Radical reform: selecting 5-10% of councillors by lot

Vernon Bogdanor, Research Professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History at King’s College London and Professor of Politics at the New College of the Humanities, advocates bold, radical reforms:

Local government reform

One way that our democratic system can face these challenges is by making local government `Self Government’ once again. […] Local government is the best arena for the next phase of constitutional reform, but something much more radical than elected mayors is needed.

Selection by lot

That more radical innovation might be found in the principle of sortition—selection by lot. That principle was first adopted in fifth‐century Athens, a direct democracy, but it is perfectly feasible to extend participation in a modern democracy.

A small proportion of councillors—say 5 per cent or 10 per cent—could be selected randomly by lot from the electoral register. Participation would be voluntary but most of those selected would probably be willing to do so. That would increase the representation of the young and of members of ethnic minorities, groups markedly under‐represented in most local authorities. These councillors could decide what was best for their communities without being beholden to party.

2 Responses

  1. Vernon Bogdanor . . . advocates bold, radical reforms

    Vernon Bogdanor reviewed my first book in 2004 in the Times Higher and dismissed my argument for sortition as a silly joke; he then reviewed my second book (in TLS) in 2008 and acknowledged that sortition might play a limited role in politics at the local level, so good to hear that he’s now a bold radical.

    Participation would be voluntary but most of those selected would probably be willing to do so.

    Really? I thought the average take up for voluntary sortition-based assemblies was in the order of 4%.


  2. Mixing in (a minority of) randomly selected citizens into a body of professional elected politicians is symbolic at best, but mostly just silly or a public relations ploy. There is nothing democratic about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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