Underway here in Harrogate is a radical political experiment using political tech deployed in Taiwan.
Andrew Gray, a lawyer, who describes himself as “previously political promiscuous”, has set up Harrogate District Consensus, which is politically neutral.
Engaged citizens, like Andrew, inspired by the new book, Citizens by Jon Alexander and Ariane Contad, are taking it upon themselves to disrupt the status quo.
“Recent world events prove that we should revel in our democracy, defend it and enhance. Too many people feel removed from the decisions which impact them. Turnout in local elections is pitiful. Winning candidates of all political colours only enjoy marginal positive support. It’s as if democracy reached its high point in Ancient Athens.
“People are familiar with expressing their opinions with online reviews. A bad review usually receives a response and then some improvement. But there’s too many barriers to influence local politics, unless you want to join a political party – of which only 1 per cent of the population do.
“On local issues, I’m confident that local people have the solution to their problems. Posting angrily on social media or doing nothing, are frankly the two choices facing local people who want to make a change outside of the electoral cycle. This damages our democracy.”
“Most people would agree that technology will play some part in the mechanics of our democracy. Polis is the best political tech that I’ve seen.”
Run anonymously, Polis is de-personalised, meaning that people decouple their values and their person from the platform. This leads to a gentle, intelligent and developing anonymous conversation.
“When I launched HDC, I thought that the anonymity granted to participants would make people even more aggressive. Boy, was I wrong. In thousands of votes and statements, there’s been nothing personal or nasty. Honesty and sensitivity prevails, with nobody feeling cancelled.”