6.8.4 Political Negotiation
People need to be adequately represented in political negotiation, which needs to be respectful, inclusive, balanced and transparent.
Politicians must reconcile differing viewpoints when deciding how to govern, and decisions may be needed on specific issues without waiting for an election or change of government. Negotiation is therefore at the heart of their role. The people’s representatives, in the form of politicians (6.1.2) and recognised group spokespersons (6.4.4), need to be able to negotiate meaningfully and to reach decisions that are accepted as legitimate.
Consultation, as described previously (6.5.3), is a mechanism by which a government and its contractors can ask the population its opinions on matters of importance. There must be dialogue, though, if a consultation is to become a negotiation. People must be able to ask questions, receive the answers, and be able to see that they have influenced the policy. The consultation on the northern leg of Britain’s HS2 high speed railway, Seeking permission to build Phase 2b: Crewe to Manchester, looked as though it was going to be an exemplary negotiation between the government and the public. Sadly, this part of the project was later cancelled. The reported Industry backlash at Sunak’s ‘damaging’ U-turn on northern leg of HS2 illustrates the need to involve all the interested parties in a negotiation. It will not be possible to see how well the consultation would have worked in practice – and it is difficult to find good examples of such a process. It should not be an unattainable goal, though.
For political negotiation to be meaningful in the terminology of this book (2.4), it needs to be respectful, inclusive, balanced and transparent. The following sub-sections examine each of these criteria in turn:
● Respectfulness means recognising that each of the parties to a negotiation wants to be treated as an equal (188.8.131.52). Negotiations should aim to reach a position where all parties feel that they have benefited, in contrast to a confrontational approach – which results in dissatisfaction and continued conflict.
● Political inclusivity means ensuring that all affected groups are represented (184.108.40.206). Such an approach can compensate for the fact that no government is selected by all the people.
● Balanced negotiation means taking account of the numbers of people affected and the impacts on them (220.127.116.11).
● Transparency in consultations includes keeping people informed and explaining decisions (18.104.22.168). People should have the opportunity to comment and to see what has happened to their suggestions. This doesn’t often happen.
● If a negotiation results in a failure to agree, an appeal process may be needed – as described below (6.8.6)