The Bickerstaffe Record

The world beyond West Lancashire

How Not To Run Democratic Debate, by The Hansard Society

08.12.08 | 2 Comments

Commenting the other day on Never Trust a Hippy’s post on the need to defend the validity of democratic institutions, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen where the Hansard Society’s ‘new space for democratic debate’ had got to recently. This Democracy Series project began in May 2006 and was supposed to be a 12 month affair, funded by the then Department for Constitutional Affairs, in which six booklets on different themes around democracy would be written with contributions from ‘experts’, with public launches and then a vibrant online debate about it all.  Nothing wrong in that, in principle. 

It’s now 2 years and 3 months since the launch of the first booklet.  The fifth of the six booklets was published on line in July 2008.  So far, on the five themes covered, there have been a grand total of 18 comments (and one of those is mine).  The latest theme – Democracy and Intervention – has had no comments at all. Not then, I think you’ll agree, an absolutely overwhelming success in the creation of this new ‘space’ for debate, and it would make surely sense to question the capacity of the Hansard Society, which I’m sure is very good at lots of things, to pull this kind of thing off.  We can only imagine what might have happened had, let’s just say, Bloggers4Labour, been given some of the dosh to make it happen (or, heaven forbid, Iain Dale). 

So who’s been given the job of managing the six month blogging trial Lords of the Blog? Yup, you’ve guessed it – The Hansard Society.  Was their track record on internet-based delivery taken into account during the tender process?  Was there a tender process?  (They may be doing it for free, in which case I take it all back, but I suspect not.)

To be fair, the publicity for this blog does appear to have been a bit better managed this time (like here), and there are a few comments on the site so someone’s watching it at least.  And I like the name.  On the other hand, the fact that they only guarantee moderation and posting of comments within 48 hours suggests a continuing lack of capacity, or proper understanding of the needs of the medium.  



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