Democratic deliberation should be an integral part of policy making

Matthew Taylor at the RSA: “I have, more or less, chosen the topic for my annual lecture. There’s just one problem. How do I get anyone to take notice?…The lecture will make the case for democratic deliberation to become an integral part of our political and policy making processes. I’ll do this by highlighting just a few of the many problems with our current form of representative democracy (and what is seen as its main alternative, direct democracy). I will argue that not only is deliberation the best way to gauge public preferences on many issues, but that by adding depth to debates and engagement it can help repair the democratic system as a whole. Indeed, deliberation is best seen not as an alternative to elections but as a way of making politics more about representing people and less about the fight between – often deeply unrepresentative – vested interests.

Making democratic deliberation a reality

An important and new aspect of my argument will be to suggest a set of practical measures. These are the policies that would need to be enacted if we wanted to take deliberation from the exotic and occasional margins of policy making instead to make it a recognised, vital and permanent part of how we are governed. For example, one might be that Government commit to holding at least two fully constituted citizens’ juries every year and to the relevant minister making a formal response to each jury’s outcomes in a statement to the House.

My speech may quote the Hansard Society democratic audit published today. This shows, on the one hand, an increase in people’s interest in politics and in their intention to vote but, on the other, very low ratings for the way we are governed and for the trustworthiness and efficacy of political parties; institutions which continue to be central to the way our democracy functions. …

Democratic deliberation is not the same as direct democracy nor is it simply another form of general engagement. It is the use of specific and robust methods to inform representative groups of ordinary citizens so that these citizens, having heard every side of an argument and having had a chance to deliberate, can reach a view which – like a jury in a criminal trial – can stand for the conclusions which would have been reached by any representative group going through the same process. As I will explain in my lecture, these processes have been used successfully on a wide range of issues in a wide variety of jurisdictions. The problem is not about whether deliberation works: it is about how to make it a core part of how we do politics….(More)”.