Governments that are elected with 30-40% of the vote (and with a low turnout even less as a % of the population) but achieve majorities cannot wonder that their legitimacy is challenged. At the moment we seem to accept low turnouts, lack of engagement and cynicism (Timeline - Current - Political Participation and Disengagement). This is the opposite of what change management tells us works – people need to be engaged, go on the journey, commit to the solution. Political institutions therefore need re-thinking in order to bring more people into the process.
The necessary bureaucracies that run the country (the civil service, local government and a whole raft of agencies, arms-length organisations, trusts – renamed but still in effect quangos) are not, as we idealise, accountable to our elected politicians. They are very often the subject of patronage and then left (at arms-length) to get on with it. If not secretive in their proceedings, they don’t exactly court publicity.
All ideas welcome
In brainstorming it is common practice as step one to go round the table and capture all ideas, there is no judgement about whether the idea is any good or not until all ideas have been captured. Once all ideas have been collected they are considered and a shortlist can be created. Then harder work starts exploring the runners in more detail. Consensus is developed gradually first everyone has their say, then the shortlist is agreed and then the harder work starts, exploring the runners in more detail.
Crafting a political process that encourages ideas is a challenge. Gov.uk petitions is a very small start and is reactive, perhaps it’s appropriate for subjects to petition but it should not be the preferred way for citizens to interact.
As we have seen, with narrow involvement we only get a narrow set of ideas which are not subject to scrutiny and, if they change as a result of elections, how this occurs is quite obscure. In the case of the Leaseholders Advisory Service people with difficult or contrary views have been barred from meetings (Timeline - Present - Poor Governance - Leaseholders Association).
Cooperation to find solutions
The adversarial nature of politics turns many people off. Almost anyone in Westminster will say that the place runs on cross party talks: collaboration because otherwise nothing would get done. The public face of Westminster is opposite to this - why? The parliamentary process is not static but the changes identified (Democratic Audit) are in the nature of fine tuning when what is needed is to think through ways in which co-operation can be built into the system so that it becomes a fundamental part of the process, and fundamental to the methods of working.