Alternative approaches to democracy

This election period has confirmed an impression I've had for the last couple of years; that we are seeing not only an overwhelming public desire for political reform, but a growing grassroots movement using new technologies to achieve change from below. At the start of this year Denny wrote about why parliamentary reform is necessary to protect our liberties. I've never before seen so many simultaneous, progressive campaigns to break open politics, make it more accessible, more transparent, more accountable and more democratic. This surge of feeling has not only resulted in the most balanced party-political polls we've seen in decades, but huge numbers of electoral outreach programs, grassroots efforts by activists to help people make the most of their vote, raise awareness of the ways in which the current system is undemocratic, and propose reforms to make sure each vote is worth the same as any other.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list - I'll be adding to it as I go. If there are any campaigns or websites you would like to see added, please let us know in the comments.

Campaigns to improve and open up our democracy

These are mostly independent, third sector, open source projects which speak of voters' ability to contribute and strong desire for change.

Give Your Vote

"Give Your Vote is a campaign for democracy in a global world. It's simple: you give your vote to someone in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Ghana. They use it to be part of the debate on decisions that affect them by casting a real vote in the 2010 UK election. Together we're calling for a world where people have an equal say in the decisions that affect them, no matter where they are."

Votes at 16

"There's no better time for democratic renewal. The forthcoming Election offers one such opportunity, so too does lowering the voting age and enfranchising 1.5 million 16-17 year olds. Last year over 600,000 young people voted in UK Youth Parliament elections - proportionally far higher than the turnout for UK elections. This generation of young people is perhaps more politically informed than any before it. 16 and 17 year olds can leave home, pay taxes, get married and join the armed forces but are unable to vote on decisions that affect them for at least a further two years, even though citizenship education means they are likely to have a good understanding of the power and value of voting."

Simply Understand

A grassroots site producing easy-to-understand translations of parliamentary bills, to make commenting on proposed legislation more accessible for people with literacy difficulties or English as a second language.

Rewired State: Geeks meet government

Rewired State runs hackdays where developers show government what is possible, and government shows developers what is needed. For instance, the Parliamentary Bill Analyzer, a neat widget which compares two parliamentary bills and throw up any differences between them - particularly useful when looking at different versions of the same bill.

Power 2010: the Power Pledge

A crowd-sourced manifesto for fixing broken politics. Voters and candidates alike are encouraged to pledge their support for reforming parliament.

The Bell Principles

A code of conduct for elected representatives, drafted by Independent MP Martin Bell. The Independent Network exists to provide the type of support for Independent candidates, regardless of their political orientation, which parties provide for their endorsed candidates. The Independent Network offers individual Independents credibility and publicity by officially endorsing their candidacy. All endorsed candidates are required to agree to the Bell Principles.

The Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Pledge

A pledge for PPCs to sign, committing to transparency, accountability, independence, non-corruption and non-partisanship. Drafted by Gordon Kennedy, Independent PPC for Dagenham & Rainham.

The Democracy Trust

Lobby group that has been campaigning for 14 years for ways to develop a democratic system designed for the needs of the majority of citizens rather than the minority political establishment. They support the use of existing and developing media/digital technologies which allow greater democratic participation by the people.

Digital Democracy

An online tool being piloted in Durham, enabling communities to identify their top priorities in a democratic way. These priorities will be forwarded to MPs and other key decision makers, who will be invited to state on the website what they have done in response.

Virtual Parliament

An online tool which allows the general public to submit solutions and issues relating to the UK and public services. These can be reviewed and rated by all and will be promoted, based on popularity, to the main page. The site administrators will also submit MP's Early Day Motions and Private Member's Bills, party policies, and government papers. These can also be "voted" on by users.

The Virtual Parliament software is currently being trialled by two Independent candidates running on consultative, participatory platforms in Hackney South and Poplar & Limehouse.

Hang 'em

A national voting strategy to bring in a hung or balanced parliament, voting out Labour and Tory loyalists in favour of third parties and independents.

Progressive Parliament

A national voting strategy to end the rule of the Two-Party Establishment and get more progressive candidates elected.

Vote for a Change

Another hung parliament campaign.

Charter 2010

A site campaigning and planning for a hung parliament, including a collection of parliamentary candidates' views on that projected outcome.

646 All Out

A campaign to vote all incumbent MPs out, particularly those affiliated with the two big parties, and replace them with people unaffiliated to any of the major parties.


We need to tell our parties: "Arm your backbenchers with Flips, with Audioboo, with simple Wordpress websites. Open up. Work in real-time. And don't be afraid. We know you are, we know you are worried that you will be criticised, pulled apart, but please remember that although it has not been so before, that is what we mean by democracy. That is the open-source ethic. Let us participate".


A campaign for better use of technology to improve politics, including a Revolution Manifesto and an in-depth blog.

Election 2010 Challenge

A site inviting users to submit ideas to change politics in the UK, with public votes to determine the best ideas. Every submission is publicised via social media.

Vote for Yourself

"A rallying point for progressive independent people who recognise that the technology exists to let the public decide what's best for them - and to oust the incompetent self-seeking politicians we all hate. Don't vote for them, don't vote for me - vote for yourself!"

Independents running on radical reform platforms

This election is seeing an unprecendented number of Independent candidates, and has been hailed as the "year of the Independents". The Independent Network has a list of endorsed candidates. A number are running on creative platforms which promise a more participatory, consultative politics. All show a strong awareness of the importance of connective technologies and social media in making politics more accessible and representative.

Although some of these candidates have gained Independent Network endorsement, they still suffer from being excluded from the media focus on the main three parties. Many believe that voting more Independents into Parliament, who aren't hampered by the party whip, is a necessary stepping stone to parliamentary reform.

Get a Vote

Denny de la Haye (one of the co-founders of Police State UK) is running in Hackney South and Shoreditch on a platform of direct digital democracy. He proposes using technology and the democratising power of the internet to open up politics and give his constituents more say in how their representative votes on single issues in Parliament. Specifically, he pledges to vote however the majority of constituents vote in secure online polls. With a background in web security and development he's well informed about the potential difficulties here, and has some interesting ideas about how to validate the identity of his constituents for the purposes of the polls without compromising their privacy.

The People's Manifesto

Comedian Mark Thomas invited viewers to submit ideas for a new manifesto to reform politics. The result was a mix of silliness with radical, hard-hitting reform ideas. Several of the items are well worth consideration.

Danny Kushlick is standing as an Independent in Bristol West on a platform of The People's Manifesto.

The Commons

Tamsin Omond, a well known climate activist, is standing in Hampstead & Kilburn as an Independent. If elected, she pledges to do one day of community service in her constituency a week, get everyone voting on issues that matter to them, and invest a third of her MP's salary back into her community.

"Democracy is based on a really simple but totally revolutionary idea: that when there's a difficult decision to be made we'll make better choices if we involve everyone. Authority isn't inherited by an elite or given by God. It belongs to everyone, and everyone has the right to speak and be heard."

Just Vote Them Out

Gordon Kennedy is standing as an Independent in Dagenham & Rainham as an alternative to the untrustworthy political elite. He has an in-depth list of policies on his website, developed in consultation with his constituents.

Jim Thornton

Jim Thornton is standing as an Independent in Poplar & Limehouse. He pledges to work closely with local councillors, create a group of community leaders who will hold him accountable in Westminster, and use new technologies to create interactive ways of reaching decisions on how to vote in Parliament through dialogue and consultation with his constituents.

None of the Above

A campaign to put "none of the above" on ballot papers, as a way for people to express their anger and dissatisfaction with the options available without disengaging from politics.

Electoral online tools

This election has also seen an unprecendented number of online tools making the electoral process more accessible and transparent. You may find some of these useful as you consider how to vote:

My Society

Not new, but arguably kicked the ball rolling in terms of non-State-sponsored, independent democratic tools using the internet to encourage people to engage with politics. My Society's projects include They Work For You, No. 10 Petitions and Write To Them, among others.

Skeptical Voter

A wiki for voters to pool questions submitted to their PPCs, and the replies they got, to save duplication of effort and allow easier comparison between the candidates in any given constituency.

Vote for Policies

An online poll which makes it easy to compare what the political parties are promising to do, helping users make an informed, unbiased decision about who to vote for based on whose policies they prefer.

Who should you vote for?

An independent online tool for voters to see how well the main parties represent their views.

Voter Power Index

An engine which calculates the relative value of each individual vote in your constituency, highlighting the inequalities of the first past the post system.

Email your candidates

A simple tool which pulls all the listed candidates for a given constituency, and allows you to email them all simultaneously through a single web form.

My Gay Vote

An at-a-glance review of different parties' stance on LGBT equality issues.

It's the Climate, Stupid

A campaign to make climate change an electoral issue, providing information about candidates' environmental policies and targeting marginal seats.

Did my MP show up or not?

For campaigners against the Digital Economy Act, a webform revealing whether your MP showed up for the vote in the Commons on April 6, and which way they voted if so. They work for the BPI has a similar at-a-glance list.

I Vote 2010

Information about your candidates and constituency when you enter your postcode. The BBC site offers a similar service, with an attractive clickable map.

Is your election over?

An interactive tool for users to find out if their constituency is considered a "safe seat".

About my vote

Official resource provided by the Electoral Commission, helping people find out how to register, how to vote, and how to understand the different sections on the ballot paper.

Promote the Vote

Website by charity organisation Speaking Up, making it easier for people with learning difficulties or disabilities to find out about voting.


The reason these campaigns are relevant to the aims of this site is that they all offer a way to break out of the pattern of authoritative legislation set by New Labour over the last three terms. Our parliamentary system has developed an immunity to single issue campaigns, a fact which civil liberties campaigners are well aware of. If we want to reclaim our civil liberties it's no use shouting into the void any more - we need to take action, and this election offers a myriad of ways to do so. We are not alone - there are hundreds of thousands of others working towards a more plural, participatory politics.

I hope you found the above list useful and inspiring. Whatever else you do in this election, make sure you use your vote.




Re: Alternative approaches to democracy
Posted by Helen (212.183.xx.xx) on Thu 22 Apr 2010 at 11:24 [ Send Message | View Helen's Scratchpad | View Weblogs ]
Another one - Unlock Democracy definitely belongs on this list.
[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Re: Alternative approaches to democracy
Posted by denny (94.194.xx.xx) on Wed 5 May 2010 at 00:09 [ Send Message | View Weblogs ]

Dynamic Democracy is another digg-style 'vote on the issues' website.