The Mirage Of Debate
Dominic Fisher aka praguetory writes;
Meetings to debate policy on the conference fringe are numerous, packed and lively. Can we go back to how it was before?
Finding debates at conference on issues that matter with panels of experts is not difficult, but there is an important ingredient for a decent policy debate which you can't find in the conference booklet and that, in my opinion, is an audience that is interested in finding the right solution for society at large.
Unfortunately, a consequence of government appears to be the appearance of professional members of the audience. I think back to policy events I attended in Bournemouth in 2006 and Birmingham in 2008 where I was able to ask more than one question and talk one-to-one with the speakers at the end of the debate. That simply isn't happening this year.
This afternoon's Crowne Plaza 'debate' on Dynamic Benefits was a case in point. An incredibly important policy which deserves engagement and review. Once it was clear that Ian Duncan-Smith wasn't taking questions because he was leaving to prepare for his main platform speech a row of journalists left. What followed was 12 mini-speeches from people representing a variety of associations and organisations. I can barely remember what they asked. The most interesting question was the solitary one which came from an ordinary activist.
I go to policy meetings to challenge and be challenged. Journalists seeking something quotable or lobbyists putting arcane points on the record isn't my idea of fun. Unless we can have some debates for party members only, I must remember to sit nearer the back of these events.