We are living in turbulent times. Across the world, countries which consider themselves democratic are seeing their political institutions shaken and under threat. From Europe to the US, South America to India, democracy itself looks to be in trouble. In fact, it is under constant attack from all quarters – whether by a biased or negligent media, unchallenged far-right figures, sinister foreign powers seeking to sow chaos or in the case of the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister’s office itself.
It is a time when democrats of all colours must unite to fight the repressive forces threatening to destroy our hard-won freedoms, and the notion that a country’s future should be decided by its own people; that power should be shared by all, and exercised with accountability in the interests of all, not concentrated in the hands of a select few.
When he arrives October 17th, I ask that our European friends give Boris NOTHING and give the British people EVERYTHING!
— 🚀MΛG!D (@MagicMagid) October 9, 2019
In our defence of democracy, we shouldn’t just fight to preserve the status quo. It is not about democracy as it is, but democracy as it can and should be. Here is my three-step guide to changing our democracy for the better:
Step One: Empowering Youth
Lowering the voting age to 16 is fundamental to ensure a society with democracy at its core. Giving young people the right to vote means they are more likely to take an interest in politics, develop the habit of voting and pay more active attention to everything happening around them because they will have the tangible ability to do something about it. With more young people as active participants, policymakers will be compelled to take their concerns seriously.
Our education system and curricula should also emphasise democracy as the cornerstone of our freedoms, emphasising the history of the struggle to achieve it, the critical need to preserve it and the importance of participation. Education is the foundation of democracy – it should impart understanding of the process.
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Step Two: A Representative Democracy
If we are to make our votes more representative and more meaningful in the UK we have to move away from the first-past-the-post voting system to a form of proportional representation. This change is long overdue, and our unrepresentative system goes a long way towards explaining our current constitutional turmoil. Parliament must better reflect the will of the voters; a system that allows every single vote to count regardless of where you live or who you vote for is a fair system that enriches and strengthens our democracy.
There are other ways through which Parliament can better reflect the electorate. The UK Parliament has a disproportionately low number of representatives from ethnic minority or working-class backgrounds. That must change; true representation means people of all backgrounds seeing themselves and members of their community among the elected officials.
Step Three: A Democratic Way of Life
Democracy is more than just a form of government – it should be a way of life that places all our communities at the centre of decision-making, and allows us to transform our own narrow interests into wider, communal goals. It should extend to other areas of our lives like the workplace, or even the prison system. Polling day should be a national holiday – there are few better ways of making voting more accessible, while highlighting how important democracy is.
Part of extending democracy into people’s lives is giving them the power to make policy, rather than always being on the receiving end of others’ decisions. This means the introduction of citizens’ assemblies and participatory budgeting exercises so that we can bring democracy to life for everyone. But to truly instil a democratic way of life, we must acknowledge that the Earth is our shared home, and that our decisions impact all living things and the planet itself. We must govern with that reality at the forefront of our minds.