The Oldie – 1 April 2008
Last month Peter Bradley, the deposed MP for The Wrekin, saw his dream come alive with the creation of a Speakers’ Corner in Nottingham. It’s the first to be formed since the one in Hyde Park in 1872, and is what Bradley hopes will be the start of a national network of public debating places.
What we need, he says, is not smaller government but big citizenship: Speakers’ Corners and similar initiatives to help engender greater public participatuiion and debate. ‘If citizens are not engaging with each other, they’re hardly likely to be engaging with politicians.’
The idea has secured the backing of Justice Secretary Jack Straw and free-thinking comedian Eddie Izzard – and several other councils are interested in copying Nottingham’s experiment.
Says Mr Bradley: ‘Political cynicism, mutual distrust, public disengagement…We read about it everyday: it’s time to stop agonising and do something about it.’