There have been some attempts to introduce a different types of debates. For example, for the last 30 years, or so, TV stations organise just before the elections the so-called Focus Groups where about 20-50 people gather in a room trying to convince each other that their political stance is more justified and rational than the opposition’s. The organisers use a number of yellow stickers placed on a white board, representing the participants’ preference written on a sticker. Over the course of a day, by debating the issue, the participants may change their view. Towards the end of the day the majority group can emerge for a different motion than at the beginning of the session.
So, that is the step in the right direction because the participants get some time to discuss their viewpoints with the opponents and arrive at a more considered view. However, that approach does not allow for a true consensus to be reached because people can only vote for the original motion, which they did not prepare themselves. For example, in a truly consensual discussion people would not just vote for Brexit, or for ‘Remain’ but perhaps for the middle of the road option, like staying in the single market, or in the customs union, which was not possible on the referendum ballot paper. Apart from that, the problem with this approach is that the one who forms the question may bias the outcome. Finally, it is only limited to tens of people and therefore is insufficient for a national debate. So, how can we improve on that?