Govt asks, nuclear power – yes or yes?

[Thursday]

What does this tell us about Brown’s citizen juries that we hadn’t already worked out?

Here’s how it works: government presents the corporations’ line, and the jurors approve it. Meanwhile, the whole process of doing whatever (nuclear power, nuclear weapons, ID cards, NHS privatisation, you name it) has already been put into place. Simple, really.

Not a great leap forward from a “consultation”, but it’s good to know they’re trying…

In nine day-long meetings across Britain two weekends ago, nearly a thousand people were shown a series of videos, presentations and handouts – and their opinion on building new nuclear power stations canvassed.

The government got the result it wanted – 44 per cent said power companies should have option of building nuclear, 36 per cent said no.

But day before, the environmental group, Greenpeace, along with other green groups, had pulled out, alleging the questions were loaded and the information biased, partial and factually inaccurate.

Greenpeace would say that, you could argue. But, independently, 20 senior academics too have come forward and will be writing to government with similar reservations.

They say the consultations were deliberately skewed by linking nuclear to fears about climate change – because the government knew past research had shown it’s the only way to get people to accept nuclear, albeit reluctantly.

And they say the participants were misled. An inconvenient truth about nuclear – that it can only make a small contribution to reducing the UK’s overall CO2 emissions – was buried.

Similar concerns have come from some members of the public who attended, on web sites and in unsolicited emails to Greenpeace:

“In the videos – alternative viewpoints had doom-ridden music in the background. The government’s view was then given against calm, relaxing music. I feel I have been mugged.”

“Not at all a consultation, merely a sleek marketing ploy.”

“I went in with an open mind… myself and others felt we were being misled and manipulated.”

The events and the materials were prepared by Opinion Leader Research – one of New Labour’s more favoured market research companies.

Greenpeace has now made a formal complaint to the Market Research Standards Board alleging it broke the code of conduct of the trade’s professional body.

Channel 4 News also spoken to someone involved in the events. They want to remain anonymous but told us “…repeating the government view, on page after page, on videos and in handouts, acted to almost bludgeon it into their heads.”

[…]

The government says no decision will be made until the consultation is over – but, from the response to their latest efforts it seems many are not convinced.

Gee, I wonder what the result will be…

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