There can be little doubt, judging from wall-to-wall media coverage, that we assume elections profoundly affect our lives. But there's a risk they have far less impact than we imagine. A recent wide-ranging study of Western governments over the last thirty years remarkably showed no relation between the ideological outlook of citizens and actual social policy. Moreover critics from the right and left argue that it is unelected officials and giant corporations that primarily determine policy whoever is elected. Meanwhile, long-standing political challenges like social care and inequality remain unaddressed for decades despite changing governments.

Should we conclude that only rarely do leaders, parties and government make a significant difference to core policy? Are elections largely about the show of democracy rather than the actuality? Could and should we change this state of affairs and if so how? Or is the belief that elections are important essential to democratic nation-states?