relatively honest is to put all major decisions affecting the country to a referendum, with the results binding upon the government.
If it’s good enough for the Swiss, it’s good enough for me.

But it won’t suit Labour. Their philosophy is “we do what we want, not what you want. But it’s for your own good because we know what’s best”.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Britain is not Switzerland, and we are not Swiss. The difference in litter should be one clue to that. The prospect of a Britain run by referendum, with a political landscape dominated by spin, was raised by the Cambridge Bright Young Things in the 1971 movie “The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer”.

So maybe we should bring in Sir David Frost as “constitution tsar”? He already knows all the pitfalls….

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

No postal votes except the existing limited provision for people away from home. It is proven to be used by fraudsters.

No electronic voting. The scope for fraud is unlimited.

Referendums on all major issues affecting the country. Our politicians have proven that they cannot be trusted to make important decisions on our behalf.

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive