Let’s focus on the Citizens

2nd April, 2012 5:44 pm

Public opinion of the body politic has never been lower. Dinnergate is just the latest example of scandal and sleaze that has been the constant companion of the industry for as long as I care to remember. It is the Tories’ turn in the spotlight now, but the Labour Party were far from squeaky clean during our time in Government.

It may simply be an expectation game, that politicians can never deliver on the unrealistic anticipations of a demanding public. Or it may be that power really does corrupt. Whatever the reason, trust will not be regained with the publication of dinner details, just as it wasn’t with the introduction of a new expenses system in the Commons.

The answer therefore, may lie not in an attempt to repair old systems, although this is undoubtedly necessary, but in accepting and addressing the new reality of public engagement. It is somewhat of a fallacy that voters are more disengaged. They may be less inclined to knock on doors or deliver leaflets or even vote, but they still care passionately about the issues that affect their lives.

And it was these thoughts which led me to set up a Citizen’s Focus Group in my ward.

It has taken a while to come to fruition but the first meetings have been a huge success, well attended by passionate citizens who welcome the opportunity for a discussion of the issues without the burden of party loyalty hanging over their every word.

These conversations are happening every day, in pubs, and offices, on blogs and Twitter. But I found it incredibly refreshing that a group of strangers could come together, without loyalties or division, and discuss issues that may otherwise only reach their elected representatives through a partisan political filter.

I’ve been a Labour man my entire life, and a Labour councillor for the best part of 20 years. I hold the values of the party dear and believe that the vast majority of the population share them, at least to some extent. But if voters are unwilling to engage with our current political structures, we must find new ways to address their concerns and to represent their hopes. I hope the Citizens Forum in Broxtowe, and other organisations across the country like it can begin to do that.

For more on the results of my Citizens Focus Groups that have taken place so far this year, please see http://richardsrobinson.org.uk/what-new/

  • Brumanuensis

    This is a very interesting piece and I like the idea of Citizens’ Focus Groups. One question I do have is how you mitigate against the most politically-engaged – though not necessarily party politically-attached – monopolising the fora?

    • Hcrichard2004

      How do yu mitigate against the most politically engaged?  Very good question!  My answers a) have a strong chairperson b) specifically encourage those of no specific party allegiance to come c) let the meeting set the agenda d) advertise as widely as possible e) build up a good reputation!  Hope this helps

      • Brumanuensis

        Those do sound like good strategies and reading your website, this does sound like a promising venture. I’ll try and mention it to my CLP back home. Do you plan on inviting attendees to the CFGs to CLP meetings?


  • News Video “I never want to be remembered particularly” – Denis Healey’s final interview

    “I never want to be remembered particularly” – Denis Healey’s final interview

    Last night Newsnight aired the final broadcast interview that Denis Healey took part in before his death at the age of 98 this weekend. Filmed just a few weeks ago, the former Chancellor is asked how he would like to be remembered, replying modestly that “I never want to be remembered particularly.” He also says that he had entered politics in the 1940s because he wanted “to change the world”, but would probably not do so anymore “because the class […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured 5 things you need to know about the Tories’ energy and climate policies

    5 things you need to know about the Tories’ energy and climate policies

    1. The Tories’ energy and climate agenda is in a mess – and yesterday it got worse At their conference in Manchester the Tories desperately needed to re-set their approach to energy and climate change. Since the election the government has cut, delayed and scrapped multiple energy schemes putting jobs and investment at risk, setting back our efforts to tackle climate change. Before yesterday everyone knew the Tories’ green agenda was a mess, but in their speeches George Osborne and […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured The beast with two heads – Labour’s Cannibal Conference 2015

    The beast with two heads – Labour’s Cannibal Conference 2015

    Basking in the heady warmth of a late Indian summer, the weather could have been a metaphor for Labour conference. Inside #Lab15 members walked around in a hazy glow of Corbynmania. The new leader spoke to crowds faithful to him and his vision; a vision of hope, honesty and radical change.  Many members told me Jeremy was an inspiration; this was a new politics, which could deliver real change in our country. Their contagious optimism has led to overflowing rallies […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Trade unions supporting Heathrow expansion

    Trade unions supporting Heathrow expansion

    SPONSORED POST FAO: All Labour MPs 15 September 2015 GMB and UNITE SUPPORT HEATHROW EXPANSION On July 1st, the Airports Commission published their report which followed a lengthy, evidence-based consideration of Britain’s needs for greater airport capacity. That report unambiguously concluded that Heathrow should be expanded. We have joined together to support the Commission’s conclusion. We support the creation of successful businesses, economic growth and high quality jobs. The economic case for airport expansion in the South East was overwhelming; kicking this report into […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Unions Why we joined the tens of thousands marching in Manchester

    Why we joined the tens of thousands marching in Manchester

    By Cllr Jim McMahon and Cllr Kieran Quinn If you believe the hype, Greater Manchester’s aspiration and politics is all about the “Northern Powerhouse”. As Leaders of two Greater Manchester Councils playing important roles on the GM Combined Authority, we should be at the front and centre of this Tory ideal, keenly setting out our stall to display the “Powerhouse” at conference season. So when the Tory Party Conference descended on Manchester this week you be forgiven for thinking we’d […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends