A better way …

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James Knell
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A better way… 

All too often public debate up and down the land finds itself descending into loud and divisive arguments.

We know that on all sorts of issues – transgender rights, Brexit, historical statues, racial disparities, unconscious bias, the BBC, and so on – people often want to engage, but feel wary of doing so in case they’re shouted down for holding the “wrong” view or accused of being a “phobe” or worse.

This isn’t helpful. Being able to take a position on something & offer one’s view is essential if society is to make progress. After all, many values and rights we take for granted today were originally just held by a tiny few, and only became embedded in wider society due to people advocating them even though they were initially unpopular.

Sometimes cases need to be made forcefully and passionately – and this is absolutely fine. It can be done respectfully, and is the sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy.

However, it’s clear that something is often missing in these debates and conversations: meaningful and practical solutions that people can get behind.

Whatever their views, we think that the vast majority of people are sincere in their beliefs. Nobody wants a more divided Britain. But all too often discussion right now generates more heat than light.

The most constructive types of debates are those that seek to find a common ground and then offer ways for people to coalesce around solutions and opinions in an environment of tolerance and mutual respect.

This is why the CCS is launching a new series of blogs: A better way…”

Each article will consider an important issue or challenge facing the country. Drawing on existing research and evidence, it will explore some of the approaches put forward by people to address it, and consider their strengths & weaknesses in terms of common sense and fair play. We’ll then suggest alternative ways that people can approach the issue and would attract broad support.

During these unusual and stressful times, seeking the common ground is more important than ever. We must find ways to debate important and sometimes controversial issues, and ensure that this reflects the sentiments of the majority of the country.

Research by CCS and many others shows that there is far more in common between people than it sometimes seems – especially given the way the country came together to face the challenge of coronavirus. We are not enemies, we just disagree, and disagreeing is healthy! But where we disagree, let’s do so armed with evidence, not just emotions. 

With this in mind, we hope that A better way… will contribute to debates and bring a sense of cool-headed calm to things. Watch this space…

James Knell

Research Director

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