Consultation - what's the point?

Everyone in the energy industry knew that last year's Energy Review was a fix. Now a judge has recognised it too, and told the Government to consult properly on the nuclear issue. Labour have such contempt for the public that they couldn't even pretend to be listening.

What is really revealing is Tony Blair's response to the decision. "This won't affect the policy at all", he says. So what exactly is the point of consultation, if the Prime Minister rules out the possibility that any submissions will present any argument or evidence that might affect his thinking?

I am no fan of public consultation, referenda or petitions (vis-a-vis the current road-pricing debate). Most of us know very little about most of the issues that we elect our representatives to consider. Nor should we - we have better things to do with our time. That is why we have a system of representative democracy. Parliament should consist of the brightest and the best, weighing the evidence and debating the issues on our behalf. Their considerations are unlikely to be improved by soliciting the uninformed opinions of those who elected them to act on their behalf.

But Labour should be honest about this. If they think they know best, they should say so, not hold dummy consultations to try to legitimize (according to some bogus notion of how democracy works) what they always intended to do. But that would mean that, when they get it wrong, they would have to admit that they have only themselves to blame. Which of course, accounts for why they persist with the fraud of pretending to "listen" to the public - they have no intention of taking responsibility for their mistakes. It's always bad advice, never bad analysis (ignoring the fact that a critical analyst would be able to distinguish good from bad advice).

The other part of this, of course, is that the consultations represent, in their eyes, the means to educate the public. They have all the answers, but the ignorant masses don't always realise it. So they have to engage with the public, ostensibly in "receive" mode but really in "transmit", so that we can understand the wisdom of what they intend to do. And if we can't see that they are right, either we are foolish and ignorant, or they have failed to explain the case properly (as is No.10's preferred explanation for why so many fools fail to see the wisdom of their road-pricing policy). The third option - that just possibly they are wrong - is inconceivable. Such confidence would be less worrying if they weren't so consistently wrong about everything.