Today on Radio 4's World at One, contributors suggested we need a national conversation on two matters - the relationship between police and the communities they serve; and a Beveridge-style report to define social policy as we emerge from the pandemic.
Such things don't happen in the House of Commons or the devolved Assemblies. And national Commissions or Inquiries tend to be limited consultation exercises with experts and other interested parties. There is rarely a hint of a conversation.
Citizens' Assemblies might do the trick:
- These involve a group of around 100 people, broadly representative of the population meeting over a period of time to debate such topics
- Participants hear from experts and produce recommendations to which their governments have promised to respond
- The outcome can't be controlled by politicians, who in turn have to respond positively to results
- They have e.g., taken place in Ireland, leading to referenda on same sex marriage and abortion
- The process can lead to people changing their views even on subjects which are hotly contested and then possibly influence the wider community beyond the Assembly
- It appears to be a surprisingly cost effective way to drive change
Perhaps it's time for us to have a national conversation about how to have a national conversation and then get on with it.
“This is the way forward... It has to be.”