Dr Keith Sutherland has a job at Exeter University. His piece in the Speccie detailing the shortcomings of citizens' juries and of deliberative democracy is therefore supremely professional and details the myriad technical faults of the process that makes it unsuitable for important democratic decisions.
In my time I've done plenty of design charettes with local communities affected by development. I recall one dreary November evening; it was cold, it was dark, and freezing rain made sodden and hopeless the scruffy hall at the edge of a council estate affected by our plans. Sheltering under a tree in a vandalised play area were a group of teens; even on such a night, being out and together was better than being at home. I was told of one 16-year old lad highly skilled on a BMX bike that his mother and stepfather had given him notice to leave the house; no job and no post-16 education meant he earned nothing for them, was just a mouth to feed, and so got pushed out of the nest. It was that brutal.
Inevitably those that came to the meeting were, as Dr Sutherland describes, overrepresented by partisans and activists. Boy, they hated young people. They wanted a public realm equipped with the design equivalent of barbed wire and searchlights, with the painful silent shriek of 'mosquito' transmitters on every street corner (these satanic devices emit a painful noise at a frequency that can only be heard by those under about 20 - advertised as 'teen deterrents'. I guess dogs would hear them as well - possibly accounting for so many mad pitbulls in these places) When I challenged the 'community' plod on his repeated description of the kids that hung around outside the shops as a 'teenage nuisance' and suggested that as they weren't breaking any law and were as much citizens as the rest of us, it would be more accurate to describe them as a 'teenage presence', I was practically lynched.
Our architect, a gentle and artistic man, was so horrified he never attended further. He sent instead a duffer assistant, a talentless gofer who was useful in the office because he could work the CAD system.
Sutherland points out that 95% of those invited to citizens' juries never turn up; "Out of the 30,000 invitations sent out for Rachel Reeves’ climate
assembly, only 110 will receive the golden ticket. Would you have any
confidence in an opinion poll that relied on 110 volunteers?" he asks. A citizens' assembly that reproduced exactly the 52:48 Brexit result would need a minimum of 6,766 participants.
But Sutherland understates, professionally, the key reason that deliberative democracy is never suited as a replacement for democracy - that those using it are themselves biased towards a certain outcome and will seek to run the process to produce that outcome. The RSA, for example, a strong advocate of deliberative democracy, suggests that the cattle are well-briefed by 'experts' before they are allowed to raise their hands - on the basis that decisions such as Brexit should be made by 'informed' voters rather than we ignorant, stupid, uneducated and inexpert citizens.
Beware all those who seek to use any method other than universal suffrage and the secret ballot for our most important decisions. They don't have democracy in their hearts.