Citizens Assemblies are a powerful tool community organising uses to publicly seek commitments from politicians which can then be used to hold them to account. Assemblies are primarily events for our member institutions to join together and collaboratively approach decision makers. A Citizens Assembly is not a hustings, an election debate or a partisan political rally. We don’t invite questions from the floor. Instead we hear powerful testimonies and stories from leaders of our member institutions. These stories are focused on priorities our member institutions have agreed to work on together and are often the result of a local listening campaign to determine these issues.
The political candidates we choose to invite to respond to these issues on stage with us are selected by considering what their likelihood of success is, judged on objective considerations, such as how parties in the area have performed in recent local and national elections, and even how bookmakers are reporting the candidate’s odds of winning.
Our schedule includes contributions from leaders, music and drama as well as hearing the responses from candidates. It’s a practical necessity to limit candidates joining us on stage.
A key message from the chair of every Assembly we run is to remind the audience that there are other candidates standing for election, and the event is not partisan. Importantly the final message of every Assembly is to remind audience members that their duty is to take part in the political process and to encourage others to join them in doing so, rather than proscribing who anyone should vote for.
We are always happy to explain this position to any candidate and are proud of the long history we have of delivering important Citizens Assemblies.
Neil Jameson, director, Citizens UK said: “Yesterday more than 800 people from diverse institutions including universities, trades unions, mosques and local charities, celebrated their membership of Greater Manchester Citizens, the newest chapter of the national community organising movement, Citizens UK, by attending a Citizens Assembly at The Lowry Theatre.
“The Assembly was not a husting, an election debate or a partisan political rally. There are no questions from the floor, our agenda has already been agreed by community leaders from member organisations well in advance, instead our leaders share powerful reflections and personal testimonies around issues that we believe need to be improved to create a better and more inclusive society. The politicians in attendance heard moving stories of homelessness, hate crime and in-work poverty."