Democracy, by general consent, is in a parlous state. Fewer people are voting or joining political parties, cynicism and alienation are widespread, debate is polarised, governments are perceived as in thrall to powerful interests.

According to the UK’s Electoral Commission, the single most important issue arising from the 2001 election was the need to address urgently and radically” the decline in public participation.

As Perry Walker shows in this NEF pocketbook, it doesn’t have to be this way. The last decade has seen a host of new initiatives aimed at giving people a voice as well as a vote – and thus of rejuvenating democracy where it matters, at the grassroots.

The constitutional reform” programme has largely ignored them – possibly because they involve a radical handover of power back to the people. But a genuinely participatory democracy not only offers the prospect of more efficient government and more meaningful national debates”. As the evidence demonstrates, it makes people happier too.