Just over a year since the National Conversation’s “experiment in democracy” got up and running, the disconnect between parliament and people continues to grow.
Yesterday the Hansard Society – a non-partisan political research and education charity – launched its tenth annual Audit of Political Engagement.
In today’s Daily Telegraph, Peter Oborne lists key findings from the Society’s polling research:
We learnt that barely 20 per cent of the public can name their local MP, half the number of just two years ago. Just one in 10 of 18- to 24-year-olds say they are certain to vote, down from three in 10 two years ago. Only 41 per cent of adults say they are guaranteed to vote in the next general election, compared to 48 per cent last year. And 20 per cent of voters are certain not to vote, twice as many as two years ago.
The scale of public ignorance is impressive: one third of voters are under the impression that they elect members of the House of Lords.
Oborne concludes that the growing gulf between Westminster and the public is down to a widely-held perception that “far too many MPs are greedy, fraudulent, sleazy and corrupt”.
While we certainly encountered this perception during the National Conversation pilot in 2012, we found that people were more likely to be disillusioned with Westminster because they believe that politicians – in general – did not share their concerns.
What the Hansard Society’s Audit tells us is that Britain needs more National Conversations to bring people together with politicians. We need this kind of open and active engagement to grow understanding and begin to heal the disconnect.