One of the proposals at the Top of the Manifestos event was loads of e-referenda. (That’s an interesting sentence, the plurals of manifesto and referendum are both unusual.) So apart from the IT security issues, one has to ask, where’s the debate and where’s the evaluation of evidence. Obviously the debate would once have happened in a broadcast world where the cost of a seat at the table was immense and thus the voices of the wealthy are amplified; and this applies to the newspapers as well as the 24 hour news channels such as Sky. The relevance of the print is diminishing, but the TV not so much. Social media platforms are developing new collaboration and voting mechanisms, often specifically to solve issues of governance. But it’s not yet ready. There is little argument that blogging software has empowered many people to express their views which has in some, but not all cases, drawn them into the policy development and analysis.
Today it is the duty of political parties to articulate the collective views of voters and society. The failure to retain mass membership, and to maintain a vibrant internal democracy have weakened their ability to do this.
We should remember that when politicians stand for office, they make promises, one of which is that they stand for a party label. Many, or even most voters take this into account and so when the whips offer advice to their MPs, it’s not telling MPs which to vote, it’s reminding them of promises made to their voters.
A lot of this sort of politics, is designed to weaken the parties because they remain the easiest way individuals can influence their society without standing for office. They won’t grow in influence until they rebuild their democracy, IT might help, particularly if it can make consultation cheaper but its the politics and democracy that will make it work.