Let’s focus on the Citizens

April 2, 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?

Latest

  • Comment Reaching new communities

    Reaching new communities

    This article is from Our Labour, Our Communities – a pamphlet of 10 essays by Labour PPCs, published by LabourList in partnership with Lisa Nandy MP. I am proud to be standing as the candidate for my hometown of Hastings & Rye, but I am equally proud to stand as a parliamentary candidate who is also half Chinese and half British. My mother is Chinese Malaysian and came to this country 41 years ago to be a nurse in Hastings and continues to […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Cutting Trident will be the price of support in a hung parliament. That’s the news reported from a meeting of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green leaders this week. With Labour’s slim lead and the SNP and Green vote threatening to impact on its share, this is a serious issue. Labour’s policy clearly states, ‘Labour has said that we are committed to a minimum, credible independent nuclear deterrent, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. It would require a clear body […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Lord Ashcroft has told him he shouldn’t have done it in 2010. Lynton Crosby has told him not to do it in 2015. It’s no surprise that David Cameron is trying to wriggle out of televised leader debates during the General Election – even though he has said he is willing to take part “in principle”. Time perhaps to dust off one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite barbs “He’s frit.” Neil Kinnock tried it in 1992 to try to goad John Major into […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    By Stephen Timms MP and Ian Murray MP The Christmas period reminds us that modern life can be busy, hurried and demanding. The pressures of work, demands of family life and hectic Christmas schedules can prove stretching as we juggle competing demands. Increasingly the need for flexible work is driven by the complex shape of people’s lives; as parents go to work, struggle to make ends meet, perform career roles, take their children to school and activities and try and carve […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    As the start of the long campaign begins today, curbing the amount of money parties can spend between now and May 7th, Labour MP Jon Ashworth has sought to clarify what precautions are being taken to ensure publicly-funded government advisers are not using their time campaigning. Ashworth has sent a letter to senior civil servant Jeremy Heywood, asking him to answer a number of questions about what kind of campaigning activity was permitted and undertaken by special advisers (SpAds) in […]

    Read more →