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Representative democracy needs another look

Stephan Shakespeare
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The European Commission fined Intel a record &1119;1bn last week for anti-competitive practices. The graph shows the buzz scores for Intel in the UK, Germany and the US, with them all taking a dive on the news. Often when we see bad PR stories with accompanying drops in their &ldquo;buzz&rdquo; scores we see no particular drop in the other BrandIndex scores &ndash; often buzz doesn&rsquo;t really effect the underlying brand health. But in this case, we&rsquo;ve seen a drop of two points in the UK Index score at the end of a year-long period of decline.<br /><br />I want to use my remaining space to respond to a piece in yesterday&rsquo;s CityA.M. Julie Meyer, in the light of the expenses crisis, said we needed a new democratic deal including two-way interaction using YouGov. She also mentioned the timeliness of the appearance of the &ldquo;Jury Team&rdquo; standing candidates in the Euro elections. I&rsquo;m not a big fan of the Jury Team &ndash; it seems to me an honest but half-baked idea for addressing the disengagement from politics. But I do believe that we need to look again at what we call &ldquo;representative&rdquo; democracy.<br /><br />Democracy started in ancient Greece as a system which allowed everyone to participate in governance. With the size of the modern state, that hasn&rsquo;t been possible &ndash; until the Internet.<br /><br />Today we don&rsquo;t need &ldquo;representatives&rdquo;, we can be there ourselves. We could, in theory, reproduce something like the Athenian gathering, only online. But would that lead to better decision-making, or would it lead to a disastrous type of mob-rule?<br /><br />I think the majority of work done by Parliament, full of boring detail, should still be done by something like professionals.<br /><br />But the big decisions, where there is no &ldquo;right&rdquo; answer and where we need collective buy-in to go in one direction or another, could certainly be dealt with by using referenda to a much greater extent. After all, the people of the North-East did a good job when they ended the &ldquo;regional assembly&rdquo; ambitions of John Prescott.<br /><br />Stephan Shakespeare is co-founder of YouGov