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

  • Europe News Cooper says Cameron’s migration target is “in tatters” – and Tory backbenchers agree

    Cooper says Cameron’s migration target is “in tatters” – and Tory backbenchers agree

    Yvette Cooper has slammed David Cameron’s major speech on EU immigration, saying that he has spent weeks of “posturing, pandering and making more promises he can’t keep” in order to placate his backbenchers, rather than coming up with practical solutions. Cameron said that he wanted to extend the period that EU migrants would have to wait before claiming benefits from three months to four years – double the two years Labour announced last week. But Shadow Home Secretary Cooper said […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland Labour will implement Smith Commission proposals in first Queen’s Speech, pledges Miliband

    Labour will implement Smith Commission proposals in first Queen’s Speech, pledges Miliband

    Ed Miliband today said that the vow he made to radically devolve powers to Holyrood during the referendum campaign had been ‘signed, sealed and delivered’ by the publication of the Smith Commission’s report yesterday. He told an audience in Glasgow this morning that Labour would fully implement the proposals set out by the report in the first Queen’s Speech if elected next year. You can read Mark Ferguson’s take on the Smith Commission’s report here. Miliband said: “A vow was […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Diane Abbott expected to announce she will run to be London Mayor

    Diane Abbott expected to announce she will run to be London Mayor

    It’s rumoured that tomorrow at London Labour party conference Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, will announce that she will run to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London. Abbott  was Shadow Minister for Public Health until last year and has been the Labour MP for the north east London constituency for twenty seven years – where she doubled her majority in 2010. Prior to becoming an MP she was elected to Westminster City Council in 1982. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Government is broken – Labour need to use the digital revolution

    Government is broken – Labour need to use the digital revolution

    People are shut out of government and they know it. Government is broken. The British state is not fit for purpose. They both need a radical re-design. I’ve been running Labour’s policy review and we asked two fundamental questions. What do we want government to do? And what role can digital technology play in creating a government that will better serve our country? The answers were pretty simple. We need a new way of governing our country that gives British […]

    Read more →
  • News It’s “unbelieveable” Cameron has recommended Lansley for top UN job, say Labour

    It’s “unbelieveable” Cameron has recommended Lansley for top UN job, say Labour

    It’s rumoured that David Cameron has recommended former health secretary Andrew Lansley for a senior position in the UN. When health secretary – before he was replaced by Jeremy Hunt in 2012 – it was Lansley who oversaw the Government’s extremely controversial Health and Social Care Act 2012. He then became Leader of the House of Commons before being replaced by William Hague, meaning Lansley is no longer in the cabinet. He also announced that he would be standing down […]

    Read more →