UK Gov ignores crowd-sourced policy ideas

Britain's ruling coalition wants to be seen as the listening government. But it appears ministers are only hearing what they want to hear.

After a series of online campaigns aimed at encouraging the British public to offer its ideas on future legislation, the Government yesterday posted a video outlining its response.

And while Conservative David Davis allegedly derided the partnership of PM David Cameron and his deputy, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, as the "Brokeback coalition", the stars of the government's new YouTube video take their cue from a very different Hollywood duo: The Odd Couple.

Minister for Government Policy Oliver Letwin and Lib Dem whippersnapper Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, can be seen poring over voters' suggestions in possibly the most wooden performance this side of a Ronseal ad.

"At last, Government is beginning to realise that there are 60 million citizens who really do have ideas," Olly tells Danny.

"The onus is on us to make this a permanent change in the way Government does business," responds Danny earnestly.

After appeals for feedback via the 'Spending Challenge' and 'Your Freedom' websites, individual departments have trickled out their responses over the past week.

So why the half-heartedness? In short, because voters' responses are being ignored. Nearly 9,500 reactions to the Coalition Programme have so far been published, but only a fraction of those are being acted upon by departments - namely, the ones that agreed with the policies the government intended to pursue anyway.

In the video, Letwin and Alexander draw attention to a user's request for greater transparency in local government decision-making - and point to pre-existing plans in the government's Sustainable Communities Act.

Elsewhere, the Foreign Office robustly fended off calls for a withdrawal from Europe. The Home Office similarly rebuffed calls for a complete ban on immigration. Calls for the regulation of bankers' bonuses, the scrapping of the Trident replacement nuclear defence programme a rethink on 'free schools' were similarly ignored.

Some websites calling for public response have simply become platforms for those with extreme axes to grind. The Treasury's 'Spending Challenge' was briefly suspended after a spate of posts spouting race hate and abusing disabled people and other groups.

One visitor to the site called for a ban on "illegal immergrants (sic) that cant even speak english". Another called for the compulsory sterilisation of young girls who "just breed at will".

The Programme For Government site promises further consultation over the coming year. Just don't expect anything to come of it.