Hmmm, ‘Citizens’ Juries’ – Gordon Brown’s big new idea to get decision-making down with the people will, I predict, crash and burn as surely as all of the other big ideas that New Labour has bought from the Blue Sky Thinking ‘R’ Us shop.
Gordon Brown said CJs would be rolled out “across the country” – so obviously, obvee-bloody-losely, ’right across the country’ means just England, again.
I’m not against the idea of the common man or woman gathering to decide issues of local and national consequence – but it isn’t a new concept, the Anglo Saxons had them over a thousand years ago. And you just know that their CJ model would have been free of the politics and the spin that accompanies every single decision from New Labour – Citizen’s Juries being no exception.
It’ll just be more talking-shop opportunities for all those local busy bods that so blight our control freaked society. More excessive expense claims, more MBEing, more hot air and more guest appearances on BBC community TV programmes. The usual suspects will vent their spleens, present their recommendations to government - and be totally ignored.
A quick scan of the BBC’s CJ Q’n’A page confirms my worst fears.....
What exactly is a citizens' jury?
A citizens' jury is a group of between 12 and 20 people, chosen to represent the communities from which they come. According to ministers, they will be chosen independently and will not be experts on the topic under discussion, nor members of interest groups. They will be asked to look at real issues, in the same way as a jury does in a courtroom. The idea is to give ordinary people a bigger role in democratic decision making.
(Yeah, but I bet that big woman with the big flowery dresses and the big flowery head gear – the one who runs a kids refuge in London will be on loads of them).
Can people apply to take part on a jury?
According to the prime minister's official spokesman, the selection process will be decided by individual government departments and the organisers of the specific event. However, the idea is that those involved are genuinely representative of their communities.
(Cronies, cronies, cronies, cronies, cronies, cronies, cronies, cronies, cronies, cronies, busy-bodies and that big woman with the big flowery dresses and big flowery head gear...)
What subjects will be under discussion?
Children on Thursday and crime and communities will be the topic for another jury next week, followed by nine simultaneous juries - one for each region - on the NHS. There will also be a nationwide set of juries held on one day to debate issues including: crime and immigration, education, health and transport.
(So, ‘Nine simultaneous juries – one for each region’. Looks like these CJs will be a nice little lifeboat for all those local big-noises that are about to get the boot from the floundering SS Regional Assemblies gravy boat.)
How would they work?
The juries will spend a day, or several days, considering the chosen subject. They will be given facts and figures that have been independently verified and will hear "evidence" from a range of experts. Jurors will then discuss the issues among themselves before reaching a conclusion. Their decisions will be used to help advise ministers on policy.
(And ministers will actually take any notice of their recommendations?).
I’ll give Citizens’ Juries a year, tops - before they are quietly kicked into the long grass and forgotten about – unfortunately, the people like the big woman with the big flowery dresses and the big flowery head gear, will not.