In his excellent piece for the Telegraph (here) blogger Graeme Archer does a grand job of knocking down the rather, ahem, inetresting idea in the Guardian (where else?) that a randomly selected "jury" of 1,000 Britons ought to hold court on some of the big issues facing the public.
Putitng aside Archer's point about this unelected clique telling our elected parliament what to do and think (I am rather fond of the idea of parliamentary sovereignty and voting at election time to make my voice heard) the idea is doomed because it almost certainly won't get the protagonists what they want.
By dangling 3 big issues - MPs expenses, the banking crisis and phone hacking - in front of the public, all issues where the public take issue with "vested interests" and "big businesses" - they make the idea sound attractive. But consider this. Britain is - wait for it - a conservative (small "c") country. For the vast majority of the last century or so, we have had Conservative, Conservaive-led or Conservative-dominated National governments. There is, as we are now finding out, a big conservative element to the LibDems and also to the Labour Party too. We have had precious few radical socialist, or even just socialist, governments and the only time recently when Labour have "won big" is when they shifted to the right (i.e. to where the people of Britain are). Sorry Guardian readers, however few of you there are left, it is true. Go to a council estate anywhere in the country, where you might expect Labour support to be strongest. Ask them about Europe, or immigration, or taxation levels and see what they say; I distinctly remember one voter last time in the heart of Lakeham lecturing me about the evils of Europe, too many immigrants, tax too high etc etc and - you guessed it - he would still be voting Labour. Even Labour folk have a conservative element to them.
So if you take 1,000 random Britons you wouldn't get the spread I think The Guardian expect. And instead of asking them about MPs expenses, as Archer suggests, you put other issues in front of them, you might not get the answer you expect either.
So I lay this challenge to The Guardian, The People's Jury and its fans. With some polls putting support for a return to the death penalty at over 70%, would you be happy for the first idea for discussion to be the death penalty?
Dontcha just love indrect democracy - when it suits you, eh, Guardian readers? ;-)