I've watched the rise of the German Pirate Party with fascination. From a tiny base, they have begun to really make large strides in terms of both electoral success and party development.
Personally I find their policies rather attractive, putting the radical back into politics whilst keeping away from the decrepit left/right structure of 20th century politics. But their innovation in party and policy development is what is really interesting about them.
Their emphasis on transparency really is something I can wholeheartedly support, and their request that any coalition talks be livestreamed online is in keeping completely with my previous notes of disillusion with the way the talks for our Coalition were carried out (and implemented). I've been asking for a grown up, open approach to coalitions and I think this really fits the bill.
Today Andy Emmerson brought another facet of their innovation to my attention: Liquid Feedback (based on a concept called liquid democracy). I've always found direct democracy to be at once terribly libertarian and yet stiflingly authoritarian. Direct democracy always seems good on paper but forcing people to vote one way or another on subjects they might not really understand either forces them to make a vote they may regret or not vote at all and allow their voice to be silenced. Representative democracy, on the other hand, does allow some "expertise" into the system and with our representatives paid to research things you'd hope for some reasoned and sensible votes. However, as we have seen over the Lib Dems vote on tuition fees, it also means your vote may not end up being used in the way you wanted it to be used.
Liquid democracy manages, quite cleverly, to mix these two systems with some extra failsafes into something that, on paper, seems brilliantly flexible and powerful. Now it may not work, it might only work in certain cultures and climates, it might end up creating the next dictator. But as a technical innovation in policy formulation it is fantastic.
It's something I'd love to see discussed within the Liberal Democrats and trialled if appropriate. Just as Spineless Liberal has, I have a great many concerns and questions over it's use and what it might lead to. But if we really are going to have a "New Politics" this is the sort of concepts we need to start exploring as a party, and as a country. The risks are great but the benefits might be even greater.
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist