Representation in Consultations

People need to be able to see that they are being adequately represented in negotiations on difficult issues.  They themselves might not be informed or interested in all the details, but someone they trust can represent them in a consultation.  They need to have confidence in the process for selecting participants.

The OECD guidelines referred to in the previous sub-section ( recommend statistical techniques for selecting the people to become involved in ‘deliberative democracy’: “random sampling from which a representative selection is made to ensure that the group broadly matches the demographic profile of the community (based on census or other similar data)”.  This is intended to ensure that everyone feels that the decision-making process is sound.  It adds to the government’s legitimacy.

An alternative method, which ensures that people’s particular interests are catered for, is to delegate their consultation rights to a representative of an interest group to which they have declared an allegiance.  If a government tries to select its own representatives from ethnic groups, as was the case with the Muslim Council of Britain for example, they might not be seen as having sufficient legitimacy: 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)

Page 7 of this report, though, also showed that “an overwhelming majority identify with their mosque and see it as representing their views (71%)” – 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.  This is a strong argument for localisation of governance where possible, as described later (6.6.2).

Some consultations must be conducted on a national basis if the objective is to frame legislation.  There are several national interest groups that people trust: Chambers of Commerce and Trade Unions for example, when discussing employment legislation, or recognised organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the National Farmers Union when discussing the environment.  The nominated spokespeople for interest groups would need to be accepted as legitimate by all participants, so credible processes are needed for selection (and de-selection) and they would have to be given negotiating rights; this depends upon the internal governance of each group.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6532.htm.