We think the central pillar of a mature democratic political system should be a method for the public to spontaneously dismiss its leaders/representatives and, where necessary, force issues onto the political agenda. faq
We believe the best way of achieving this is through jury-moderated petitions. These would involve two or three steps:
- A privately organised petition (to recall an MP or councillor, or to hold a referendum) would need to gather signatures from a certain percentage of eligible voters;
- Qualifying petitions would be considered by a jury, a random selection of voters from the constituency, who would hear arguments for and against and decide whether the issue should be put to the wider electorate through a by-election or referendum;
- In some circumstances, where the jury approves a petition with reservations, a second jury might be convened to approve details of the vote, or a higher threshold might be set for the petition.
A key question is what percentage of the electorate should be required to support a petition. Since local autonomy is a high priority for us, we regard this as a matter for constituencies to decide for themselves but we propose a low initial threshold (5%) on the principle that 1) electorates can easily raise it and 2) it will soon be obvious if it is too low, but it will be much less obvious if it is too high.faq
Petitions rejected by a jury would not automatically be ruled out (because of the possibility of the jury being highly unrepresentative) but the petition would then have to achieve a much higher threshold to go through.
Could this approach also be adapted to the spontaneous creation of citizen juries-deliberative forums, chosen by sortition to reflect demographic makeup that are given the time and information to deliberate and arrive at recommendations to key issues of public concern? Petitions that reveal serious popular differences with the collective decisions of their elected representatives (they have a high number of signatures) could first be referred to a jury who, if satisfied that this is not the work of sore losers, could then mandate a deliberative jury which elected reps must be guided by.
It certainly could. Though, personally, I’d be wary of insisting that elected reps must be guided by the recommendations of a deliberative jury.
For me, the primary issue is the power structure, i.e. ensuring that representatives are properly accountable. That’s the clearly constitutional question. Once you start looking at policy areas I’d say the benefits are much less clear cut. I think it’s also important, when we’re looking at radical change, not to try and fix more superficial problems which are actually the product of the deeper flaws – because they would become much less significant once the deeper flaws are fixed.