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.

Sport
Romelu Lukaku
sportChelsea striker sends second teasing tweet of the day
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Sport
Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura sprays a line after calling for a free kick for Brazil
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Tax Solicitor

£40000 - £70000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Tax Solicitor An excel...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exce...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz