Shortly after his anointment as Labour leader and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown published the Governance of Britain Green Paper which set out how his Government would ‘forge a new relationship between government and citizen’.
In a flash of publicity Gordon Brown announced the introduction of Citizens’ Juries heralding a “new kind of politics.” So enamoured was the PM with citizens’ juries, that the document promised that the Ministers would consider placing on Ministers a ‘duty to consult on major decisions through mechanisms such as citizens’ juries’.
In a September 2007 speech Brown said: “Citizens juries will help government shape the policies in ways that the people for whom they are created want. So this is a new kind of politics. It is not an easy politics. It is not about gimmicks. It is about doing things the hard way - to find real solutions to the challenges we face.”
Unfortunately it appears that Citizens’ Juries were exactly that – a gimmick. Recent replies to Parliamentary Questions put down by Shadow Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP reveal that not one Citizens’ Jury has taken place since October 2008 by any government department.
Grant Shapps said: “Another Gordon gimmick has been exposed – Citizens’ Juries were nothing more than a desperate attempt to grab the headlines and make out like the Prime Minister was actually listening to the public."
Surely not. Actually, I am glad Citizens' Juries aren't being held anymore. They were hugely expensive, they did not involve ordinary members of the public and the audiences were handpicked. It seemed to me that they were not genuine exercises in consultation but instead they became vehicles for government PR.