#EURef: ‘That’s Democracy’: but is it the type of democracy we want?

Copyright © 2016 BBC
How the BBC displayed the result of the EU Referendum.

The Democratic Society is more committed than ever to helping bring about a more participative democracy.

Many people may feel a lot of cognitive dissonance around democracy right now.

17.4 million people seemingly disagree with 16.1 million people, and just fewer than 13 million people, who were eligible to vote but chose not to, have not had a say at all.

However, a decision has been made and people may say ‘well that’s democracy.’ But is it the type of democracy we should hope for?

As many have pointed out referendums can be seen as a poor democratic mechanism. They are binary. They can encourage fighting and disagreement that can polarise. They can be open to wild misstatements of fact. If rushed they may offer no space for deliberation or ability to explore the detail of the outcome of a proposed policy.

It could be said that referendums produce “decisive” outcomes, but there are a host of different reasons why different people voted to leave the European Union: more localised democracy; reduction in immigration; to decrease legislation and red tape; to escape from the clutches of a capitalist supranational entity and create a new progressive Britain; and as a protest vote to highlight frustration with the existing political class who have ignored people for so long.

I would suggest that many of these desired outcomes are mutually exclusive, and there will be even further cognitive dissonance when some people who voted to leave do not get what they want. But, hey, you know, that’s democracy.

However, it seems that the reason so many voted leave is not because it represented the dawn of a new and improved democracy away from our European Overlords, but rather because people feel our democracy in the UK is broken. People feel totally disconnected from the powers that decide things. And that isn’t just in Brussels. Many people feel disconnected from all levels of politics, from the town halls and city chambers right up to the European Parliament.

We should be able to have honest, deep, well thought out deliberative discussions that don’t end in fallouts and turmoil but a co-created solution that works for everyone – or at least solutions everyone can accept. But at the moment that democracy doesn’t exist.

The Democratic Society continues to work to bring about a more participative democracy: that goes beyond binary divisive decisions; that works towards shared solutions in a collaborative manner; and that ensures more people have a genuine opportunity to shape the decisions that affect them.

Now, that’s what I call democracy.



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