Retention of 19th century representative democracy seems increasingly ludicrous in the 21st century, due to the widespread agreement in recent decades that elected representatives no longer represent the common interests of constituents. The traditional competitive ethic often merely produces egocentric posturing on the floor of parliament rather than constructive debate directed toward the solution of social problems. A forum for collaborative political endeavour is now essential.
I advise usage of the legislative chamber for this purpose - not so much as an upper house, but as a venue to develop cross-party consensus on methods for solving social problems. I recommend retaining the traditional system in concurrent operation because we need proposed legislation to remain contestable. To minimise the cost to the taxpayer, the collaborative forum ought to be voluntarist – at least for a seven-year trial period.
It would work best if current MPs were empowered to elect their participation therein, but I would advise a limit on numbers to keep the operation small until confidence in the efficacy of the process becomes general. Obviously the process would benefit from careful selection of volunteer participants (both in number and track record in public life or ngo contexts). Final criteria ought to be opened for public input (and consequent amendment) before operation commences.
However, you must acknowledge that lateral-thinkers and natural problem-solvers are actively discriminated against in representative democracy! By virtue of its design, it compels lowest-common denominator thinking. To solve endemic social problems, we must instead trial likely solutions until we get one that works. This can never happen while most people think doing so is too hard. Such prevailing defeatism prolongs the status quo and ensures that young people mature into adult-hood in dismay at the sick society that representative democracy institutionalises. We need a can-do approach instead, to replace our defeatist tradition.
The forum for participatory democracy that I propose will give hope to the young: they will see that progress can be made via the practical process of extending consensus across party lines. It can be advocated as a clever extension of current parliamentary select committee process, but it elevates that to a higher gear. Our huge pool of innovators and problem-solvers will be able to contribute to political life on a constructive collaborative basis - rather than continue to be dismissed as non-conformists. I'm confident this mutual-benefit scenario will once again make us exemplars of political progress on the global stage.
[my submission to parliament's Justice & Electoral Committee Inquiry March 2015]