The Citizen or Democracy in Hard Times

“Democracy is not sick and feeble, but it needs rejuvenating”


Gorwel publishes today the first instalment of David Melding's A Survey of Politics in Wales. It is entitled The Citizen or Democracy in Hard Times. The next instalment will look at Europe. Further essays on Britain and the Union will follow over the next 12 months. Each essay asks how Wales is being shaped by and indeed helps form these broader forces.


In Democracy in Hard Times David Melding states that “what is most important to grasp is that democracy is a radical idea” and its defence now requires “a more rigorous duty to participate”. Wales as a new and small democracy has an opportunity to help lead the way to a participatory democracy. It was the work of the people that built democratic institutions, now active citizenship must help sustain a democracy that can flourish in the 21st century.


Some of the reforms he advocates are:

  • Citizens’ service: a general obligation that is occasionally called upon, as jury service is now;
  • A universal income, to complement the principle of citizens’ service;
  • A citizens’ chamber of the National Assembly to discuss a Gwerin’s programme;
  • A National Assembly commissioned news service to facilitate coverage in the regional and local press;
  • Greater use of citizens’ juries to examine policy options and reforms;
  • The teaching of citizenship in schools and a focus on public decisionmaking and the skills it needs to flourish;
  • Reform of town and community councils to nurture the roots of democracy. Councils would include some citizen members drawn by ballot to sit alongside elected members;
  • And a protocol on how to conduct referendums, to enhance citizen decisionmaking while requiring deliberation by Parliament or the National Assembly.


As David says, “Today the greatest act of political leadership would be to enhance the energy of citizenship – a democratic vision that would match the excitement of the Chartists and all who have sought to create open, free societies”.


In keeping with the spirit of participative democracy, the essays will also invite comments and challenge from readers and the best of these will be published in the final book form of the work.

To provide any feedback, please email: /

To watch a video of David discussing the essay with journalist and broadcaster Gareth Hughes (Golwg), please visit:

To download the essay, please see the attached document.


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First Essay 67.42 KB