It’s not sexy, but it is important
Eyes tend to glaze over when discussing how the operation of the Legislature might be improved. I understand. It isn't a high priority for a lot of people and it doesn't make for the sexiest news. But the importance of reform on the Hill is starting to catch on, and not just because MPs have finally decided to set up a committee to look into how this can be achieved. Readers of this column have been responding with some useful ideas of their own on how we can improve the way in which we are governed. This week we feature some of what they had to say: —
Describing herself as a member of the generation “whose arrival onto this terrestrial ball coincided with the advent of technology”, K.C. e-mailed that greater online engagement would almost certainly help engage younger members in the political process, and possibly older members as well.
“The irony”, she wrote, “is that in this connected age we are more disconnected as a society”.
Here are some of her ideas:
* The parliamentary website [www.parliament.bm] should introduce a live-chat element. When an interesting bill is being debated listeners and online users can chat with someone who is in the House to pose questions to MPs; questions can be posed and answers given simultaneously. I have been in webinars where you can engage with the seminar leaders by way of chat as the webinar streams. How this could work is the parliament.bm website would generate user names whereon one name would be linked to an e-mail address, plus those subscribed members can be kept in the loop by weekly e-mail updates on what's going to be debated and discussed. Even having MPs spend 30 minutes where they will answer any questions (within reason); there could be a roster so you move the “drop-in” session to online chats.
* Further an app for parliament.bm would be interesting for those who are politically inclined to have on their smart phones. This would be another element to engage people in the political process.
K.C. complimented rookie MP Lawrence Scott for his recent use of social media to survey the views of his constituents on the recent amendments to the Human Rights Act. “As a younger member of society”, she concluded, “I would like to see my MPs engage more with technology as it shows me their awareness that communication trends have moved and that despite how we communicate everyone's voice and opinion is important”.
Another reader figures technology could lead to some much needed radical reform, including a reduction in the numbers of MPs. He thinks the system could work with as few as ten, pointing out the dramatic savings that would mean. His system of government would call for the MPs to be elected island-wide, without political parties and with the right of recall. It would also feature regular referenda. Said M.W.: “As the Swiss system proves using referenda on a regular basis keeps the electorate interested and much more positive about government action.”
However, he cautioned not all decisions could be decided by referendum. “Many decisions require in depth understanding of issues which are not necessarily fully in the public domain, that's what the MPs are there for”, he wrote. “Decisions like gambling and gay marriage are perfect examples of questions that could be put to the public.”
Bloggers had some interesting comments and suggestions as well:
* “I would say that both political parties underestimate the social media's very strong undercurrent and political sway”: Valerie Marcia Akinstall.
* “ … social media is what is opening Bermudians up to [the] possibility of [a] more participatory form of democracy … Bermuda may get there but we have a looong way to go”: James Tucker.
* “ [Speaking of participatory democracy], we need open primaries not caucuses to decide who is selected to run for the parties … the constituents need to be included in the process. the process should begin and end with the electorate”: Khalid Wasi
* “The greatest thing that social media and online comments brings to the table is that everything is in black and white … No longer do we have the he said she said problem. It's right there to know exactly what was said. I hope we do see better use of this medium to help I improve Bermuda's political landscape: Derek A.G. Jones.
* Share your views on The Royal Gazette website or write firstname.lastname@example.org.