The Brown Government is keen to engage the public in the policy-making process through a number of new mechanisms. However, attempts to have what Gordon Brown called a 'widespread and informed' debate on the Queen's Speech have sunk in a slough of public apathy.
Only 71 people have responded to a cross-Whitehall online consultation on the draft legislative programme and many of the comments have little, if any, relevance to the proposed bills. For example, one posting states: 'I would love to use my bike more, but the state of the roads in Warrington are pretty bad.'
An invitation to e-mail Harriet Harman, the leader of the Commons, with thoughts on proposed legislation generated about 50 messages, but that was better than the three substantive comments received by the Scottish Office website.
The Government did also stage a series of regional events, but officials have been coy about how many turned up. One run in London cost £50,000 despite the Whitehall venue being made available free of charge.
Different forms of engagement may do little to overcome a fundamental distrust of the 'political class'.