Parliament 2.0: a digital debate

09 Dec 2014 |Written by Holly Bagnall-Bell

On Friday 28 November I had the honour of attending a debate held in the Chamber of the House of Lords, which posed one question:

"In a digital society, is politics for politicians or is everyone a decision maker?"

There were three proposals submitted for debate:

  • We should leave politics to our representatives
  • We should include more expert advice via online conferences and/or community consultation
  • Most, if not all, local and international decisions should be made by UK citizens collectively through online voting

The debate began with The Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza, introducing the speakers for each of the arguments, then the debate was off in full force!

Those who spoke in favour of politics being left to the politicians, outlined some compelling arguments, noting that “although our questioning of democratic process is essential, our politicians have the skills and knowhow to represent us in a successful way”. Another speaker noted that though the current generation are “digital natives,” taking the discussion online would potentially bring up a barrier to those who are not as savvy with the online world.

A speaker from UK Youth, with the viewpoint that wider digital participation and online discussion will lead to a more successful democracy, suggested that the addition of online discussion and discourse could help those who would not have engaged before, to gain an interest and understanding of what is on offer. This could include online discussions with politicians on policy, encouraging voter involvement in an ordered and constructive way.

Also speaking were those arguing for democracy being taken online as a whole, suggesting that wider decisions being made online, would allow people to express their real opinion in real time. Interestingly, the Speaker noted that many people who no longer wish to engage in the political process have lost trust in their politicians and,view politics as for the ‘elitists’ and not for them and that democracy being moved into an online space means “it has the potential for all those affected by the decision, to make the decision, which by definition is democracy.”

After the speakers had their say, the floor was opened up and those in attendance were free to speak, and many did, with extreme zest. One extremely valid point of where education about politics should begin was brought up several times, as well as the question of how engagement can be encouraged in the youth of today.

A final vote brought the result in favour of including more expert advice via online conferences and community consultation The debate itself was extremely exciting, with people aged 15 to 90+ joining the debate and all speaking eloquently, with clear points. One of the quotes that really stuck with me after the day had ended came from an individual who spoke in favour of the final result:
“Changing the way of voting it not a revolution, it is an evolution.”

Watch the debate in full on iPlayer