Comment on Power

This is an entirely unofficial page for discussion of the report of the Power Inquiry, an independent inquiry into Britain's democracy. We've put the executive summary up only, all on one page. It's short and very interesting: so read it!

If you agree or disagree with any part of the summary, we strongly encourage you to hit respond next to it — we want people to 'scribble in the margins'. Remember, if you don't take part in the debate about the Power Inquiry report, it is the mass media that will decide what counts about it.

Please don't hesitate to contact us!

this site was built by
mySociety.org
the charitable project that runs WriteToThem.com, TheyWorkForYou.com, and PledgeBank.com; and is supported by
OpenDemocracy
Become a Sponsor of this Site

Power to the People

The report of Power: an independent inquiry into Britain’s democracy

Executive Summary and Recommendations

Power was established to discover what is happening to our democracy. Why has disengagement from formal democratic politics in Britain grown in recent years and how can it be reversed?

Although the election of new leaders to the political parties and strategic repositioning has generated some renewed public interest in the drama of Westminster, it is our view that this is unlikely to have more than a cosmetic and short-lived effect. The problems run too deep.

The Commission of ten people from different backgrounds and with a variety of political views believes it is vital to re-engage the British people with formal democracy if the following are to be avoided:

  • the weakening of the mandate and legitimacy for elected governments whichever party is in power -- because of plummeting turnout;
  • the further weakening of political equality because whole sections of the community feel estranged from politics;
  • the weakening of effective dialogue between governed and governors;
  • the weakening of effective recruitment into politics;
  • the rise of undemocratic political forces;
  • the rise of a ‘quiet authoritarianism’ within government.

This report presents a detailed analysis of why this disengagement has occurred and a series of recommendations to address the problem. This is a broad agenda for major political reform.

Some responses:

  • This is an example comment, which refers to the paragraph to the left. If you see anything you like or ...
  • "Its substance has come from the voices of thousands of people around the country who feel quietly angry or depressed. ...
  • I wouldn't argue with the analyis, since it based on so many interviews, survey and meetings - and seems to ...
  • If you believe people should be more involved you could start with the online pdf version of your own report. ...
  • Hope you will respond to current Economist article. It misses an important feature of your report that individuals can ...
  • I want to endorse the proposal for the voting and candidacy age to be reduced to 16. About 25 years ...
  • Of the 30 recommendations 22 are focussed on parliament, with just four focussed on supporting citizens themselves. As Power themselves ...
  • All I have to say is that this executive summary uses too many vague words when specific ones are needed, ...
  • I disagree with a previous comment that one should not start with the politicians. People are already doing "their ...
  • What is missing from this report is any consideration as to why politicians appear to be so devious and underhand. ...
  • I found the report very important. It identifies a significant problem that is very widespread. I just wrote an article ...
  • An interesting report. The problem of voter apathy seems to stem from the political parties themselves. If we take New ...
  • In a society flattened so badly by the capitalism it is impossible to get the bulk of the people interested ...
  • Sinan - Are you concerned about the effects of the generation of huge amounts of greenhouse gases on the environment? ...
  • Robyn Grant points out that the Economist's response to PoWEr fails to mention Recommendation 24 which is about the introduction ...
  • If one agrees with the ideas of sixteen year old voters and parliamentary candidates (and I certainly do not), then ...
  • Your logic would take the vote away from everyone over 70 or physically disabled, too. And even from women by ...
  • The Power Inquiry Report is a valuable addition to the arguments long advocated by a small but vigorous reform minded ...
  • I went to the Power Inquiry Conference in central London yesterday. What a disappointment it conference was. Very poorly designed ...
  • The parties represented in the House of Commons should each be allowed to appoint a team of advocates to make ...
  • Report 2006 of the Rowntree Trusts' Power Commission - What's in it for direct democrats? Our preliminary response to "Power to the ...
  • I found this website by searcing " irrelevent politicians ". Party Politics does seem to be increasingly irrelevent - but ...
  • It was interesting to note that both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems had their leaders speaking at the conference ...
  • I have to declare an interest. I am director of the Power Inquiry and I bought the original idea to ...
  • Pam, One thing I have noticed is that the Power Inquiry has received very little, if any, publicity since the ...
  • Dear Pam Following a unique recent appointment, I am organising a major international conference on political reform in the UK at ...
  • An annual streetfest or vigil, in the politically focal cities and anywhere else that's keen? With an extra one during ...
  • I hadn't heard about this POWER stuff until just the other day. I happened to be channel-hopping on Freeview, ...
  • I was pleased that Power called for a more responsive voting system but I was disappointed that they did not ...
  • Dear Roger, I would urge you to cancel your conference, Roger. International conferences crammed with experts and the great and ...
Leave a response and read 30 »

Analysis of the Problem of Disengagement

The Myth of Apathy

Three fundamental characteristics of political disengagement in Britain have been particularly influential in Power’s thinking about the causes of the problem.

Contrary to much of the public debate around political disengagement, the British public are not apathetic. There is now a great deal of research evidence to show that very large numbers of citizens are engaged in community and charity work outside of politics. There is also clear evidence that involvement in pressure politics —- such as signing petitions, supporting consumer boycotts, joining campaign groups —- has been growing significantly for many years. In addition, research shows that interest in ‘political issues’ is high.

The area of decline is in formal politics: turnout for General Elections has declined very significantly since 1997; turnout for other elections has remained stubbornly low for years; party membership and allegiance has declined very severely over the last thirty years; elected representatives are held in very low esteem and widely distrusted.

Power’s own research and experience over the last eighteen months has established that the level of alienation felt towards politicians, the main political parties and the key institutions of the political system is extremely high and widespread.

The problem of disengagement from formal democracy is not unique to Britain. Nearly all of the established democracies are suffering from similar problems.

Some responses:

  • I think the term used 'interest in political issues' is incorrect - we are not interested in politics as such. Tony - Salesman, everyboat.com ...
  • Tina, Those sound awfully like political issues to me. "I have become recently active not out of an interest in politics ...
  • Its not that we're not interested in politics - were just not interested in 'politricks' - ie the 'representative democracy' ...
  • You are correct in saying it is not apathy. It is clear rejection of the devious and incapable politicians who ...
  • The mistrust focuses on the confining of politics to a narrow range of issues, so that elections are only about ...
  • I don't know anybody who isn't interested in how much tax they pay or what benefits they get or public ...
  • This is not just about us voters: the process is mirrored in the "political" world. As long as politicans ...
  • one of the problems is there doesn't seem to be a great difference in the main political parties, they're all ...
  • Make votes count Use STV Abolish the honours system Elect the House of Lords Abolish quangoes Return power to local authorities Recreate the youth ...
  • Imagine if all those who didn't vote at the last general election (including those who weren't even registered to vote, ...
Leave a response and read 10 »

Red Herrings

Based on these three characteristics and its own research, Power placed in doubt some of the analyses it has heard which claim to explain the rise of disengagement. Disengagement is NOT caused by:

  • an apathetic and uninterested public with a weak sense of civic duty;
  • a widespread economic and political contentment;
  • the supposedly low calibre and probity of politicians;
  • the lack of competitive elections (this may have a minor impact on election turnout but it needs to be set in the wider context of an electoral system which is widely perceived to lead to unequal and wasted votes);
  • an overly negative news media;
  • lack of time on the part of citizens.

Some responses:

  • My disinterest and refusal to vote are because the politicians I get to choose from, say nothing that relates to ...
  • My response has always been to encourage those who are disinterested to at least 'spoil' the ballot paper as it ...
  • Call me naive or whatever but I'm surprised people feel able to justify not voting as a moral decision. ...
  • I think that the report has underestimated the power of the "negative media". The media have spent the whole ...
  • I disagree with your reasoning with respect to the decline in voter turn out and political party membership since 1997. ...
  • I endorse the comments by both Fran and Tony Barber. With the exception of the Independent the national press seemed ...
  • Hugh Butcher makes a good point about how the adversarial aspect of formal politics is emphasised by the media. It ...
Leave a response and read 7 »

The Reality

Power concluded that the following explanations stood-up in the face of the evidence:

  • citizens do not feel that the processes of formal democracy offer them enough influence over political decisions — this includes party members who feel they have no say in policy-making and are increasingly disaffected;
  • the main political parties are widely perceived to be too similar and lacking in principle;
  • the electoral system is widely perceived as leading to unequal and wasted votes;
  • political parties and elections require citizens to commit to too broad a range of policies;
  • many people feel they lack information or knowledge about formal politics;
  • voting procedures are regarded by some as inconvenient and unattractive.

Some responses:

  • I find I agree with most of this section and would add that I also do not trust the voting ...
  • I think this is a very fair analysis of the realities of the British voting system. I've read similar research which ...
  • I agree with most of this section. "citizens do not feel that the processes of formal democracy offer them enough ...
  • I felt surprised when the vote in the North East of England returned a resounding "NO!" to the idea of ...
  • you've got this spot on for me "political parties and elections require citizens to commit to too broad a range ...
  • This section of the executive summary really does seem to be hitting a bunch of nails on heads. I'm ...
Leave a response and read 6 »

The Rise of New Citizens

Many of these problems are hardly new. So why have these factors led to the problem of disengagement now? And why is this a problem across many established democracies?

The deeper cause behind these factors is the shift from an industrial to a post-industrial economy. Post-industrialisation has had two major impacts relevant to the issue of disengagement. The first is the creation of a large section of British society which is now better educated, more affluent, expects greater control and choice over many aspects of life, feels no deference towards those in positions of authority, and is not as bound by the traditional bonds of place, class and institution that developed during the industrial era. The second is the creation of permanently marginalised groups in society which live in persistent poverty, with low educational attainment, poor working and living conditions and a multiplicity of other deprivations associated with life on low or very low incomes.

However, the British political system is structured as though the lifestyles, expectations and values of the industrial era are still in place. Citizens have changed.

This profound shift has caused two major disjunctions between the system and citizens.

  • The British parliamentary system of elected representation and considerable executive power was built in an era of very limited educational provision and in which deference and rigid hierarchy, and static social relations were taken for granted.
  • The British party system is based on the dominance of two parties constructed around the pursuit of the interests and ideological leanings of the two dominant classes that existed during the industrial era.

This explains why so many British citizens now no longer feel formal democracy offers them the influence, equality and respect they believe is their due and why the main parties are widely regarded as unattractive or irrelevant despite the parties efforts to reinvent themselves. Alienation from politics takes many forms for different groups --- women, black and minority ethnic communities, those on low incomes, young people -- ranging from a general sense that the system is out-of-date to a deep disgust at the fact that politics has failed to bring about fundamental improvements in the lives of the most disadvantaged. Fundamentally, however, all of these alienations are exacerbated by a political system that cannot respond to the diverse and complex values and interests of the individuals which make up our post-industrial society.

The response of the political system to post-industrialism and to political disengagement has been either technocratic or self-interested in the sense that the parties have adapted their policies and campaigning simply to win elections. The political strategy of “triangulation”, for example, is democracy by numbers. It is a mathematical equation that secures power but in the end drives down people’s desire to be politically engaged. It hollows out democracy because it inevitably means by-passing party members who want debate and neglects the democratic channels of engagement which might get in the way of the strategy.

By contrast, the Power commission has developed a response to disengagement which is democratic. This has drawn on an understanding of democracy which sees the concept as a set of broad principles which can be applied in a variety of ways beyond a simple focus on representative institutions and elections.

Some responses:

  • All the talk of post-industrialisation and better education, class systems etc. seems irrelevent. In reality, you can approach your average ...
  • "Fundamentally, however, all of these alienations are exacerbated by a political system that cannot respond to the diverse and complex ...
  • Most people in post industrial areas feel a sense of loss and grief. Working people were the power in the ...
  • Josie said, "I am very interested in politics, and have joined many protest groups but we do not have any ...
  • Most people I discuss the present state of affairs with have lost interest because it is now so obvious that ...
  • tony blair stated theirs no money for the 145'000 who lost their pensions through gordon browns 5bln a year stealthtax all ...
Leave a response and read 6 »

The Response to the Problem of Disengagement

Power has set its recommendations within the context of a changed society. These recommendations primarily aim to create a political system which allows citizens a more direct and focused influence on the political decisions that concern them. It is also an attempt to bring greater flexibility and responsiveness to politics so that new alliances can form and new ways of debating be generated. There have to be real opportunities and spaces where the changing values in our society can be fed into politics.

The recommendations are based on three major shifts in political practice:

  • a rebalancing of power away from the executive and unaccountable bodies towards Parliament and local government;
  • the introduction of greater responsiveness and choice into the electoral and party systems;
  • allowing citizens a much more direct and focused say over political decisions and policies.

These three imperatives stand or fall alongside each other. The implementation of only one or two of the three will not create the re-engagement with formal democracy which many people now want. Cherry picking --- a folly repeated time and time again by our political masters -- will not work.

Some responses:

  • I am afraid I don't really understand what is being proposed - it all sounds interesting, but I don't 'get ...
  • They don't explictly address it (apart from "executive and unaccountable bodies"), but the cause of much disaffection for many is ...
  • With reference to the section " allowing citizens to have a more direct and focused say ---- ". I suggest the ...
  • We should vote for policies and not people! Political parties are pointless. Why should the voter be constrained by ...
  • By ian josephs, Kensington and Chelsea " 1:- TAXATION. Replace income tax and national insurance contributions by a simple payroll tax (a ...
  • This part of the executive summary sounds good, but I don't think it goes quite far enough. The phrase, ...
  • I do not understand how anyone can call the country we live in a democracy. The labour had 36% of ...
Leave a response and read 7 »

Rebalancing Power

There needs to be a re-balancing of power between the constituent elements of the political system: a shift of power away from the Executive to Parliament and from central to local government. Much greater clarity, transparency and accountability should be introduced into the relationship between the Executive and supra-national bodies, quangos, business, and interest groups. Too much power goes unchecked. The aim here is to allow the freedom for our elected representatives to be the eyes, ears and mouth of British citizens at the heart of government.

Some responses:

  • ...I had thought that after not 'getting' the last bit that this would clarify - sadly no. How would 'much ...
  • The Report in general terms does not reflect reality,no more powers to Councils should ever be considered,because as I have ...
  • In response to John D Hall: Your argument seems to be "don't give any more power to local councils, they're ...
  • How disappointing. We citizens, the people, don't seem to be included as part of the political system in this ...
Leave a response and read 4 »

Recommendations

  1. A Concordat should be drawn up between Executive and Parliament indicating where key powers lie and providing significant powers of scrutiny and initiation for Parliament.

Some responses:

  • I have come to the conclusion that I am not political enough or simply stupid - this is what politics ...
  • Tina Louise has raised a fundamental problem. Where indeed is her recourse when her MP has different priorities to ...
  • I disagree with this idea. With a properly representative and democratic parliament, it should be for parliament, the legislature, ...
Leave a response and read 3 »
  1. Select Committees should be given independence and enhanced powers including the power to scrutinise and veto key government appointments and to subpoena witnesses to appear and testify before them. This should include proper resourcing so that Committees can fulfil their remit effectively. The specialist committees in the Upper house should have the power to co-opt people from outside the legislature who have singular expertise, such as specialist scientists, when considering complex areas of legislation or policy.

Some responses:

  • But I don't know if I trust the 'specialist committees' 'select committees' or 'specialist scientists' - they sound like just ...
Leave a response and read more»
  1. Limits should be placed on the power of the whips.

Some responses:

  • This is definitely a good plan - I always thought that we elected our MPs to represent our views, not ...
  • Absolutely - or even just get rid of the whole idea and start acting like human beings in important managerial ...
  • I totally agree with this recommendation. The aim of the whip is to ensure that MPs represent their party when ...
  • This is an absolutely key recommendation. As the report points out, the current two-party system originates from the outmoded ...
  • I don't disagree with this recommendation but MPs already disobey whips from time to time. Whips are a publically visible ...
  • Absolutely essential! But how would this be done? Surely whips don't have any power, except as enforcers/tale-tellers on ...
  • We suggest here that only where issues that are specifically in a party manifestos can a three line whip be ...
  • I don't think this is something that needs to be looked at, yet. It seems to me that whipping ...
Leave a response and read 8 »
  1. Parliament should have greater powers to initiate legislation, to launch public inquiries and to act on public petitions

Some responses:

  • Absolutely no to more power or legislation - we swim in an overwhelming sea of the stuff as it is. ...
  • Parliament (as opposed to Government; if you don't understand the distinction, then it's merely proving the point that the citizenship ...
  • I cautiously agree with this one. It's just plain wrong that a party which only a quarter of the electorate ...
  • Like most of the recommendations this one is far too vague. What sort of limits? Enforced how? So far as ...
  • Well, on page 72 of the full report gives some more detail. In terms of whips (the recommendation just before ...
  • I certainly agree that parliament should be senior to government, instead of being treated as a tool of the government. ...
Leave a response and read 6 »
  1. 70 per cent of the members of the House of Lords should be elected by a ‘responsive electoral system’ —- and not on a closed party list system — for three parliamentary terms. To ensure that this part of the legislature is not comprised of career politicians with no experience outside politics, candidates should be at least 40 years of age.

Some responses:

  • Not sure, in priciple this sounds right...BUT, on occassion the House of Lords has stopped the government from making foolish ...
  • I thought I'd plug my article on Guardian Unlimited here, link above, as it answers a number of the most ...
  • No, they should all be elected. In a mature democracy, patronage should no more be a route to membership ...
  • The idea that requiring a lower age limit of 40 will prevent the House of Lords filling up with "career ...
  • This impossible dilemma between elected career-politicians and appointed patronage can be solved the same way it is in the courts, ...
  • I agree with Chris' point about the 40 yo limit. It was particularly silly given that they quite rightly argue ...
  • Really? I'd have thought the best possible thing that could happen to this government's legislation would be for it to ...
  • Chris, I said deadlock in GOVERNMENT, not Parliament, and I was of course explicitly referring to the deadlock that has ...
  • Direct election would lead to more of what we don't want - professional politicians. The upper chamber should be ...
  • Direct election to an Upper House will only give us more of the same. What about the under-represented, overlooked and ...
  • I'm with Francis on the lottery idea. I have used random selection very successfully for picking people to take part ...
  • I'm not so sure about the lottery idea, but its certainly something that should be looked at. And would almost ...
  • I'm afraid I don't know what 'corporatist' means, but most adjectives ending in '-ist' seem to be derogatory when used ...
Leave a response and read 13 »
  1. There should be an unambiguous process of decentralisation of powers from central to local government.

Some responses:

  • If I understood how this would work and how this would improve things...maybe. In Spain, the majority of the power ...
  • The point is you need to have issues decided at the appropriate level. As you say, schools, hospitals and refuse ...
  • I'm not convinced that people want more local government, for several reasons: - There are supposed to be economies of scale, ...
  • I think the idea is that you actually transfer power from central to local government; it's no good appealing to ...
  • The "postcode lottery" complaint is an artefact of the current system. Things appear to be organised and administrated on ...
  • I'm very much in favour of this. If it can be done locally, it should be done locally. ...
Leave a response and read 6 »
  1. A Concordat between central and local government setting out their respective powers.

Some responses:

  • I refuse to look up concordat...my time is short :) If it means an agreement, then this is simply stating ...
  • If you don't know the meaning of a word, it is always worth your time to look it up. In ...
Leave a response and read 2 »
  1. Local government to have enhanced powers to raise taxes and administer its own finances.

Some responses:

  • Oh dear, I panic now at the thought that the man who I can't even speak to would have the ...
  • Tina, your local council has little power. These initiatives you complain about are largely the result of central decisions. I ...
Leave a response and read 2 »
  1. Government should commission an independent mapping of quangos and other public bodies to clarify and renew lines of accountability between elected and unelected authority.

Some responses:

  • I can't understand this and simply admit my stupidity.
  • I think what this means is that someone should document who all the people are who make the important decisions ...
  • It sounds like a fine idea. In fact, it sounds like an ideal MySociety project (though I wouldn't relish the ...
Leave a response and read 3 »
  1. Ministers’ meetings with representatives of business including lobbyists to be logged and listed on a monthly basis.

Some responses:

  • I would like to see that these meetings are minuted as well and that these minutes should be made publically ...
  • All should be accountable for their actions and I would have thought this would have been the norm anyway - ...
  • Also, the form of the meetings should be logged. i.e. was the "meeting" over a lavish meal in a top ...
Leave a response and read 3 »
  1. A new overarching select committee should be established to scrutinise the Executive’s activities in supranational bodies and multilateral negotiations, particularly in relation to the European Union, and to ensure these activities are held to account and conducted in the best interests of the British people.

Some responses:

  • I'm sorry, I can't go on and will return later with a dictionary and a lot more time.
  • Basically they mean a super-body should moderate the Government's and Parliament's activities with respect to multi-nation talks and try to ...
  • An overarching select committee to scrutinse the EU itself would be fine idea too.
  • Power say that apathy is a myth and that people want to engage in politics outside of the state apparatus, ...
  • The UK's membership of the undemocratic EU is an issue that was virtually ignored by the Commission. Most people know ...
  • Isn't parliament already supposed to be doing such things?
Leave a response and read 6 »

Real Parties and True Elections

The current way of doing politics is killing politics. An electoral and party system which is responsive to the changing values and demands of today’s population should be created. This will allow the development of new political alliances and value systems which will both regenerate existing parties and also stimulate the creation of others.

Some responses:

  • Did you study at all the system of Cross Party Groups anyone can join, that we have in Scotland now, ...
  • Electoral reform is desperately needed. The old first-past-the-post system is hopelessly inadequate. It is a major cause of ...
Leave a response and read 2 »

Recommendations

  1. A responsive electoral system should be introduced for elections to the House of Commons, House of Lords and Local Councils in England and Wales to replace the first-past-the-post system.

Some responses:

  • "responsive" - Not at all clear what they mean by this. Presumably someone had in mind proportional representation in some ...
  • The Inquiry probably didn't want to get drawn into a technical discussion about alternative voting systems. However, the report does ...
  • It's amazing how many of the problems identified in the Power Report are at least partly due to the First ...
  • "The Inquiry probably didn't want to get drawn into a technical discussion about alternative voting systems." -- yeah, this is ...
  • Firstly, http://flatline.org.uk/archives/000019.html (my thoughts on PR generally) Specifically, people do want choices in schools and hospitals; they want to choose the ...
  • To be fair on Power, what they do in the report is list all the qualities they want out of ...
  • For those, like me, who didn't know what was meant by "STV" used above: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/votingsystems/systems3.htm#STV STV = Single Transferable Vote, a form ...
Leave a response and read 7 »
  1. The closed party list system to have no place in modern elections.

Some responses:

  • But the OPen party list, yes, The list top-up used in AM and AV+ allows party choice, which is a ...
  • Fortunately the Scottish Assembly has already voted for STV to be used in future local elections and, with any luck, ...
  • What do they mean by "modern" elections? In what type of elections would a closed list be permissible? Why is ...
  • The answer to Chris'question of 'where would closed lists be allowed' is simple. Anywhere the government damn well pleases. We ...
  • Chris, I think it is a little unfair of you to expect Power to investigate the desirability of differing electoral ...
  • James -- well, maybe, but if they meant "the closed list system is not suitable for public elections in the ...
Leave a response and read 6 »
  1. The system whereby candidates have to pay a deposit which is lost if their votes fall below a certain threshold should be replaced with a system where the candidate has to collect the signatures of a set number of supporters in order to appear on the ballot paper.
  1. The Electoral Commission should take a more active role in promoting candidacy so that more women, people from black and minority ethnic communities, people on lower incomes, young people and independents are encouraged to stand.

Some responses:

  • Whilst I would much prefer genuine minority people to advocate on behalf of themselves rather than via the proxy of ...
Leave a response and read more»
  1. The voting and candidacy age should be reduced to sixteen (with the exception of candidacy for the House of Lords).

Some responses:

  • I presume the full document contains some kind of discussion about why 16 would be an appropriate age to "become ...
  • Has anyone looked at what reducing the voting age to sixteen would do to the relative populations of Parliamentary constituencies ...
  • Even the New Stateman has written about studies of the alienation horror caused, the contempt perpetrated upon youth, by being ...
  • I thought the answer to the latter is that he was betting on an English victory, which he believed would ...
  • As a comment, not on the proposal itself, but on the probability that it will be adopted: It is worth noting ...
Leave a response and read 5 »
  1. The introduction of automatic, individual voter registration at age sixteen. This can be done in tandem with the allocation of National Insurance numbers.

Some responses:

  • I think this is a good idea, if only to give a real picture of low turnout (rather than the ...
  • I don't understand how building a compulsory national population register fits with the supposed aim of decentralisation of power.
  • Even the New Stateman has written about studies of the alienation horror caused, the contempt perpetrated upon youth, by being ...
Leave a response and read 3 »
  1. The citizenship curriculum should be shorter, more practical and result in a qualification.

Some responses:

  • Why? If citizenship is to be valued then it ought to be hard to achieve.
  • I don't see why "shorter, more practical" implies easier.
  • What value would a "qualification" in citizenship have? Qualifications are so called because they show one has certain knowledge ...
Leave a response and read 3 »
  1. Donations from individuals to parties should be capped at ?10,000, and organisational donations capped at ?100 per member, subject to full democratic scrutiny within the organisation.

Some responses:

  • What sort of organisations might this be referring to, I wonder? Well, I notice that one of the members of ...
  • Why bother? The parties use money to sell themselves to the electorate. That in itself is not a problem, ...
Leave a response and read 2 »
  1. State funding to support local activity by political parties to be introduced based on the allocation of individual voter vouchers. This would mean that at a general election a voter will be able to tick a box allocating a ?3 donation per year from public funds to a party of his or her choice to be used by that party for local activity. It would be open to the voter to make the donation to a party other than the one they have just voted for.

Some responses:

  • What about a box to tick, labelled "Give me MY ?3 back"? Plus a bit more actually, given the cost ...
  • Yes, the Pedant General has it right. There seems to be an assumption that "the state isn't working we need ...
  • I don't like the idea of state funding for political parties. Indeed, in the internet age the idea that parties ...
  • Charles, it would also force them to go bankrupt. How is that possibly in the interests of democracy? I know it's ...
  • The idea of voter-led funding of political parties is an attractive one, but as the whole thrust of the Power ...
  • James, You question Charles with "... it would also force them to go bankrupt. How is that possibly in the interests ...
  • I think this is the least worst option if we're to adopt some sort of state support. I'd rather reform what ...
  • To the inevitable extent that voters will allocate their donations to their favoured candidates, your suggestion will cause a tipping ...
  • The thing that we have found missing in our 6 years of trying to encourage voting is that there are ...
  • Ah, well said the pedant-general! Lets start with things on that basis and move forward. Citizen participation and social inclusion should ...
  • Pedant General said "What is democracy but the support of the people? If a party no longer has the support ...
Leave a response and read 11 »
  1. Text voting or email voting should only be considered following other reform of our democratic arrangements.

Some responses:

  • Instead of introducing measures that are highly likely to lend themselves to fraud, why not make voting compulsory. This would ...
  • Electronic voting is not safe. The last US election showeed that. Machines were reprogrammed to let you press all the ...
  • E mail and text voting may be insecure but, additionally, they share another disadvantage with postal voting. Housholds where one ...
  • Give me a break. If you cannot be bothered to haul your sorry carcass to a polling station once every four ...
  • Votes cast in a polling booth are secret. The voter cannot prove who he voted for, and would-be vote buyers ...
Leave a response and read 5 »
  1. The realignment of constituency boundaries should be accelerated.

Some responses:

  • Unless MPs are made truly accountable to their constituents then there's very little point in having constituencies at all, if ...
  • Kind of agree with Simon. The Chartists sought annual elections. Maybe that would make MPs more responsive.
  • Realignmnet of boudaries should be comprehensive so that all levels of government administration and democratic representation share common boundaries. ...
Leave a response and read 3 »

Downloading Power

We should be creating a culture of political engagement in which it becomes the norm for policy and decision-making to occur with direct input from citizens. This means reform which provides citizens with clear, entitlements and procedures by which to exercise that input — from conception through to implementation of any policy or decision.

Some responses:

  • I was disappointed not to see find more efforts to build on the kind of 'democratic innovations from around the ...
  • (Three responses in one night - this website has really seized my imagination!) I share Hugh's disappointment and would like ...
  • This sounds good. It sounds like how things ought to be anyway. But I'd go further and say ...
Leave a response and read 3 »

Recommendations

  1. All public bodies should be required to meet a duty of public involvement in their decision and policy-making processes.

Some responses:

  • What, even MI5?
  • Perhaps not MI5, but what about the Police? In London they are busy (and largely successfully) engaging the public in ...
  • Okay, Good. But why should we just focus on 'government bodies? If we were to make Local Councils more accountable for ...
Leave a response and read 3 »
  1. Citizens should be given the right to initiate legislative processes, public inquiries and hearings into public bodies and their senior management.

Some responses:

  • The Power Inquiry's support for the principle of direct democracy is very welcome, although the implementation scheme it sketches out ...
  • The penultimate paragraph of the previous comment... "There are also serious omissions from the report. While recognizing the danger that the ...
  • To initiate legislative proposals certainly requires getting "someone to vote for them" but that truism doesn't begin to convey the ...
  • My view here is a fairly classical one. As someone recently paraphrased it for me, "a direct democracy is where ...
  • It's very disputable that the fate of Socrates and some current attitudes to asylum-seekers offer conclusive arguments against participatory democracy. ...
  • >Have a look at this as an example of where people-power can lead (from a >BBC discussion on asylum seekers). ...
  • I've had a look at the BBC website - there is fear, hatred and anger behind the views expressed; but ...
  • Brian Walden provides a "point of view" for the BBC QUOTE "The Power Inquiry published its report this week- and it's ...
  • There is actually a simple answer to the concern that citizens' laws and referendums would introduce authoritarian and hateful measures. ...
  • I agree with Maurice Franks's aim to prevent citizen's laws being enacted which would be inhumane in effect - but ...
  • Three things: Firstly, I'm not arguing that the public shouldn't deliberate. They should do it more than they do and ...
  • Not a Constitutional Framework. Just international human rights principles. Every decision, whether from public or government alike, should be blockable ...
  • Maurice, Do you really imagine that the 'international human rights principles' that you identify here could have been the product of ...
  • Lots of them. The system would not allow amendment to the framework of human rights. That's the point of having it. ...
  • If you really think that the only way that pressure groups bring about change is by reasoned argument on a ...
  • Amendment of the framework can happen by discovering, from experience, logical conflicts in the framework you've got. I'd just explained ...
  • Wow, quite a debate! I pretty much agree with the recommendation, though I'd also like to see us being able to ...
Leave a response and read 17 »
  1. The rules on the plurality of media ownership should be reformed. This is always a controversial issue but there should be special consideration given to this issue in light of the developments in digital broadcast and the internet.

Some responses:

  • One of the feeblest proposals in the document. What shall it profit the ordinary citizen if the Murdoch empire ...
  • I don't agree with the recommendation or with Michael. I've no doubt that from where he sits the BBC (and ...
  • There are 5 separate reasons, synchronously reached all during 2004, why a constitutional claim has come into existence that the ...
  • I agree with Maurice Frank that securing vigilant, accessible media is a key issue for democrats. It is also ...
  • "no-one could exercise more power than anyone else in the process" is a hilarious fantasy for ANY process, let alone ...
  • I would suggest to Peter Clay that one person, one vote is as close as you are going to get ...
  • systematically grants huge amounts of power to a minority Exactly how does this flow of power work, then? The newspapers have ...
  • Clearly, people exercise a degree of choice when they buy a newspaper or vote in elections. Power to ...
  • I just can't see what Michael's proposing would ever happen - it puts the cart before the horse - what ...
  • I think we need to sort out our democracy and formal political system itself first, before going on to such ...
Leave a response and read 10 »
  1. A requirement that Public service broadcasters develop strategies to involve viewers in deliberation on matters of public importance — this would be aided by the use of digital technology.

Some responses:

  • I'd be happy with this suggestion if our existing broadcasters could come up with one format that brings the public ...
  • The Power report has surprisingly little to say about public service broadcasting. A project of democratic renewal cannot sensibly ignore ...
Leave a response and read 2 »
  1. MPs should be required and resourced to produce Annual Reports, hold AGMs and make more use of innovative engagement techniques.

Some responses:

  • During elections, a circular should be sent to every household in a seat, containing the compiled list of voters' descriptions ...
  • I'd suggest that voters can ask them to do so if they wish. And judge the results. But if you ...
  • MPs already have far too much to do. They are elected as legislators and should have adequate time to scrutinise ...
  • not sure that nice glossy AGMs or annual reports are needed. What we DO need is for MPs to run their ...
  • Oddly enough, though they disagree with each other, I agree with both Guy and Pedant-General.
  • This sounds more like a substitute for real solutions. If we had sufficient democracy in the first place, then ...
Leave a response and read 6 »
  1. Ministers’ meetings with campaign groups and their representatives should be logged and listed on a monthly basis.

Some responses:

  • As with recommendation #10 these meetings should be minuted and these minutes made publically available.
  • As elected representatives are representatives of the public, such meetings should be made public, at least in the form of ...
Leave a response and read 2 »
  1. The creation of a new independent National Statistical and Information Service to provide the public with key information free of political spin.

Some responses:

  • In theory, this is coming; but in theory, the Office for National Statistics has had enough independence to do this ...
  • Whilst it might be independent of the current government it not be independent of the state. It would still be ...
  • I missed my example. The NHS is officially supposed to have reduced waiting lists. Personal experience, anecdotal evidence and the blogosphere ...
  • Surely this is a role for the media? The question is not how the ONS can be taught to simplify ...
Leave a response and read 4 »
  1. ‘Democracy hubs’ should be established in each local authority area. These would be resource centres based in the community where people can access information and advice to navigate their way through the democratic system.

Some responses:

  • I am baffled as to what a "democracy hub" might actually be. A building? A website? What fraction of the ...
  • The Scottish Civic Forum has been an example of exactly such a democracy hub. It was great: they had an ...
  • The Public Administration Committee of the House of Commons suggested a Democracy Commission to encourage participation following the 2001 General ...
Leave a response and read 3 »

Conclusion

Change of this magnitude cannot be left simply to elected representatives. An alliance for change needs to be built amongst the most clear-sighted MPs, local councillors, MEPs and members of the devolved institutions, but only a sustained campaign for change from outside the democratic assemblies and parliaments of the UK will ensure that meaningful reform occurs. We, the people, have to stake our claim on power.

Some responses:

  • I would go further and say that with so little public trust in elected representatives and large institutions change MUST ...
  • 150 years ago the British public took it for granted that if it wanted a hospital, a school, a university, ...
  • I would like the powerinquiry start a blog so that it is possible to track and support it's progress from ...
  • It would be even better if Ash were so enthused by the Power Inquiry recommendations that he decided to lobby ...
  • I've only read the executive summary, so far, but I'll be having a look at the full report. From just the ...
  • Whoops! That should've been 'TakingPower', not 'TalkingPower' :-)
Leave a response and read 6 »