Technology makes politicians and parties redundant but they won’t go without a big push into the dustbin
A quick post to highlight a good piece today by Daniel Finkelstein. Behind The Times paywall unfortunately but his core argument is that the rationale for politicians and parties is losing its resonance. The opinion aggregation that is their main raison d’etre no longer makes much sense in a world where new technologies are far better at fulfilling this task. He also predicts the decline of political parties for, as he says, “if it is possible to contact voters without a party machine, the power of the machine will decline”.
This all chimes closely with identical themes I have explored on this blog. In fact, Finkelstein goes even further than me arguing that many of the governing and decision-making functions assigned to our leaders will soon be done better by artificial intelligence.
However, there is an air of inevitability permeating the article. This is the only point on which I would disagree. The political system is enormously and very successfully resistant to any change which damages the position and interests of politicians. It took over one-hundred years to turn the House of Lords from a place dominated by aristocrats and political appointees to one dominated by political appointees alone. The revolutionary idea of actually letting people vote for their representatives in that chamber is now kicked well into the long grass. Party memberships have been in serious decline for forty years and parties are widely disliked and yet they still control the legislature and the executive.
The vision Finkelstein sets out where citizens have much more direct control over the decisions taken in their name free of self-interested and biased intermediaries such as parties and newspapers will actually require an almighty push. As I outlined here, I’m increasingly convinced that a straightforward popular campaign to legally require MPs to aggregate and then represent the views of their constituents could be just the battering ram to split the portcullis.
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