Voting - an overrated activity


In the debate over political renewal we need to think more clearly and boldly about representative democracy. There are two big problems. Firstly, voting in elections is no more than an opportunity every few years to get rid of a party we feel has failed in government and replace it with one we dislike slightly less. When we vote we are notionally signing up to every policy in our chosen party’s manifesto. Imagine how popular supermarkets would be if we had to choose only one to go to, then whichever won the vote (even though only 1 in 4 of those entitled to vote had chosen the winner) we would be required to buy everything at that store for the subsequent four years. Elections are merely a backstop not the basis for informed public consent.

Secondly, the basis for representation is that the citizens get together, form views and then choose one from among them to take those views to a higher assembly, albeit with freedom to use their judgement when faced with specific decisions. But with a diverse, disengaged yet demanding, often incoherent local public opinion who and what are representatives representing? I have asked many MPs this question and rarely, if ever. have I heard a coherent answer. 

A new politics involves finally recognising that representative democracy in today’s society is necessary but very far from being sufficient as the basis for public engagement in collective decision making’

Be the first to write a comment


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

Related articles

  • RSA Catalyst Awards 2022: Round two winners announced

    Beth D'Elia

    Announcing the eight innovation projects receiving RSA Catalyst funding in round two of 2022's awards.

  • Recognising reciprocity

    Al Mathers

    Al Mathers, former RSA Director of Research and Learning, explores the importance of introducing reciprocity into the work of social change organisations like the RSA.

  • Super-nature: shaping how cities feel

    Tamsin Hanke Sash Scott

    Super-nature was one of 10 commissions to feature in the 2022 global exploration research project, Collective Futures. Learn about the work and its outputs in this field note.