Jeremy Corbyn's vow to democratise PMQs could be revolutionary - but there are three things to consider before jumping in at the deep end

Ian McVey
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Can Corbyn draw on the wisdom of crowds? (Source: Getty)
Traditionally, the great British public is given a vote every five years. Now it seems we’ll be able to raise our concerns every week.
Jeremy Corbyn's crowdsourced questions for his first PMQs has given the electorate a voice it has seldom enjoyed during the course of a Parliament. If this new strategy gains momentum, it could have far greater implications than merely holding politicians to account.
With only six questions to ask, Corbyn could not represent all the 40,000 people who responded to his call to democratise PMQs. In the coming months he will have a tough time keeping tabs of his ever-swelling post bag as people wake up to this new and unexpected opportunity to engage.
That said, Corbyn has the wind in his sales. Enabled by technology and encouraged by social media’s peer pressure, people have never been keener to engage. They actively want to share their thoughts, to make things better. In the connected age, these customers are enjoying the limelight of social recognition and social power. Much as workers have become associates, customers have become partners.
Now it seems that the electorate, notorious for its traditional apathy and low turnout during elections, has finally caught up.
Digital engagement is driving much of this and will only get stronger. ONS reports 38 million adults (76 per cent) in Great Britain access the internet every day, 74 per cent of all adults buy goods or services online up from 53 per cent in 2008 and access to the internet using a ‘phone doubling between 2010 (24 per cent) and 2014 (58 per cent). The question is less ‘where will it end’ and more ‘how do we keep up?’.
It is a sad reality that against this background of rising customer expectations, UK plc has never been under so much pressure, or scrutiny. A costly rise in the number of ‘touch points’ peaks and troughs in customer trust coincide with a backdrop of competitive disruption, customer disloyalty and regulatory change. It is small wonder the voice of the customer often struggles to be heard among management silos.
There are three points that Corbyn - or indeed any politician and business attempting to fully engage with their voters and consumers - must consider before jumping in at the deep end.
People will respond if you invite them to, but that response need to be taken on board.
You cannot fashion policy, or product, without knowing what the voter, or customer wants: banks, for instance, need to ask themselves where their customer feedback is being fed back into. Across the business? To intelligent people who know how to intervene in the data set, to collate, extrapolate and share it? Or to the same algorithm that asked the question in the first place.
Finally, any effort they take to attract their customers’ insight, does not involve pushing out surveys, but ‘pulling in’ data, the lifeblood of markets, the foundations of the sharing society. It is invaluable.
Only then can the individual voice of leadership and experience be informed by the collective wisdom of the crowd be informed by and a real difference be made.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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