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Democratic Politicians

This activity is one of the series of games I have created and implemented during my post as Assistant Lecturer on the module PO314: Introduction to Political Theory at the University of Kent (2017/18).

Drawing inspiration from the small group exercise Competence[1], I designed a decision-making game in which students were invited to become “representative politicians”. In turns, each student picked a classmate’s name and a question from the respective bags and was required to make a decision on behalf of them (see below for the list of questions). By playing out the process involved in representative democracy, the idea of this exercise was to explore how the students felt about representing their colleague’s interests, which led to a wider discussion about how politicians make decisions on behalf of them. With most students feeling they could not represent anyone other than themselves, we discussed the problems involved in representative democracy. This game set up a critical debate on whether the representation in the UK House of Commons equally represented UK citizens. This session was observed by my module convenor, who noted that “The game provided an excellent resource for getting the students thinking about the topic, and getting all students to contribute in a friendly and non-coercive manner”.


  1. Write your name on a piece of paper and fold it up.

  2. Place into “name” bag.

  3. One by one each of you will take it in turns to pick a name from the bag and a question from the “question” bag.

  4. One by one you will each become the “representative politician”.

  5. You have to pick again if you’ve picked your own name.

  6. Read the name and the action aloud to the rest of the group, and make the decision for the name picked.

  7. Your decision can be as simple as yes or no, but you have to make it (the group depends on you!).

List of questions:

  • Should [insert name] be able to marry?

  • Should [insert name] go to war?

  • Should [insert name] help people in other countries?

  • Should [insert name] have control over their body?

  • Should [insert name] be considered a citizen?

  • Should [insert name] be able to live in the UK?

  • Should [insert name] have access to free healthcare?

  • Should [insert name] be deported if they are considered to be promoting terrorism?

  • Should [insert name] have to pay tuition fees?

  • Should [insert name] degree grade be judged entirely on one, one-hour exam?

  • Should I (the reader) be able to monitor [insert name] emails and phone calls?

  • Should [insert name] get paid less than me for working the same job?

  • Should [insert name] display their emotions during a political argument?

  • Should [insert name] have more entitlements than me?

  • Should [insert name] act as an individual or as part of a collective?

  • Should [insert name] agree to follow the decision I make for them or disagree and revolt against my decision if I make the wrong one for them?

  • Does [insert name] trust me to make a decision for them?

  • Would I (the reader) trust [insert name] to make a decision for me?

  • Am I (the reader) the best judge of what’s in the interest of [insert name] own personal interests?

  • Would [insert name] be the best judge of what’s in the interest of my own personal interests?

Seminar Questions:

  1. How did it make you feel to have made that decision for the other person?

  2. How did it make you feel having a decision made for you by somebody else?

  3. How does it make you feel having politicians making decisions for you?

  4. Can they represent each of us and our differences, and choose what we would choose for ourselves?

[1] Gastil, J. Democracy in Small Groups: Participation, Decision Making, and Communication. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1993, 174.

*This activity was performed on 10th and 11th October 2017 during the seminar.

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