Give a vote, get a vote, understand the law
I've already talked about the Give Your Vote project, that enables British voters to give their vote to someone in Ghana, Bangladesh or Afghanistan. Now there is a candidate promising that you'll Get A Vote on every piece of legislation that passes through parliament, if you elect him as your MP. And the Simply Understand project is seeking to make law-making accessible to people without a legal background.
Give Your Vote
British foreign policy has huge effects on people in other countries, yet they have no input into how this policy is formed. When British and American forces invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, the people of Iraq were not asked if they wanted this to happen. This project highlights the problem, and offers a solution. British politicians will be forced to listen to the concerns of people in Ghana, Bangladesh or Afghanistan - if they don't, they might lose votes.
People in the 'ABG' countries will be able to vote at polling stations or via mobile phone. Their decisions will be sent to the mobile phones of UK voters who have signed up to donate their vote.
It isn't a perfect solution. While it makes sense for people in Afghanistan to vote on whether British troops stay there, it makes less sense that they should determine the priorities of the NHS or the funding of British schools. But it is an important step in the right direction, and it brings attention to the inequalities of democracy in an interdependent world.
Get A Vote
Representational democracy isn't working. It was designed for an age in which an MP could not easily communicate with their constituents. Participatory technologies, using the internet, enable rapid discussion and debate. Denny de la Haye is standing as an independent candidate in the General Election, and is promising to vote according to the wishes of the people in his constituency. Whenever there is a vote in the House of Commons, he will post a poll on his website for the residents of Hackney South & Shoreditch. They can also vote via mobile phone. The results of the poll decide how he will vote in Parliament.
Again, it isn't a perfect solution. An internet poll may be open to manipulation by a skilled hacker. And it is still majority rule - if 51% vote in favour of a law, the concerns of the remaining 49% have effectively been ignored. But people, including Turnfront, are working to develop better ways of integrating the decision-making of large numbers of people. And the important thing here is that Denny has shown that representational democracy is a tool past its time, and that the people need a say in what laws are passed, not just who passes them.
Most people in the UK do not have any involvement in the process of creating the laws that they are then expected to live by. But how can ordinary people be expected to contribute, when the laws are crafted in arcane legal jargon that is inaccessible to anyone without an understanding of law.
Laws start life as white papers or green papers, and there is a 'consultation' during which people are allowed to give their view on the proposed law. In reality this process exists largely to allow the Ministers and civil servants to say that the public has been consulted. Usually only lobby groups respond to the consultation, and only some of those will actually have their concerns listened to. The closest thing to democracy in law-making happens when a campaign group rouses public support to lobby Government, but then the group's supporters are forced to trust that its interpretation and suggested amendments match up with what they are be asked to back.
Simply Understand is a project to translate legal jargon into plain English. It is a simple concept, but by making law easy to understand, it means that everyone will be able to have a say on how our laws are made.