Book review: ‘People Power’ by Dan Jellinek

peoplepowerDan Jellinek’s book ‘People Power‘, which was published last month, is subtitled ‘A user’s guide to democracy’, and in it he comprehensively outlines the principles and practice of democracy in the UK.

This is not a book for political nerds, although even they may find some new nuggets of information within. Instead he is writing for members of the general public who may be curious to know how our political institutions work. Does that sound like someone you know?

The title, of course, encapsulates the power of the vote at election time, which he describes as ‘the heartbeat of democracy’, but Jellinek is also deeply interested in participatory democracy and explains how citizens can make their voices heard between elections.

However, the book goes well beyond providing a factual resource on the structures of our parliaments, assemblies and councils, set in the context of Europe and the world, although it does that well. He examines the role of the civil service and of the legal system (in a chapter tellingly titled ‘The rule of law – freedom’s foundation’). He also drills down into issues that are central to any Liberal Democrat analysis of democracy, such as the freedom of the media,  the rights to protest, the significance of open data and the influence of social media.

This a book that I would warmly recommend for its clear exposition of complex topics based on very extensive research with practitioners.

I do have to declare an interest, however: I was interviewed for this book on policy-making within the party, earning me a brief mention on page 53.  I have known Dan for many years, and we have worked on several e-democracy projects together, and I have spoken at a number of conferences that he runs through Headstar.  So why not judge for yourself?

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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