Manual Transmission – Does consultation act as an accelerator or a brake? Or do we need the third foot-pedal?
There’s a real debate about the role that consultation plays in achieving significant social or political change.
Some say that going to consultation is a sure-fire way to slow down progress. Produce a radical idea that challenges existing vested interests, and howls of protest manifest themselves in all kinds of ways – including responses to the consultation. Cynics argue that embarrassing commitments made in the heat of election campaigns can be quietly buried by the deluge of detailed commentary deliberately generated by the formal processes of dialogue.
For those who believe that public opinion and the media follow rather than lead on matters of social change, one can argue that 21st century style consultation would in historic terms been a brake on progress. Debates on such contentious issues as capital punishment, abortion, prostitution, gay rights or current dilemmas surrounding religious, ethnic or linguistic minorities can uncover prejudices which a consultation exercise can easily make manifest – or even magnify.