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Pete Robinson Does British and foreign experience support the view that the greater use of focus groups and referenda today are signs of a healthy democracy Alternatively do they undermine the role of parliament Increasingly in Britain today the use of focus groups is becoming more and more common not just by research institutions but by the government A focus group is a small selection of people who represent the country as there will be people present from all areas in Britain all ages etc The focus group is then asked questions to which it is to discuss and then to provide answers to the questions More often than not these opinions are used simply to reassure the government but more recently they have been used to form the new policies in areas that would have been otherwise neglected by the government Referenda are now also taking a larger role with several being held in the last few years It may not be long before all important decisions are taken by holding referenda such is the case in Switzerland Is this democracy gone mad or a new wave of ultra democracy The party most responsible for the introduction of focus groups into Britain is Labour When Tony Blair took over as leader of Labour in 1994 after the death of John Smith they were still seen as the left wing party of the 70s and 80s Blair realised that their views were outdated and that they would never win the next election unless they changed the majority of their policies Labour used over 500 focus groups between 94 and the election of 1997 in which they gained a very large majority The focus groups provided them with a clear indication of what the British public wanted and consequently Labour changed their policies to fit in with this Unsurprisingly the Labour Party of 1997 bore a huge resemblance to the Conservative Party and
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