Rethinking Representative Democracy
Charlie Masters | 12 December 2016

Are politicians, dedicated as they are with such fervency to their parties, truly representative of the citizens charged with their election to Parliament? The answer, it would appear, is a firm ‘no’.


A gaping flaw within Britain’s democracy – one which sets it apart from its equivalents in France, Germany, even the United States – is a lack of defined party lines. Whilst they may frequently evoke their founding principles (Labour’s roots in the Edwardian trade unionist movement for instance, or the Conservative’s position as a dogmatic front for the landowner class) as means of electioneering, the major electoral factions, in practice, employ the same policies as their counterparts. The fact that no single party typically commands a Commons majority often results in a political deadlock, complicated to a further extent when one encompasses the role of the courts, Brussels and the House of Lords. Whether this is a weakness of the democratic system itself is up for debate.


The big news is that partisan politics has reached a stage whereby MPs are more concerned with slandering the opposition than operating as legitimate emissaries to their municipal jurisdictions. They are reduced to effective ideological slaves at the mercy of party whips and leaders, expressing themselves both on-camera and off with an irritating loyalist air deemed ‘professionalism’. No longer are they reliable agents of a respective locality, nor do they think in terms of the state’s wellbeing – they are voices for a stern national agenda.


In a great piece of theoretical irony, we entitle this restrictive, deeply centralised system ‘representative democracy’. Don’t tell me its representative by any coherent standard.


There will always be a section of society who believes that this profoundly inconsistent state of affairs is the most fool-proof ever orchestrated. It is true that direct democracy – the model exercised in Classical Athens, and, to a lesser degree, modern Switzerland – is a plausible alternative, but innumerable issues arise from an administrative perspective. The answer, I am led to believe, is a nonpartisan structure.


In a nonpartisan system, all candidates running for election do not exercise a party or organizational affiliation. They may be ideologically-motivated, though actual, rigid organizations would, by constitutional decree, be actively prohibited or discouraged. Whilst this may sound an unattractive solution, the benefits such an arrangement could yield vastly outweigh the restraints.


A common argument opposing this notion would be that existing party system lends a certain order to parliamentary undertakings – that without it, the ‘deadlock’ situation would worsen, as representatives, sharing little or no common doctrinal ground, would persistently fail to draft new laws, bogged down in a quagmire of abstentions and furious disagreement. This is, for lack of a better term, an absurd concept. Blocs would be formed to counter – or approve of – a given proposal, ensuring fluidity and a normalised congressional process.


The economy, policing, taxation, immigration – these are all issues with local implications. It is time we reassess political conventions, and return power to the voices that now matter – truly local voices.

James Routledge 2016