The Big Debate appears to be fulfilling the predictions of the cynics. Carefully constructed yet imprecise questions to which an invited (yet somewhat small) group are requested to respond to with ‘yes’ or ‘no’? It is reminiscent of those infuriating Facebook quizzes where you discover your vocation is author or that you are a party-animal etc. although you are well aware that the questions were so skewed and restrictive that the result is far from accurate.

In contrast, it seems that the parallel debate held on the same evening was a runaway success. Fruitful discussion was achieved at the well organised and well planned meeting. Whereas the first part of the Big Debate has resulted in politicians stating they will amend any perceived shortcomings for next Tuesday’s Round Two. Perhaps they should have asked a few backbenchers for assistance in planning the BD.

It will be interesting to see how things develop. Will government accept and act upon the findings of parallel debates? Failing to do this would surely leave government open to claims of not listening to the public. But would this really make any difference? In the past we have accepted statements from MHKs telling us government has listened to us and will not introduce unpopular Acts only to find the same measures have been introduced under the title of ‘new working practices’. (The pupil database). Not a single politician or civil servant was named as having been at fault with regard to this fiasco. But then what’s new about that? Accountability has to be introduced into government.. Without that little will change.


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