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Social media has become an important tool for political discussion and participation. Furthermore, recently, the question of gendered harassment in online political spaces has gained much scholarly attention. However, work here has largely focused on elected representatives, with little work on how this affects ordinary citizens. This article seeks to establish whether there is a gendered online participation gap, using data from the British Election Study across three elections. It further seeks to reveal why this gap may exist by assessing specific questions about being harassed or fearing negative responses online. The findings show a persistent gender gap in political participation online across all elections studied. Furthermore, although women were not necessarily more likely to have been harassed online, they were far more likely to have avoided posting about politics for fear of a negative response. This suggests that fear of harassment may contribute to lower political participation online for women.

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Younger generations have become increasingly disillusioned with mainstream democratic politics in established democracies. Although young people are interested in politics and engage in many issue-based forms of participation, it is hard for them to realise the fruits of their labour at the national level. Local democracy may provide a better opportunity for engaging effectively in the issues that affect young people’s everyday lives. This article examines how Public Value approaches work in practice for young people whose voices are usually excluded from the policy-making process. The research adopted a complex large-scale multi-stage qualitative design, that involved focus groups and interviews with young people and local civic leaders from across London. It used participatory research with young Londoners from traditionally marginalised groups. The research revealed that, although policy makers face important structural challenges, such as the concentration of power and resources in Westminster, they have the potential to move beyond tokenistic engagement with young people. In particular, the results showed how civic and local authorities can build efficacy and trust through initiatives that provide opportunities for deliberation and the co-creation of public policy. In this way, the article makes a clear contribution to our understanding of the role of young people in environmentalism and their democratic value.

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This chapter examines how the foundational principles identified in preceding chapters – primarily engagement, connectedness, accessibility, inclusion, equality, fairness, responsiveness, accountability, wellness, ethical propriety, sustainability and flexibility – guide the rethinking of parliamentary space, connectivity and interaction in Westminster. The breadth of reimagining is mapped in an indicative listing of practical proposals which can be derived from the deployment of these principles in each chapter. Yet, in different ways, each chapter also reveals how the boundaries of institutional reimagining illuminate the systemic constraints of the UK’s polity and society. In turn this prompts questions about the necessity of further serious thinking about reimagining the broader institutions and processes of parliamentary democracy and parliamentary government in the UK. The chapter concludes, therefore, with a call for cascaded reimagining of these systemic features by others.

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Taking reimagining to mean ‘the action or an act of imagining something again, a reconstruction; a remake’, this chapter identifies what is to be reimagined in this book, who is going to be doing the reimagining, and the approaches adopted in reimagining. This introduction makes clear that the specific focus of the book is the UK parliament; that those doing the reimagining bring together perspectives of both senior parliamentary officials, researchers and academics drawing upon wide disciplinary expertise; and that foundational principles drive the reimagining of the parliamentary activities under consideration in later chapters. This introductory chapter also provides an ideational frame – constructed around notions of space, connectivity and interaction – within which key parliamentary activities can be reimagined. This frame is used in this chapter to provide brief overviews of the contemporary significance, and condition, of parliament and to make the case that now would appear to be the time ‘to think seriously about starting over’ when imagining the UK parliament at the heart of a broader political system of parliamentary democracy.

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This chapter reimagines the relationship between citizens and parliament. Five core principles of public engagement – inclusivity, relevance, relatability, continuity and sustainability – drive the process of reimagining; and result in a reimagined parliamentary public engagement that would be welcoming and inclusive, consequential and future generations aware. In reflecting upon how far the UK parliament is from this reimagined future, core features of parliament – such as its collective and hierarchical nature, and its dependency on electoral cycles – are identified as inhibitors of a principled reimagining of parliamentary public engagement. The chapter concludes by calling for a far more institutionalised approach to engagement, to make it more meaningful, consequential and better resourced.

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With trust in parliament and politicians at a seriously low level, there is an increasing need to rebuild our public institutions. This innovative book questions what parliament should be in the 21st century and how it can be reimagined. It shows how a new democratic parliamentary space can be created to better represent and engage with citizens; to furnish a safe, inclusive and fair working environment for all staff and members; and to secure greater responsiveness and accountability of government.

Bringing together a vibrant group of parliamentary scholars and practitioners, it proposes an institutional world of possibilities beyond the present Westminster village, to help restore faith in democracy.

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This chapter examines the important, but often overlooked, issue of parliamentary governance. How parliament organises and maintains itself is a fundamental question of the UK’s constitution: it goes to legitimacy and effectiveness of the legislature in carrying out its core constitutional functions. Parliamentary governance is the set of arrangements which determine the administration of parliament as an organisation and its resources; of how objectives in parliament are set; the means of attaining those objectives; and how accountability for those arrangements is effected. The chapter critiques present governance arrangements: in short, they are weak, ineffective and non-transparent. From this critical base, four principles are identified – prioritising the institution; effective governance mechanisms; clear lines of accountability; and representation – to guide reimagining; and seven practical proposals are identified as key steps towards attaining this reimagined future.

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In this chapter parliamentary procedures are tested against the criteria of comprehensibility, resistance to executive capture, ability to engage the imagination of those inside and outside parliament, and success in conferring legitimacy on the outcomes of parliamentary decisions. As procedures have developed to give more and more control to the executive they have become less and less human. It concludes that (especially in the Commons) they no longer provide the space, either temporal, psychological or ritual, for effective deliberation which is demonstrably inclusive of the world beyond Westminster. The remedy proposed is to do more of the work of the Commons in the arena of the select committees, where time is less rationed, deliberation (rather than ritualised debate) is encouraged, and elected representatives engage openly with experts and the broader public. The committees should control the content of debate in the plenary, where procedure should reflect a more accessible way of doing business. Parliament must demonstrate a transformative influence on the executive, not assume that the private and occult processes behind the theatrical spectacle are sufficient to win the confidence of the electorate.

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The starting premise of this chapter is that a reimagining of parliamentary representation requires a systemic view of representation. This invokes some notion of an interlocking of electoral modes with non-electoral modes of representation within a system of democratic parliamentarism. Analysis of current imaginings of this system leads to the identification of its key underpinning foundational principles: inclusion, equality, responsiveness and unity/collectivity. A reimagined UK parliament based on these principles should serve, therefore, as a key focal point of broader networks of representation. This requires a reimagining of the existing ‘electoral representative form’ through, for example, changing formal electoral institutions, institutionalising the interconnection of parliamentary and non-electoral modes of representation, and deploying new digital technologies to maximise the relationship between representatives and represented. In essence, the chapter concludes that a reimagination of parliamentary representation should be systemic in scope, cumulative in approach and expansive in its ambition.

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This chapter makes the case for a reimagining of existing parliamentary spaces at Westminster. This case is based upon an exploration of four different purposes of the parliamentary building: as a symbol of democracy; as a legislative space; as a working space; and as a public democratic space. Reimagining needs to consider the ‘stories’ told about the Palace of Westminster and about the foundational story of the UK parliament as ‘a symbol of democracy’. It needs to envision how to design and create a legislative building to best facilitate the business of the legislature. It needs to be more than just thinking about the public face of the buildings, but also about the space needed for the staff serving the legislature to work. And it needs to acknowledge the legislature as a public space, where public access should be the default, rather than a privilege. The chapter concludes that a reimagined parliamentary building would empower new ways of working for Members and staff, create new ways of connecting with the public, and provide a symbol of a legislature not just of the past but of the future.

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