Essay on The Internet Age of Democracy

Essay on The Internet Age of Democracy

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‘Parliament is broken’, is a statement which will not provoke much dissent. Most people, however, will attribute this to the avaricious behaviour of its residents, both elected and unelected. I suggest that the problem goes deeper and that the behaviour of many parliamentarians is a consequence of our broken democracy and not the cause. I will begin with the lower house, the “mother of Parliaments”.
There are currently some 646 Members of Parliament, representing a population of 61 million (1 MP for 94,000 people). Of these, around 20% have a defined job in Government and chairing some 45 committees. When not sitting on a committee, a non-ministerial MP can sit in the chamber and participate in debates. A few days spent watching the televised proceedings, of parliament, will confirm how few MPs take up this option. By way of contrast, the USA has 435 members of the House of Representatives for a population of 308 million (1 Representative for 708,000 people), and Europe, which now frames around 40% of all UK legislation, has 626 MEPs for a population of 495 million (1 MEP for 790,000 people).
Voting in Parliamentary debates is what keeps MPs close to the chamber. They must personally go through the lobbies to record their vote and any legislation depends on a majority of votes. The internet and mobile phone network means that we no longer have to appoint MPs to vote on our behalf, we can do it ourselves very simply and at considerably less cost.
Internet and telephone voting has already been tried, with little apparent enthusiasm. The most prominent objections are security and the “right” to a secret ballot. The security arguments appear irrational when viewed against the quality of internet banking security and indeed the fi...


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...they could take part by going to their local Parliamentary conferencing suite, thus contributing positively to carbon reduction.
Universities and other centres of learning and research should be encouraged to analyse all legislation to determine its effectiveness against its designed purpose. They could also monitor the performance of members of the House of Lords to judge their effectiveness and fitness for purpose.
This proposal represents a huge move forward for the UK. We started parliamentary democracy and we now have the chance to lead the world into the internet age of democracy. Clearly many of the above suggestions are not the best possible, they are put forward to start the necessary debate. Other groups will want to be represented, and the new internet voting proposals provide for a democratic way of finding the best solution.
Let’s have a debate.


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