Vote online – the Speaker’s plan to revive politics

John Bercow calls on internet giants to lead digital revolution in British politics  as Commission is set to draw up blueprint for ‘Parliament 2.0’ before 2015 general election

A radical plan to allow Britons to vote in parliamentary elections using the internet is to be drawn up by the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, as part of a drive to bridge the divide between politicians and the public.

Mr Bercow will call in bosses from Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google and Microsoft to advise him how technology can assist the expansion of  “e-democracy” over the coming years. He will chair the first-ever Speaker’s commission on “digital democracy”, which will examine ways to modernise the system and ensure that Parliament reaches out to the electorate.

In a speech on Wednesday night to the Hansard Society, a charity that promotes parliamentary democracy, Mr Bercow said: “What we are talking about here is nothing less than a Parliament version 2.0.”

He said elements might include online voting, “e-dialogue” between MPs and constituents, and greater scrutiny of laws and government over the web.

The Speaker said Britain should learn from Estonia, the first nation to use internet voting. A quarter of Estonians cast online ballots in a national election in 2011 and about half are expected to do so in 2015. He said Estonia was the “market leader” and its system was “well worth investigating”.

Speaker John Bercow sees 'e-democracy' as the future (Getty) Speaker John Bercow sees 'e-democracy' as the future (Getty)

Estonians can vote on a computer using their national identity card to ensure security, or via mobile phone with a Pin code. Analysis by the London School of Economics found that between 10 and 15 per cent of online voters would probably not have cast ballots without this option, because it made voting faster and cheaper. However, it also concluded that the change had not necessarily boosted turnout.

Party officials in Britain reacted cautiously to the idea. One said: “It may happen one day, but not yet. There would be big questions about security. Our system is one of the least corrupt, but there have been a few problems with postal voting and that highlights the potential danger of moving to online.”

The Speaker’s commission will start work early next year and draw up a “blueprint for action” by early 2015 – the 750th anniversary of the year Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, founded Parliament, and 800 years since the Magna Carta. Any changes would not be in place for the May 2015 election but Mr Bercow wants the Commons elected in two years’ time to consider the radical shift.

“Like the digital world itself, it will be unpredictable, potentially anarchic,” he said. “It should even be quite fun.”

The commission’s remit will be to “embrace the opportunities afforded by the digital world to become more effective in representing the people, making laws and scrutinising the work and performance of government. It should also consider how Parliament can become more relevant to the increasingly diverse population it seeks to serve”.

A woman casts her vote in the 2011 Estonian general election (Getty) A woman casts her vote in the 2011 Estonian general election (Getty)

Mr Bercow admitted that measures such as online voting would require moves to end the “digital divide” in which 20 per cent of British households do not have internet access. “The ‘Berlin wall’ which undoubtedly exists in this terrain is no longer about age but relates to affluence or the lack of it,” he said. “A digital democracy should not re-invent the divide in franchise of the 19th century in a new, high-technology form. It has to be universally inclusive and not a narrow geeks’ nirvana.”

He said “digital democracy” could not be “a conversation between interest groups and political parties” and pledged that his commission would take evidence from “outside Zone One of the London Underground network”.

Mr Bercow said a 21st-century democracy could no longer be about people voting once every four or five years. He argued that “e-democracy” could help to repair the damage and lack of trust in politicians caused by the scandal over MPs’ expenses in 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot