Wednesday 31 July 2019 4:19 am

DEBATE: Are the citizens’ convention on UK democracy proposals a good idea to restore faith in politics?

Eliot Wilson is head of research at Right Angles and a former House of Commons official.
Lauren McEvatt
Lauren McEvatt is managing director of Morpeth Consulting, and a former government adviser.

Are the citizens’ convention on UK democracy proposals a good idea to restore faith in politics?

Eliot Wilson, chief writer at Right Angles and a former House of Commons official, says YES.

“Politics is broken.” That’s been the mantra for years now, at least since the expenses scandal of 2009. There has been a terrible rent opened between elected and electors, and an almost-complete loss of public trust.

We’ve all heard the phrases: “in it for themselves”; “just for the few”. If you believe in democracy as the best form of representative government we can have, it’s a dispiriting landscape.

One solution proposed is a citizens’ convention on UK democracy. This would engage with as large a section of the population as possible, and ask fundamental questions about how our system operates, not about individual policies. Think discussions on campaign finance, not Brexit.

I don’t know if it will work. Maybe people are so apathetic that they won’t even respond. But,after more than 10 years working in parliament, I’m convinced that something has to be done. Structured, popular change is better than revolution. A change is gonna come, oh yes, it will.

Lauren McEvatt, managing director at Morpeth Consulting, says NO.

There are a host of problems with these proposals: they are unrepresentative, their costs underestimated, and their security protections to prevent undue foreign influence non-existent.

There is no baseline of education required, nor any remedy proposed to make up for the poor civic education throughout the UK in the last 30 years.

The use of household data from Royal Mail instead of electoral roll data will inevitably favour men. There are no provisions for weighing representation between the regions, and other constitutional partners such as the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories do not feature at all.

A £3m budget is proposed, when the government’s last mass mail-out for the EU referendum pamphlet cost over £9m. A two-year timeline is laughable – the last commission on devolution in Wales took over five years.

And the whole product will then be considered by parliament itself, where most people who are sick of politics feel the original problems rest.

The UK’s constitution is in need of repair, but not this way.

Main image credit: Getty

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.