Citizens & political leaders: trustees or delegates?

Are we –as citizens- leaders in the political decision-making process? Are politicians an inverted reflection of our interests or do citizens look at them from the wrong perspective? Is it about strict representation or a mistaken reflection that makes us suppose that they are following our interests as citizens?

Edmund Burke is very helpful in analyzing the different approaches that are basically about “trustee” or “delegate”. Citizens that delegate and make politicians real representatives of their interests, leaders follow their will even if they eventually they do not believe is the best; or trustee that means that they believe and trust on leaders decisions accepting those ones that go against the beliefs.

Is it of extreme importance to make sure to conceptualize correctly the role of citizens and leaders at the time to deploy mechanisms on transparency and accountability. A trustee relationship means that a political leader has to follow citizen´s demands, is it their own conviction of what is better for the Nation and in terms of accountability is 100% fair. Is under this framework that we cannot blame them for those decisions that are not backed by their voters, or without good popularity rates.

Both relations “trustee” and “delegate” seem to be essential for guaranteeing a democratic system and handle expectations, however, there is an element that is above, that is “marketization”. It’s almost impossible to get into fair elections, and fair performance from representatives if citizens are “polluted” by campaigns that manipulate their minds and intentions. Most of the political campaigns are part of a show that diverts the idea of a responsible vote within a results-driven consciousness. Making a vote a true act of “delegation” without democratic guarantees that in most of the cases is an exercise that does not lead to positive outcomes for the Nation. Corrupt countries and biased leaders are always the expressions of a relation of the wrong delegation that finally ends in the arbitrary decision or/and those that benefit a particular private sector among others interests.

Now, what is the real intention of citizens? Do they vote because they truly believe in delegation? Or is it just resignation to feel a political process out of their control?

Brexit exposures clearly that the citizenship feels an “out of their hands” process: if the referendum were now, voters will shift towards Remain. That means that citizens don’t trust in long-term representative’s ideas, and they do not even “delegate” and accept decisions that go against their ideologies just because they trust in their leaders. Indeed, Brexit has not come from citizen’s will to change but from the private sector and leaders´ ideas that bring it forward. These top-down decisions go against a democratic system and undermine accountability goals, eventually may be confused with a relationship based on delegation, but is it just about losing the sense of empowerment and give up to a rusty system.

“In 2019, Conservative party members backed Boris Johnson leads Jeremy Hunt by 74% to 26%”.“…his popularity started declining amongst the membership the moment he came out in favor of Leave vote in the 2016 referendum. A remarkable 83% of party members had a positive view of him the week before, but this fell to 76% in just a week after his decision” 

Currently as July 2021 Boris Johnson and according to YouGov the approval rating is 64% badly, 39% good.”

These numbers confirm that a legal Administration does not necessarily come from popular support but from leaders that hold the power within the support of machinery that let them perform, even within no popularity rates.

How do we measure how much power they hold? Is it correlating with a correct delivery? It seems not a question of confidence in a leader´s criteria but a complete lack of empowerment towards a system that moves through Media and private interests rather than the perfect reflection of citizen´s beliefs and positive outputs.

COVID is being a testing time that confirms that decisions are not about strict legitimation from citizens, neither endorsement, but an independent power fuelled by Media, Zero accountability, and in the worst cases without a results-driven strategy. As always crises turn politicians look like heroes, however playing the same game of “politics in the go”. Is in that sense that COVID is also changing the terms of the contract with the citizenship making it more demanding and at the same time weaker in terms of accountability.

Trustee or delegate, whatever is the option, it is only through a consistent citizen engagement focused on the SDGs that we find the way out to get into a true and fair legal representation. Is not precisely about trust, as witnessed during COVID19 particularly on lockdown measures, However, it only works when there is a second stage for whom the leaders are accountable for their decisions. Trust in their leaders not necessarily means being out of supervision or accountability. The follow-up of political decisions is a must for democracy and it should apply from an early stage within political parties. The capacity to influence decisions from the opposition makes them also part of the stage and accountable for their voters. Creating a culture of responsibility is a must to become transparent and an engine to make societies fully empowered to thrive within their own philosophy of living carry forward by powerful and conciliatory leaders. Adding value to citizens’ goals is not the same as taking their destinies entirely into their own hands.

From charismatic leaders to charismatic citizens, that is the true challenge and where relies upon the power –may be the secret- to overcome crises with a positive focus on resilience. Delegating power on leaders without a “trustee contract” –decisions from political leaders even if citizens do not agree-, to trust on leaders although only with those that hold a strong capacity to listen from citizens. Accountable leaders with responsibility and open and generous lenses focused on a philosophy of an updated direct democracy. Trustee or delegate, citizens or leaders vision? Whatever is the answer, the solution is always the same: accountability. Democracy is about citizens-politicians interacting and making the decision-making process a transparent process and not powerful hubs of the political machinery.

Trusting on the citizenship leadership is also about a new wave of exercising politics, beyond advocacy means a steady accountability mechanism that forces the political sector to be fully alert and responsive to citizens demands and their own performance in terms of results.

Trustee or delegate, exploring a new wave of living in uncertainty by bringing all on board!

*https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/06/25/incredible-rise-and-fall-and-rise-boris-johnson

*https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/trackers/boris-johnson-approval-rating

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