I don’t trust citizen’s assemblies

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I have noted what was said by Sam Tarry, who is Jeremy Corbyn's re-election campaign director, on Radio 4 this morning (reproduced via the Guardian) when he said

[A] complete overhaul of the entire [political] system” was needed, including giving citizens greater rights to challenge decisions taken on their behalf.

“That’s why we are suggesting things like citizens’ assemblies, genuinely participative and representative assemblies of people that could actually start to look at the big democratic deficit issues of the day,” Tarry said.

“This is really about drilling down to the local-est level possible. It is about saying we want more democracy in our economy, we need more democracy in our community and actually across the country, we need more democracy.

“Ultimately what we want to do is give more people more power to design their own democracy and what I mean by that is, for example, in this country we don’t even have a written constitution, we don’t even have our rights properly enshrined. What I would like to see is a citizen-led process to actually design the regulations that govern them, rather than just be told: this is how you will be governed.”

I do not agree.

I would not agree with unpaid MPs.

Or unpaid councillors.

I think it absolutely wrong that magistrates are unpaid.

Nor do I agree with the expectation that those serving on government appointed committees be unpaid.

Or that evidence is called from people who are not paid for it.

And for exactly the same reason I do not agree with citizen's assemblies.

For centuries the architecture of power in the UK was designed to make sure that only the wealthy could take part: the person who had to work for a living was denied the chance because they could not afford the time or cost of doing so. That was wrong. It still is wrong that people are denied access to power on consultations because they cannot afford to submit evidence: I have long suggested financial support should be available.

But as candidly, I think it just as wrong that democracy will be devolved under Corbyn's plans to those with the time to turn out to Citizen's Assemblies. What about people with childcare responsibilities? Or who have to work when the Assembly meets? What about those who have other interests in life and are committed to volunteering regularly? Is our democracy to be selected again on the basis of those with the time available to make a decision? If so, that is no democracy at all.

Our democracy is not perfect: sweep away the Lords, I say.

Pay local councillors more so people can afford to do the job.

Introduce PR, for heaven's sake (the one big reform Corbyn will not go near).

But don't, whatever happens, undermine the democratic process of voting in elections by creating a process where power is given up to those who will turnout relentlessly to claim control over communities who they no more represent than the aristocracy once did. That is not the way to any form of democracy that I know of. It is instead the route to oppression by a minority, and I will always oppose that, from wherever the suggestion comes.