This is a project proposal which has been bubbling away for a while. I have now had three meetings with different council officials who are clearly interested in the idea but don’t know where to take it.
There is also interest on the part of some councillors while apparently others are resistant to the idea. The original proposal sought to address two questions:
- What are the threats and opportunities to Cornwall posed by our departure from the EU? This question is asked with particular reference to employment, housing and public services following our departure from the EU.
- How can local people and communities play a more active part in shaping the
decisions that matter to them.
This project proposal was modelled on an earlier Citizens Assembly on Brexit which was
designed and delivered by University College London. It also draws on learning lessons from other recent citizens assemblies in both the UK (the assemblies addressing devolution in Southampton and Sheffield in 2015) and the recent highly successful citizens assembly in Ireland to address the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution on abortion.
What has all this got to do with the progressive alliance?
Just this: citizens assemblies are a form for deliberative democracy that moves beyond highly polarised, tribal party politics. Through expert facilitation and the provision of fact based evidence, they enable ordinary people to learn about an issue, question expert witnesses and arrive at a consensual decision.
It is about having an adult conversation – in place of infantile adversarial debate by our elected MPs and leaders.
There is now a large body of evidence that shows the ability of ordinary people to grasp complex issues and through reasoned argument, find common ground as the basis for consensual decision making.
The Party is over
The discord and chaos we now see in Parliament exposes a redundant party political system that has had its day. It can only be rescued and re-configured by a more participative democracy that brings together people to address issues in place of competitive party politics.
Whether or not this particular proposal for a Cornwall Citizens Assembly sees the light of day is another matter. It may not. But it will certainly not be the last time you see such proposals touted either here or elsewhere.
Change is coming – and not soon enough.