Rebooting Democracy candidate is running for Cambridge city council

Keith Garrett, co-founder of the Rebooting Democracy party (named after Manuel Arriaga’s book), is running for Cambridge city council. He was interviewed by Alya Zayed.

[Rebooting Democracy] puts forward a system whereby decisions are made by randomly selected members of the public, who discuss and deliberate the issues before coming to a decision, like a jury – a process known as ‘sortition’.

[Garrett] said: “I’ve stood before for the Green Party and nothing has changed. One of the key things in my life is climate change – although it’s not the focus of my party. I did everything I could and it makes no difference because you’re essentially trying to appeal to people in charge who have a set of vested interests. They’re career politicians. They’re interested in keeping their jobs and staying in that party machine.

“But actually, if you directly devolve decisions to a group of people, you give them true power, and it would solve most of our big world ills, like social inequality or climate change.”

He added: “You have deliberation, you talk, and you listen to each other. It’s ‘optimise’ not ‘compromise’. It’s about trying to find the best decision, not just the one that keeps everyone happy.”

If elected as councillor, he plans to use this kind of thinking to change the council’s decision making process.

He said: “It’s amazing that when you ask people themselves rather than these nominally elected politicians with party biases, they are more positive. You can probably stop most wars by getting people on the ground to say we don’t want to fight this lot.”

He added: “It could be changed overnight.”

One could argue that councillors – elected to be representatives by ward residents – are essentially doing the job of a citizens assembly. Why would a randomised assembly be any different if councillors are apparently not enough?

Mr Garrett said: “There’s a big issue with the party machines. You end up with a very biased system and in some areas, it doesn’t matter who you vote for, you’re going to end up with the same party if it’s a safe seat. That’s not really fair.

“They also don’t necessarily live in your area and don’t understand issues and so they’ll make decisions that affect our lives when actually it should be us making those decisions. The system inherently doesn’t work.

“I’ve been to council meetings and they’re awful things. It’s very procedural and at the end of the day, they can just ignore what people are saying.

“For example, the evidence says we have to do something about climate change or we’ll have nothing left on the planet, but it’s easy for our representatives to ignore it because of the short term gain of getting themselves voted in again. They want to do things that are popular rather than correct.”

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