One of the many organisations within the Tory Party is called Conservative Way Forward. They organise meetings and fundraising events and also run a blog which reflects the thinking of some of their members. One of their regular contributors is someone called Elizabeth who according to her biographical details “is a committed Conservative from south east London, and has held a number of positions in the voluntary and youth wings of the party. She works for a prestigious institution in London, and became involved in politics with the aim of spreading Conservative values.” The latest blog she has written is about the concept of democratic reform and how much she disagrees with some of the ideas that have been suggested by Jeremy Corbyn amongst many others. It is hard to distinguish between her criticism of Mr Corbyn and her rejection of some of the ideas he supports. If this is the best that Conservative Way Forward has to offer, we are in real trouble if the Tories continue to dominate our Government.
Elizabeth does not agree with attempts to reform the second Parliamentary chamber although she agrees that “The current system is, indeed, out of hand. But that has more to do with the culture that has taken over, rather than the system.” and instead she believes it would make more sense to turn history back about 20 years “Whilst personally I wouldn’t be too sorry to head back to a chamber of hereditary peers”.
Elizabeth then goes on to reflect on local forms of democratic reform “But even election doesn’t seem enough for Jeremy. Because he wants citizens assemblies. Except we have those. Those are local councils. Councillors are not strange, elite beings. At least from the Conservative side, a good many of them have come from a range of different backgrounds and professions. They are definitely citizens, they definitely assemble. People who aren’t Councillors can ask public questions. It’s not perfect, but I truly don’t think any political system can be.” Its hard not to laugh at the idea that a Council meeting bears any resemblance to a meeting of local people where the issues debated are not determined by party agendas but instead by those who participate. She is right to suggest that not all Citizens Assemblies are perfect, but at their heart they allow residents to have their say, not simply to ‘ask questions’ of local Councillors in a time and manner of the Councils choosing. Elizabeth writes “Yes there is a definite need to interest more people in politics, but having an assembly where people are randomly invited to turn up will not solve that issue.”. She is certainly right that solving such an intractable issue of getting people more involved in democracy won’t be solved by any one action. However returning to hereditary peerages and re-emphasising the importance of the public being seen and heard when it suits Councillors have been shown not to work over previous decades! Finally Elizabeth explains “Tinkering with the systems in place won’t solve anything. What will help, massively, is building trust and making politics relevant.” This appears to suggest that Conservative Way Forward believe that it is the public who have failed politics, not that democracy needs to be constantly reflecting the needs and views of our population!