The Citizens’ Convention on UK Democracy
A project to design and campaign for a deliberative process for democratic change.
The Convention would take the form of an ambitious and inclusive deliberation on democratic reform in the United Kingdom, forging a new partnership between elected representatives and citizens.
The process would involve randomly-selected citizens, convened to be demographically representative of the UK population. They will come together to learn, deliberate and make decisions on how democracy can be deepened and improved.
A Citizens’ Convention would spark a serious and inclusive national dialogue about our democracy: about who makes decisions, who holds power and how we relate to our democratic institutions.
The Citizens’ Convention itself would run for two years, before presenting its recommendations for reform to Parliament.
A unique element of this project is that it is supported by a cross-party group of senior MPs, including Tom Watson MP (Dep Leader of the Labour Party), David Davis MP (Former Secretary of State, Conservative), Dominic Grieve MP (Former Attorney General, Conservative), Sir Vince Cable (Former Leader, Liberal Democrats) and Caroline Lucas (Leader of the Parliamentary Green Party).
What’s the process?
The campaign is focused on process, not on specific policy ideas. It will involve citizens being the drivers of reform, redesigning their democracy to make it more open, responsive, accountable, participatory and transparent.
This process also has specific political end game: leading political figures have made a political commitment to take seriously the recommendations when they come before Parliament.
This presents an opportunity for radical reform of UK politics and is also in itself a demonstration of how deliberative democracy can deliver results in practice and change our culture of doing politics.
Past democratic campaigns have always focussed on what reforms are needed. It is now important to be clear and coherent on how we do it, for that is the core of our democratic demand. The process has to be as democratic as the product.
The process is not without precedent: from Iceland to Ireland, from Texas to Mongolia, citizens’ deliberations are on the rise. They often consider the most pressing and complex questions of the day, where citizen buy-in and input is crucial.
Why do it?
A Convention would take democratic reform outside of Parliament, involving a random selection of citizens in renewal and protecting the process from being undermined by party politics
If the process is well-designed, it should demonstrate how our democracy can adapt to 21st Century culture and demands, clarifying both the role of representatives and the need for deliberative practices
The Convention shows (rather than tells) a new way of making decisions - deliberative, informed, thoughtful, inclusive, transparent
Citizens have good ideas about how we can improve our political system. Through a deliberative process, we can hear that wisdom and citizens gain confidence in one another’s beliefs, good will and capacities.
There is a harmony of process and outcome: it should deliver important changes to our democratic system and it demonstrates a more democratic way of thinking and deciding