Representation in Consultations

(This is an archived page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book.  Current versions are at book contents).

For more complex issues, people need to be able to see that their different interests are being adequately represented in political bargaining – even if they are neither informed nor interested in all the details.  People cannot be fully informed on every issue, but this does not mean that their views should be disregarded.  By delegating their consultation rights on a particular issue to a representative of an interest group to which they have declared an allegiance, their views can be taken into account. 

If a government tries to select its own representatives from ethnic groups, as was the case with the Muslim Council of Britain, they might not be seen as having sufficient legitimacy; for example, a Policy Exchange survey, Unsettled Belonging, found that:

“Groups like the Muslim Council of Britain enjoy the support of between 2 to 4% of Britain’s Muslims” (p. 8)

This report, though, also showed that “an overwhelming majority identify with their mosque and see it as representing their views (71%)” (p. 7) so there is a ready-made basis for local consultations.

There is considerable diversity within Islam, so it is not surprising that Muslims don't feel that they can be represented by a single body at national level.  Perhaps in general, consultation works best at local level.