Dr John Boswell, Dr Roger Tyers and Mr Joshua Huckins – written evidence (FGU0014)
House of Lords Constitution Committee
Inquiry into the Future governance of the UK
We welcome the Constitution Committee’s Inquiry on the Future Governance of the United Kingdom. These are crucial questions to ask in a period of declining trust in the efficacy and legitimacy of Britain’s governance arrangements. To restore this trust, we believe that citizens themselves must be at the heart of effort to rethink, reform and renew institutions and practices of power sharing, multi-level governance, and democratic accountability. Our submission draws directly on insights from our recent report on innovative forms of citizen engagement in the UK. Our big idea to address the Committee’s questions and tackle declining trust head-on is to ask citizens to take on the task themselves, through a dedicated Citizens’ Assembly.
A) Increased attention requires significant investment in robust methods and practices, tapping into UK’s world-leading expertise in practice and research in this field. As Citizens Assemblies in the UK have grown in number and prominence, they have begun to attract more critical scrutiny and attention. Sound investment to uphold standards in deliberation time, methods of selection, and expert facilitation can ensure an event is robust to common criticisms, and gains widespread legitimacy.
B) Citizens’ Assemblies need buy-in from a diversity of stakeholders. Support from across the political spectrum, and from key stakeholders across the UK, is crucial.
C) There is a need to clarify the goals of any Citizens’ Assembly in advance, and connect it to deeper and broader forms of democratic participation. In essence, a Citizens’ Assembly can ideally become a key catalyst for transforming and progressing a wider public conversation – but it is not a ‘magic bullet’ to replace or forego that wider conversation.
D) There is a need to follow through on citizen recommendations and evaluate long-term impacts on constitutional change. There is a risk that a Citizens’ Assembly on Constitutional Reform may become a ‘feelgood’ one-off event. Taking steps to ensure ‘follow through’ will ensure the impact is more meaningful and lasting.