From Brexit stasis to domestic policy backlog, there is much to complain about right now. But, in the spirit of Reaction’s new Better Britain series — its admirable aim being to urge our politicians to rediscover their “moral seriousness” — I’m going to attempt to be positive here about the scope for democratic renewal.

First, it is worth acknowledging some of the biggest missed opportunities of the past couple of years. Not to whine, but deep policy problems persist and the need to address them has grown ever more intense.

But my partisan preferences — for free-trade deals, farming policy reform, fighting against nanny-state interventions, and so on — aren’t what I want to address here. Rather, I’m more interested in the fundamentals. I’ve written elsewhere about the chance we now have for setting aside old animosities and forging new alliances, based on real commitments to values such as freedom and equality, in the face of technocratic failure. And I hope those alliances will happen. But, as a nation, we are also in urgent need of a thorough examination of our institutions.

This should have formed a natural part of the Brexit process after the referendum. That process should have involved not only leaving the EU, but also full consideration of why it was people wanted to leave, and how it might be done sensibly in a way that would help us meet the UK’s needs and preferences, while leaving us able to fulfil our international obligations.

Of course, Brexit has helped to make the big issues — such as freedom, sovereignty, and democracy — of popular interest again. And the EU referendum has raised renewed questions about the functioning of our democratic system. There is interest in the overdue need for boundary reform for example. We also need a proper assessment of past and ongoing reforms to our major institutions, such as the impact of the introduction of a supreme court, devolved parliaments, and changes made to the formation of the House of Lords.

I come to all this, like many people, having been thinking a lot about democracy recently. I’ve just written a paper, published today — for FREER, the initiative I direct — on the topic.

My paper is not a historical exposition of democratic forms of government, nor does it contain a long list of practical solutions to improve the UK’s democratic mechanisms.

Instead, I have attempted to provide a strong  justification for an adherence to this method of governance. My aim is to explicate democracy’s vast importance and value on the grounds that it — or at least the core political rights it entails, which are, to my mind, the rights to life, liberty, and political participation — is a necessary and precious part of a good society.

My paper was inspired by my sadness at what seems to be a growing lack of commitment to democracy in this country.

The frustration felt by many Britons and their scepticism about accepting specific results — including complaints about whether or not it is worth bothering to vote — seems to me to get things dangerously back to front.

We need to focus on why it is that people should have the opportunity — or have the right — to vote. It is not the content of democratic decisions that legitimise democracy’s place in a political society. Rather, on a rights-based view like mine, it is democracy itself that helps legitimise our society: justifying it, and making its directives morally binding.

It is, of course, essential for us to have better practical manifestations of democracy. Brexit gives us a chance to consider the most appropriate democratic structures for various kinds of deliberation, and to assess the problems within our current structures. The one practical suggestion I do make in my paper is that a good starting point would be to institute a proper focus on increasing local decision-making — something that has been seriously overlooked in recent years.

The UK is well-known for its excessive centralisation, and particularly so in regard to fiscal policy and spending.

England is particularly highly centralised. Despite a faux-focus on localism, with iniatives such as the Northern Powerhouse, the policy changes that have taken place in England have not brought about the decentralisation of power that was promised. Rather, endless modifications to the lower levels of government have left us with, at best, a long list of confusing acronyms. Moreover, while the devolution of spending powers has been included in most of the recent supposed decentralisation projects, where this has occurred, it has been in a highly controlled manner, involving the top-down allocation of centrally ringfenced budgets.

There are many strong arguments, backed up by international examples, for the increased economic efficiency and growth opportunities of genuine decentralisation. This is particularly the case when revenue-raising powers are devolved alongside spending powers. Indeed, the uncoupling of the two has been shown to be more likely to result in worse economic consequences. Proper localism, therefore — focused on autonomy as well as funding, and revenue-raising as well as spending — would empower citizens in ways that are not only economically beneficial, but also practically realise people’s political rights, by providing an opportunity to increase their purchase on decision-making.

Decentralisation is just a starting point.

It is hard not to feel that the main problems — and potential solutions — of the day have been obscured by a lack of political commitment at Westminster to leaving the EU.

Our politicians have spent the last few years doing little more than rehashing the 2016 referendum: with many asking whether, maybe, we should remain, after all.

This has obviously stoked discontent. It is eating away at the already slender trust in our political institutions and procedures — including in democracy, itself. But it also a indicative of a deeper negligence. We must restore faith in the fundamentals of democracy and embark on an honest examination of how to improve our institutions.