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Call to select councillors by lot

Professor Vernon Bogdanor writes in The Times (£) this morning proposes a change in the way local councils are governed with some councillors being chosen randomly.

The "political class" must be broken to enhance the "democratic spirit." He says:

One way to do this is to select a small proportion of councillors — say a tenth or a twentieth — randomly by lot from the electoral register. Those selected would include the young and members of ethnic minorities, groups markedly under-represented in most local authorities. It would be voluntary in that one could refuse to accept the role, but those who did serve would be genuine independents. They could decide what was best for their communities without being beholden to party.

His proposal is flawed for several reasons:

1. It is undemocratic. Instead of 100% of councillors being elected, he would have 90% or 95% elected. In a close result this could mean the wishes of electorate were thwarted as to who should control the council.

2. It "would be voluntary in that one could refuse the role." But some might just take their £8,000 a year in allowances and turn up to the statutory minimum of a couple of meetings - not say anything and leave early. What have they got to lose?

3. They would not necessarily be "genuine independents." If I was chosen by lot to become a councillor I would join the Conservative Group - as would my next door neighbour. Many, perhaps most, voters still have a clear Party allegiance.


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