SORTITION Newsletter of the Society for Democracy including Random Selection
Second Quarter 2001 Issue No. 1
ISSN 1756-4964 (Print)
SDRS, 27 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3XX

The Aims and Origins of the SDRS

The sole aims of the SDRS are as follows: first, the promotion of random selection as a complementary method of election; secondly, to facilitate political and cultural understanding between persons who share this democratic aspiration.

Our chief goal is to establish a loose confederation of individuals who, though holding difference political views on other issues, nevertheless support the above aims. From this alliance we believe a working collective of individuals willing to promote the aims of the organisation will evolve. That is to say, we welcome both those persons who wish to take out membership of the organisation but for whatever reason are unable to attend meetings and also those individuals who wish to participate in SDRS activities.

The genesis of the SDRS may be traced to 1994. At a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference that year the Labour Committee on Democratic Accountability of Secret Services (LCDASS) proposed that a principle which should be incorporated in the establishment of organisations constituted to oversee and monitor the activities of the secret services should be that a significant proportion of those individuals delegated to serve in such positions should be chosen by a method of random selection from the general electorate, similar to the way in which juries are selected. The use of random selection in the appointment of these bodies is the method most likely to guarantee that conspiratorial factional activities conducted either by the Left or the Right do not jeopardise either the impartiality or operational security of the intelligence services. It therefore also became apparent to the LCDASS that the problem of conspiratorial factionalism is however not confined to the question of intelligence oversight: it also affects virtually the entire representative democratic system. That is why the LCDASS advocated the promotion of the Athenian form of democracy - random selection - not only as a method of selecting juries but also as a general, complementary method for electing democratic representatives, including members of parliament. Such a constitutional reform could also serve the ultimate purpose of incorporating the use of random selection in regard to oversight of the intelligence services. Our questionnaire illustrates, chiefly by articles in the mainstream press, the scale of mutual suspicion and factional intrigue which pervades the modern democratic system based exclusively on the election of party representatives, and also the way in which these issues have a connection with the policy and activities of the security forces.

In 1998, Anthony Barnett, a Senior Research Fellow at London University, wrote a pamphlet in connection with the ongoing reform of the House of Lords entitled The Athenian Option, in which he advocated random selection as a method of election to the new upper chamber. It was published by Demos, a thinktank associated with the Independent newspaper. At the Labour conference held in September that year the LCDASS hosted a fringe meeting to promote this proposal with speakers including Anthony Barnett, the former deputy leader of the Labour party Roy Hattersley, and the Guardian journalist and author Jonathan Freedland. Throughout 1999 and 2000 the LCDASS organised and conducted a series of focus group meetings using canvassing methods incorporating the principle of random selection to find out how the general public would respond to this proposed constitutional reform for the House of Lords.

Most of those who attended these meetings approved of the use of random selection as a means to elect some peers to the newly reformed upper chamber. They also agreed that an organisation should be formed to promote random selection as a complementary form of election, and in June 2000 the inaugural meeting of the SDRS took place comprised mainly of those individuals who had been contacted using random canvassing methods. That is why even though a Labour party organisation was involved in the formation of the SDRS most of its members are not in the Labour party and it is correspondingly independent of any political party.

We believe that the use of random selection as a complementary part of the electoral system is the best method for creating reliably independent scrutiny of government. If implemented it can help to counteract the negative features of what political theorists have termed the ‘competitive elitism’ of the representative party system both in regard to everyday policy formulation and also in regard to more fundamental problems associated with factional, conspiratorial tendencies at all levels of the political process from corruption in local government right up to maters of national security and human rights. Although the choice between professional expertise and amateur impartiality can be a difficult one, we believe that just as the majority of individuals usually opt fro trial by jury when given the choice then so they will also opt for an extension of this form of democracy to other areas of the constitution if they are presented with this option. As can be seen from the organisational structure shown below, the SDRS incorporates random selection methods in its own internal practices. The chief method of canvassing undertaken by the SDRS also incorporates random selections techniques. In this way the SDRS can accumulate practical experience in using random selection methods which should ultimately serve to better inform and help facilitate the implementation of this form of election in the political process.

Organisation Structure
The inaugural meeting constituted itself as the General Committee of the SDRS. The following organisational guidelines for two stages of development were adopted.
RSM: Randomly Selected Member/s. By RSM we mean people who have been contacted on a verifiably random basis.
AM: Associate Member/s (non randomly selected member/s)
CC: Constitutional Committee
GC: General Committee
AGM: Annual General Meeting

STAGE ONE: the organisational core of the SDRS in Stage One comprises the GC, in which both AM and RSM may participate. However a CC can also be elected in Stage One as an ultimate constitutional device to settle differences on the GC which cannot be resolved by a consensus. It should be comprised of the Secretary and three RSM elected using random selection. The CC thereafter will assume the power to verify RSM status, establish or dissolve all other committees of the SDRS and over-rule all decisions taken by other committees or individuals. Any individual member may appeal to the CC about any decision taken by other committees of the organisation. The CC can suspend the membership of any individual member. Any decision taken by the CC may be over-ruled by the AGM. Between AGMs all members of the GC, including AMs, shall have voting right on the GC.

STAGE TWO: It was envisaged that once membership of the SDRS exceeds 100 RSM, AM may be nominated for elections to the CC as of this AGM. In this stage the CC may be comprised of 3 AM elected by nomination; 3 RSM elected by nomination; 3 RSM elected by random selection. The AGM will also elect by nomination to the CC for a period of three years, a Secretary and for a period of two years, a Chair, a Vice-Chair and a Treasurer. Between AGMs all members of the SDRS, including AMs, shall have voting rights on the committees other than the CC. The CC in Stage Two should be understood both as an executive body and as an ultimate constitutional device to settle differences within the SDRS which cannot be resolved by a con

© Dr. Keith Nilsen

SDRS Questionnaire on Truth and Deception in Politics
Please mark the appropriate box

1. The Police Federation Chairman has withdrawn from talks to reform the police because he believes that the Labour Government has a ‘secret agenda’ to undermine the police force.
Is his view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

2. At the 2000 TUC Conference the TGWU General Secretary drew a comparison between police complicity in the fuel blockade with that of the Chilean army in a right wing lorry drivers’ strike held prior to the fascist coup in 1973.
Is his view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

3. Margaret Thatcher believes that today's Labour cabinet ministers hoped that the USSR would win the cold war. Is her view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

4. Harold Wilson believed that he was a victim of a right wing conspiracy in the secret services.
Is his view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

5. Many supporters of the American Republican Party believe that Bill Clinton and Al Gore hide their real sympathies for communist states such as China and Cuba.
Is their view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

6. Many supporters of the American Democratic Party believe that in Florida the real results of the recent U.S. Presidential election were subverted by a right wing conspiracy.
Is their view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

7. Some intelligence analysts believe that the collapse of communism is an exercise in strategic deception. Is their view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

8. Hillary Clinton believes that her husband is a victim of a ‘vast right wing conspiracy.’
Is her view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

9. Frederick Forsyth, author of the espionage thriller ‘The Day of the Jackal’ believes that devolution and European integration are secretly aimed at breaking up the United Kingdom.
Is his view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

10. Random selection as a complementary electoral form will help to weaken the power of factional conspiracy in the political process and encourage a more truthful approach by professional politicians. Is this view:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

11. My first preference in a general election would be for a parliamentary candidate who supports the use of random selection as a complementary method of election.
Is this:
a. likely to be true b. possibly true c. unlikely to be true

12. I would like to be kept informed of SDRS activities.
Yes or No

Questionnaire reference notes

Question 1:
The chairman “has already withdrawn from talks on the future of the police, overseen by the Home secretary, Jack Straw, claiming they represent a secret agenda to undermine the police in the name of greater efficiency.” (Guardian February 17th 2001).

Question 2: These remarks, made from the podium, are indicative of trade union fears.

Question 3: At a dinner held in 2000 for forty wealthy businessmen and senior Tories the Sunday Telegraph reported that in her speech, which was recorded, ‘Lady Thatcher said that during the Cold War “the Socialists thought their time had come and today’s Cabinet ministers were singing The Red Flag and hoping the Soviets would win”. She made a clear reference to Mr Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister, whose memoirs are critical of her antipathy towards Europe, as a ‘non-Labour fellow traveller.’ “To all of this I say: no, no, no,” she declared , echoing her famous Commons remarks after the Bruges Summit. According to guests at the dinner, Mr Hague nodded vigorously throughout the speech and led the audience in warm applause at the end.’ (Sunday Telegraph 10th September 2000).

Question 4: This is widely known, e.g. see The Wilson Plot, by David Leigh.

Question 5: “ The real nastiness in the battle of the airwaves is waged not by the campaigns themselves, but by their surrogates: the organisations and special interest groups which say the things that the candidates desperately want said - provided it’s by someone else. Yesterday, a Texas-based group called Aretino Industries began airing an ad describing Mr Gore as weak on defence and a puppet in the hands of communist China.” (Guardian 3rd November 2000).

Question 6: The US Democratic party leader Terry McAuliffe, “who has taken over the helm of the party, accused Mr Bush and the US supreme court of having ‘tampered’ with the presidential election results.” (Daily Telegraph 5th February). In the UK, Will Hutton, a leading Blairite, declared that “There has been a right-wing coup in the United States. It is now clear beyond any doubt that the winner of the Presidential election was Al Gore.” (Observer, 24th December 2000).

Question 7: From 1961 to 1973 the dominant Western Intelligence view was that communism has embarked on a long term strategy of deception which involves feigning weakness by the staging of a fake split in communism (the sino-soviet split) and a fake democratisation in Eastern Europe. It is aimed at lowering western defences, uniting Europe including integrating ‘former’ socialist states within it, and by these means embroiling Europe in a policy of secret communist hegemony, using communist infiltration and deep cover agents to drive centre left government policy in this direction. Harold Wilson was one suspect. In the mid-seventies this view was, it seems, discarded. Some intelligence analysts have nevertheless continued to hold them publicly (e.g. see The Perestroika Deception, by Russian KGB defector Anatoly Golitsyn, published in 1995). On 23rd March 2001 the Daily Telegraph reported on the Bush reorientation of US intelligence policy in regard to China:
“All governments know that other countries lie to them. It can be perfectly sound policy to pretend they have not noticed. The Bush administration has decided it is sound policy to call some bluffs” Bush was welcomed with a standing ovation during his first Presidential visit to CIA headquarters:
“American intelligence officials obviously calculate that telling the truth about foreign espionage no longer means certain career death” (Daily Telegraph, 23rd March). The next day the paper reported the expulsion of Russian spies:
“The Hanssen case was a catalyst for the expulsions but it is unlikely they would have taken place under Bill Clinton. Indeed, the FBI became increasingly frustrated at the Clinton administration’s failure to cull the increasing number of Russian intelligence officers being posted to America. Mr Bush’s senior foreign policy aides have been openly sceptical about Russian intentions to democratise and embrace international norms, partly because of Moscow’s espionage activities. Donald Rumsfeld, who returned to head the Pentagon 25 years after holding the same job at the height of the Cold War, has described Russia as “an active proliferator “ of arms technology and “part of the problem” an American missile defence system is designed to counter. ‘

Question 8: As the Daily Telegraph reported on 31st January 1998: ‘Hillary Clinton has struck a nerve with her denunciation of a “vast Right-wing conspiracy” to bring down her husband’s presidency, and there is some truth to the White house claims.’

Question 9: In 2000 the Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign launched a successful complaint with the Broadcasting Standards Commission that the BBC has failed to report on the true scale of public opposition to Europe. Bush and Hague have both suggested a Euro-army will damage NATO. In the British Armed Forces, according to the Aldershot Tory MP Gerald Howarth, aside from the recently retired Chief of Defence Staff Sir Charles Guthrie, there is “hardly a serving officer” who has done anything other than condemn it.’ (Daily Telegraph 24th November 2000).