The popular will of the masses

Dave Levy
4 min readNov 5, 2023

Starmer was glitter bombed at conference, the person that did this is part of the people demand democracy campaign who are campaigning for both proportional representation and a sortition based 2nd house, which they call a people’s house. They seem very proud of the impact their demo had, although I have to ask, why only at Labour conference. The rest of this article looks at citizen’s assemblies, drawing on my work with Citizens Takeover Europe and Labour’s proposals for change, which last reviewed in an article, “New Britain, New Britcon” [or here, on Medium].

A meeting of one of the EU’s 2023 citizen’s panels, picture by Dave Levy CC DFL 2023 BY

My work with CTOE has introduced me to several campaigning academics who have studied these citizen’s assemblies and developed a great belief in them. Such assemblies have been successful in numerous places such as Ireland, Iceland and Chile where they have been used to shape the debate and decisions on the constitution. The London Borough of Newham has implemented one and there are a number of others developed in the UK, and reported by the Constitution Unit whereas a more global view is taken at Bürgerrat who reference the OECD’s catalogue. Newham are to be congratulated because as we explore below, politicians are loathe to share either power or democratic legitimacy and in the UK, proposals such as this, for example the neighbourhood assemblies are often about putting barriers in the way of political party’s manifestos, enabling the the super-active and NIMBYism. Any representative body can and probably should convene Citizen’s Assemblies and the Ost Belgien model shows how even the agenda i.e. topic selection of citizen’s assemblies can also be devolved and a rolling programme implemented without creating a new class of unelected politician.

The citizens’ assembly that has preoccupied me is the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe, which made numerous recommendations, including that the experiment be continued, however, there is a growing opposition within particularly the European Parliament to proposals for powerful citizens assemblies. This would seem natural where people argue about a superior democratic legitimacy of citizens assemblies, even as is the case of CoFoE the agenda was tightly controlled by the institutions and the membership of the assembly stuffed with politicians from those institutions. At a more cynical level, those that have power rarely want to share it…

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Dave Levy

Brit, Londoner, economist, Labour, privacy, cybersecurity, traveller, father - mainly writing about UK politics & IT, https://linktr.ee/davelevy