Civil society

How can citizens drive the reform of our democracy?

Citizens' Convention on UK Democracy
Citizens' Convention on UK Democracy; and the Democratic Society

Democratic institutions in the UK – as well as around the world – are struggling to respond to profound changes in our society. In return, the public are feeling disconnected from decision-making and cynical about the values and motivations of decision-makers.

The Citizens’ Convention on UK Democracy aims TO initiate a UK-wide conversation on the state of our democracy and governing institutions.

The Hansard Society’s most recent annual Audit of Political Engagement found that:

  1. 72% say the system of governing needs ‘quite a lot’ or ’a great deal’ of improvement;
  2. 63% think Britain’s system of government is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful;
  3. 54% say Britain needs a strong leader who is willing to break the rules;
  4. 47% feel they have no influence at all over national decision-making; and,
  5. Of a list of 13 political activities, the number of people saying they would be prepared to do ‘none’ is up 10 percentage points in a year to 22%.

This is a dangerous position for democracy. If our political institutions lose their authority, people will cease engaging with them and/or seek answers elsewhere. We have already seen a worrying rise in populist and extremist ideologies. Without a change that can inspire and engage large numbers of people across the country, this will only continue.

Our elected representatives cannot rebuild our democratic system alone – the public are an essential part of the process. Without a reform agenda, driven by a new partnership between citizens and their democratic institutions, trust in our democratic system risks reaching crisis point

The Citizens’ Convention on UK Democracy aims to initiate a UK-wide conversation on the state of our democracy and governing institutions. This will feed into deliberative citizens’ assemblies to arrive at a set of robust recommendations for reform. 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).

Involve, in partnership with the Democratic Society and the Citizens' Convention on UK Democracy, developed a Citizens' Convention User Manual outlining the design and process for a citizens' convention.