Letter: Deliberative polling involves ordinary citizens in democratic process

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The Independent Online
Sir: Congratulations to the Independent for supporting and reporting 'deliberative polling' (9 May), the experiment televised by Channel 4 on Sunday night. Surely this did, indeed, point the way ahead for our fledgling mass democracy, highlighting the need to develop an electorate with informed views about the complex problems of modern societies. Two days and 300 people, however, is only a step in the right direction.

One striking feature was the contempt for elected politicians, especially those in government, which was not much affected by the experience of a wide range of conflicting views and the lack of obvious or easy answers. Tony Blair seemed to evoke the most positive response, yet was allowed to propose better support for victims, via improvements in the CPS and judicial system, without, apparently, explaining how this desirable goal was to be achieved within existing resources.

That suggests a topic for future exploration through deliberative polling - the tension between popular support for growth in public spending and reluctance at the ballot-box to elect a government committed to raising the necessary revenues. Set that in the context of current inequalities in wealth, income and opportunities, and the need for an economy capable of competing in world markets, and we could look forward to a weekend of even more lively debate.

Yours faithfully,

TREVOR HARVEY

Eastbourne, East Sussex

9 May

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