CONsultation: how it works (continued)

CONsultation

Nice example this week of some more analysis-free pant wetting from the so-called journalists of the local press.

As part of his visit on Thursday, much play was made in The Cancer and on the local BBC of the so-called citizens’ jury “on issues related to children” Gordon Brown was also attending during his trip to the new Brunel Academy in Speedwell.

This jury, we were led to believe by our local press, was not just a crafty photo-op for Gordon to beam away alongside some happy, engaged-looking parents out in the provinces but an authentic opportunity for local people to engage and make a difference to government as part of Gordo’s “new politics”.

Fast forward to Friday and The Guardian’s front page: New nuclear row as green groups pull out. Here we learned that most of the UK’s environment charities are pulling out of a legally required consultation process involving 1,100 members of the public over the future of nuclear energy because, the charities claim, the government is distorting the evidence they are presenting to the public.

This huge consultation process is run by an organisation called Opinion Leader Research who are also entirely responsible for collating and presenting – what should be – the objective information for the public to consider on this issue.

So who organised the citizens’ jury at Speedwell on Thursday then? And who provided the objective information to the jurors? You got it – Opinion Leader Research!

Opinion Leader Research have considerable form where Gordon Brown is concerned too. The former head of the organisation Deborah Mattinson is so close to Brown she’s often described as Gordo’s “personal pollster” and the amount of contracts awarded from the Treasury during Brown’s tenure to OLR has been raising eyebrows for years.

On one famous occasion the Treasury even paid OLR over £153k to arrange a one day seminar on “The Skills Challenge: A Public Debate”… Nice work if you can get it!

All this stuff is, of course, very well known by the national dead tree press who just choose not to report it. This is partly because the press traditionally has little interest in – or understanding of – the minutiae of government and power such as its day-to-day relationships and financial transactions but also because these kind of relationships between politicians and favoured organisations are so endemic to government these days they’re considered normal by many Westminster-based journalists.

Now it seems local reporters are only too happy to join in with their own shallow, glowing reports of the great New Labour public consultation deception as well.

(The Blogger, incidentally, is keeping a very wary eye on the citizens’ jury taking place later this week on the future of the city’s waste and recycling services. It’ll be interesting to see how the local press report it.)

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