He rightly identifies a "growing and potentially dangerous gap between politicians and the public" – and he offers direct democracy as an ideal (though thankfully, not a practical) solution.
You see, when someone calls for a system of governance to be changed, there is an implication that the current official system has failed. And I'd suggest that this isn't the case. We are, of course, officially a representative democracy. In practical terms, however, we are not so in the truest sense – and that there are plenty of steps that could be taken to improve that situation – thereby bringing the governors and the governed closer.
I would argue that the most effective form of democratic renewal possible is a programme of capacity building for elected representatives, so that they can
- reduce their dependence upon political parties and civil servants
- be less vulnerable to misrepresentation from journalists of single-issue campaigns by pressure groups
- be more effective at deliberating on policy issues
- be more effective at managing multilateral communication with policy experts in particular, and the public in general. And be more effective in interpreting those discussions during the process of policy formation.
Indeed, I've even outlined a Charter that could provide the cornerstone to this approach here.
There are many other interesting strategies promoting democratic renewal, but without addressing the cornerstone issue of representation, they are less likely to succeed. For this reason, capacity building for elected representatives should be the prime medium term project for those promoting democratic renewal.
Oddly, Chris’s arguments for technocracy and against managerialism are very important bulwarks to my own arguments here.I hope he can see sense on this matter. ;-)
As a further provocation, I'd also argue that, even if Direct Democracy - in it's perfect incarnation - would be a good thing, moves towards it may not. It's a reworking of Paul Ormerod's argument (in The Death of Economics) that - even if a perfection of free-markets could be shown to be a good thing (and this will never be practically possible) that there is no evidence that 'more free market' means 'more efficient'.
You either do it perfectly (you can't) or you don't do it at all (yay!).