In theory at least, the people we chose to represent our interests as MPs were deemed to be wiser, worldlier and more knowledgeable than the rest of us and were thus better equipped to deal with important issues.
We put our trust in them and every four or five years if we thought they had failed us, we got them out and put in place someone else we thought was wiser than us, and so the cycle continued.
But can we honestly say that nowadays all our MPs are more worldly-wise than us when at the push of a few buttons we can become near-experts on a variety of subjects and much more informed on current affairs thanks to Google, Bing, social media etc than our MPs.
As we become more connected to more people with different views and to vast amounts of information, MPs are increasingly less able to represent us – we are the ones who are now wiser, worldlier and more knowledgeable.
What’s the solution? Good question! Autocracy, no thanks. Theocracy, nope. Monarchy, no, no no.
Direct democracy – where people share decision making – cannot work in anything other than a tiny community but a form of direct democracy, where we have a say through referendums on major decisions could work. Brexit is a good example.
There are two immediate problems with that route however: 1. There is a danger that minorities will always been frozen out and 2. We have no say in what happens next. The people of the UK voted to leave the EU – they have had absolutely no say in the on-going negotiations.
Perhaps there could be a hybrid model, mixing representative and direct democracy with referendums with an actively encouraged citizen lobbying scene.
For many lobbying is a dirty word – associated as it is with the multi-billionaire businesses who have the ear and the wallet of our decision-makers and who lobby purely to affect policy making for their own and not the general population’s benefit.
Citizens can and do lobby – an email to your local MP is lobbying, as it is setting up a petition, a campaign – anything that aims to change policy or legislation is lobbying. It is feasible that this are of lobbying can grow – but it does need someone (a group) with drive, energy and passion.
Maybe none of this is realistic and there probably is no real appetite to change the status-quo which suits the winners perfectly.
But when I see stories like this “Members of Parliament were reminded last Friday that they must attend House of Assembly sittings and committee meetings” then it is obvious that something must change because there is no representation at all here.