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The Populist Signal: Why politics and democracy need to change

A New report from the Policy Network ‘The Populist Signal: Why Politics and Democracy Need to Change’, examines the political drivers of populism and how democratic innovations can tackle them in the long term.

 

Drawing on original polling, it looks at the attitude of voters towards the political system and their responses to a range of democratic innovations, such as a national constitutional convention, citizens’ assemblies, and the random selection of a number of people to serve as independents on local authorities (following the model of jury selection).

 

The Policy Network report indicates that dissatisfaction with the political system and an openness to these new democratic innovations is highest among those voting for ‘outsider’ parties such as Ukip, the SNP and the Greens. The report also breaks down this data by region, class and age groups.   It contends that populism is a warning signal to parties and governments to revisit their approaches to governance and representation.

 

The case studies, based on interviews with ministers, politicians, organisers, and academics from Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Canada, Ireland and Iceland offer practical examples of democratic experiments.   The conclusion offers recommendations for democratic innovation in the UK, including:

 

– The next London mayor could hold a citizens’ assembly shortly after the election to involve Londoners in determining the priorities and concrete proposals for his or her four-year term. – The same could happen in Bristol, Salford and Liverpool next year, and in Manchester in 2017 following the mayoral elections.

 

– The General London Assembly could be replaced with a body of randomly selected citizens who are more diverse and more representative of the capital. An incremental option could be to add additional members to the existing GLA which are randomly selected.

 

– Ministers could hold citizens’ assemblies like the Flemish Citizens’ Cabinet to advise on policies. – A more radical option could be to eventually replace the archaic House of Lords with a citizens’ senate – a stratified randomly selected group of citizens to approve or veto legislation.

 

The conclusion offers recommendations for democratic innovation in the UK, including:

 

– The next London mayor could hold a citizens’ assembly shortly after the election to involve Londoners in determining the priorities and concrete proposals for his or her four-year term.

 

– The same could happen in Bristol, Salford and Liverpool next year, and in Manchester in 2017 following the mayoral elections.

 

– The General London Assembly could be replaced with a body of randomly selected citizens who are more diverse and more representative of the capital. An incremental option could be to add additional members to the existing GLA which are randomly selected.

 

– Ministers could hold citizens’ assemblies like the Flemish Citizens’ Cabinet to advise on policies.

 

– A more radical option could be to eventually replace the archaic House of Lords with a citizens’ senate – a stratified randomly selected group of citizens to approve or veto legislation.