Public opinion

Have you ever been asked your view for an opinion poll? Few have - the standard sample is just 1,000 people. Now Gordon Brown says he wants to give citizens a say in policy-making. His big idea is the citizens' jury.

There will only be a handful of these events. So you've probably got about a one in 50 million chance of getting selected - rather worse odds than winning the lottery jackpot.

There was a fanfare of publicity as the first juries were set up, on schools and crime, but none of us has been told what they decided. And while the usual idea in a jury is that the verdict is final, Gordon reserves the right to ignore the outcome.

After all, over a million people signed the Downing Street petition against the Government's road pricing plans. That call was pretty decisive, but it fell on deaf ears.

As we know only too well locally, hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions against hospital downgrading, and tens of thousands have marched in protest. They've been ignored, too.

Citizens' juries are part of what the Prime Minister calls a "new politics". But how can he talk about re-engaging the public and re-building trust while simultaneously breaching a manifesto promise to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution?

Last week I helped to launch a new cross-party campaign, "I want a referendum" (, to demand that the public is given a say. As most other EU leaders have acknowledged, the new version of the Constitutional Treaty is essentially the same as the original, marking a further substantial transfer of power to the EU.

Three quarters of voters are demanding their say. Down the road in Brighton this week, TUC members voted for a referendum, too. From left to right, the jury's verdict is clear. Why is the Government ignoring it?

Michelle Taylor