Designing Democracy for the 21st Century: Tuesday, 10th May 2016, 6-9pm, Committee Room 5, House of Commons, St Margaret’s Street, Westminster, SW1A 0AA. Up for discussion – Why do we need a constitutional convention? and How do we design one that will have the best outcome for citizens?
• Aisha Dodwell, Global Justice Now! http://www.globaljustice.org.uk (66 Offley Rd, London SW9 0LS – 020 7820 4900)
• Frances Foley, Unlock Democracy: http://www.unlockdemocracy.org (9 King St, London EC2V 8EA: 020 7278 4443)
• Alan Renwick, Constitution Unit, University College London: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit (29-30 Tavistock Sq, London WC1H 9QU: 020 7679 4977)
• Julie Timbrell, Occupy Democracy: https://occupydemocracy.org.uk – https://www.facebook.com/action4democracy
• Paul Feldman, Assemblies for Democracy: https://assembliesfordemocracy.org – http://agreementofthepeople.org – http://www.demsoc.org/2015/01/23/assemblies-for-democracy/
• Eddie Molloy, Electoral Reform Society: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk (2-6 Boundary Row, London SE1 8HP: 020 3714 4070)
• Neal Lawson, Compass: – http://www.compassonline.org.uk (Impact Hub Islington, 5 Torrens St , London EC1V 1NQ) – http://www.compassonline.org.uk/about/people/
Background Papers: links to two documents to consider before the meeting: We the people: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/We-the-people-citizen-led-constitutional-conventions.pdf and After the Referendum: http://www.consoc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/J1847_Constitution_Society_Report_Cover_WEB.pdf.
Six key issues that need to be thought about when a process of constitutional design or reform is being devised:
1. What is the purpose of this process? Is a wholly new constitution being devised, is the existing constitution being comprehensively reviewed, or is the review restricted to specific aspects?
2. Who is represented in this process? It should be taken as a given that the people in a democracy are sovereign and their representation is therefore essential. But who are “the people”? Are there particular groups that especially deserve or require representation? And to what extent is there a case for following the non-representative principle that expertise should count?
3. What is the basic structure of the body or set of bodies that debates the options and makes recommendations? Six possible pure structures are identified. At the least inclusive end of the spectrum are expert commissions. These are followed by negotiations among political leaders, indirectly elected assemblies, and civil society conventions. Directly elected assemblies, as their name suggests, integrate citizens more directly into the process. Citizens’ assemblies go still further be removing the intermediation of politicians. Finally, these pure models can be mixed, either by establishing constitution-making bodies with mixed memberships or by creating processes that incorporate multiple bodies of differing composition.
4. Who can influence the constitution-making body’s deliberations? In particular, who sets its agenda and with whom does it consult, on what basis, through the course of its work?
5. What are the body’s operational procedures? Most importantly, how does it make decisions: by simple majority, qualified majority, consensus, or some other principle?
6. What happens once the constitution-making body has made its recommendations? Does that body have the capacity to enact its recommendations into law itself ? Does it merely recommend to parliament? Is a referendum held? Do the recommendations automatically go to a referendum or can parliament decide after the recommendations have been made?
NOTES from the talks – to follow. One follow-up would be a survey which would be sent to all all those who registered via Eventbrite, plus any email addresses which were added.
Steve’s recommendation; Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man%27s_Search_for_Meaning – https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3389674-trotzdem-ja-zum-leben-sagen-ein-psychologe-erlebt-das-konzentrationslag
Michael Mulvey’s Recommendation: The Quest for a Moral Compass – a global history of ethics – Kenan Malik – http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-review-the-quest-for-a-moral-compass-by-kenan-malik-9269858.html – https://www.timeshighereducation.com/books/the-quest-for-a-moral-compass-aglobal-history-of-ethics-by-kenan-malik/2014636.article