The government has launched its consultation exercise or Big Conversation.
Members of the public are being encouraged to send their views on issues such as health and the economy by e-mail, text and phone and at meetings.
Labour ministers have called the debate the biggest consultation exercise ever seen in Britain and claim that no subject will be off limits.
However critics say that the scheme is a gimmick and ministers are not really prepared to listen and change tack.
Do you think that The Big Conversation will make a difference? Is it just a gimmick? Will you be taking part?
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
I find it annoying that the distinction between 'government' and 'governing party' has been blurred to the point where they are synonymous. The website is a Labour Party site, nothing to do with government, but everything to do with the governing party. I did fill in some critical comments but I doubt there will be any response, or they will make any difference. Tony et al may listen when the ballot boxes are counted and they lose a lot of seats.
What a waste of time. We are still waiting for all the promises, made in opposition by these turncoats, to be implemented. Restore pensions earnings link, withdraw from EU, renationalise the electricity industry, etc. The list is endless.
No, but I have a question - who is going to pay for this? If its for better government then I would expect the tax payers to do so with the results available to all political parties and the general public. However, if its just for Labour with the results being confidential then I would expect Labour to pay for this campaign themselves.
I thought that speaking to our MPs was the way of telling Tony Blair what I thought. I did this in particular before the Iraq war. I understand from people who work for Brian White, my MP, that huge pressure was put upon Labour MPs to support Tony Blair's desire to go to war. Over 1,000,000 of us marched to show how wrong we thought the war was, without the UN's mandate.
If Tony Blair cannot listen to the people in this way, why on earth should the Big Conversation make any difference?
Gimmick or not it flags up the need for direct democracy in this country. This is the debate that really need airing but the media because of the power the current system gives them shy away from opening the entertaining such a debate. I won't take part simply because it may sustain the myth that we actually live in a meaningful democracy.
John Moore, UK
I have looked at the site and tried (unsuccessfully) to get my views published. It seems to me that the comments are carefully vetted so they are not critical of the Government. This is no conversation at all, just a pretence of a debate by Labour supporters who dare not oppose the Government.
Marc Tyner, UK
Big conversations should take place over a ballot box, not an inbox. More gimmicks from a government with no more ideas.
Looking at the site itself I was most unsurprised to see a large number of fawning comments going into detail about how Labour and Tony have made life better in the last few years. Sure, there are a few dissenters there for effect but overall this is a spin/data mining exercise designed to benefit the Labour party and no one else.
To top it all, this 'socialist' party is trying to make a profit by charging an extra 25p on top of the carriers fee for mobile text messages.
Sam Gibson, UK
This so-called "Big Conversation" is simply a means to disenfranchise us. The government now will be able to ignore the very MPs we elect to represent us, claiming that they have heard direct from the people and don't need to listen to back-bench and opposition MPs. This is one more nail in Democracy's coffin
J.R Blake, UK
Reading this page is enough to me want to emigrate away from the legions of clueless, cliché spouting cynics. I can only assume that the "its all spin", "they're all the same" bores have never themselves been given responsibility for solving rather then bleating about problems.
I thought the Big Conversation was called an election. That's where politicians tell us what they would like to do and we tell them if we agree or not. If all the parties "listen" to all the people all the time no wonder they are "all the same"
The Government has a long history of ignoring what it doesn't like, for example their dismissal of over 5000 comments in opposition to ID cards on the grounds that they had come through an 'anti' web site link. Does anyone truly believe that they will listen to anything else?
Sue M, England
I think that the Big Conversation will make a difference if enough people take part. I am willing to take part. I have already done my best to let them know how foolish and expensive the war in Iraq is. I will continue to express these opinions as often as possible as long as necessary. I'm not alone. When will the government respond? They will one day if enough of us persist.
N. Hollinrake, UK
What would be the point? The government will go ahead and implement whatever they have decided anyway. They didn't listen on Iraq, they pretended to listen to people's concerns over GM foods and they've taken no notice whatever of what residents around airports targeted for expansion are calling for. A one way conversation I think.
Fiona Harrington, UK
I work for local government and this does seem to be more PR than productive.
The current edicts issued by Central Government that we have to follow are more often than not knee jerk reactions and/or based on ill founded information (that rings a bell with the recent war doesn't it!)
This seems to be an exercise in instilling a feel good factor in the electorate and I am a awaiting another speech after the consultation which will follow the "You have now told us what you want us to do - now let us have the time to do it".
Purely seeking a further term in office methinks.
I have recently heard too many "Armchair Politicians" making uneducated claims about how the country should be run. At least now these 'experts' have a chance to put their money where their mouth is and enlighten the obviously incompetent leaders of this country who clearly have learnt nothing from their years of experience in the political forum..
However, I will be interested to see whether the government responds to some of the less desirable questions put by the public; will they approach these as they did the petrol tax crisis, or will they choose to deal with these in the way that they did the public scepticism regarding the 'liberation' of Iraq?
Phil Holden-Rushworth, England
There has already been a "big conversation". Two million people marching in London against the war - no one listened. 300,000 marching against Bush, no one listened. Tuition fees, the privatisation of the NHS, subsidies to rail companies, an ethical foreign policy, debt relief, the lack of a higher tax bracket for the rich, we all ask and no one listens.
Look at the site before making judgement. When you see the questions about how you vote etc you quickly realise that this is not a genuine attempt to gain input to policy making, but a thinly disguised attempt to look as if Blair is listening. Given the fact that he doesn't listen to his own MPs or even Cabinet Ministers, I don't think we should expect him to listen to us. If he did, he'd get an awful ear-bashing from at least half the population.
John Farmer, UK
The government doesn't want to begin conversing with the people. We have screamed our opinions at them over and over again, yet the ear plugs remain firmly in place. This process is a patronising insult to the people of this country.
Jay Johnson, England
What a waste of time. Blair hasn't listened to the country in the past six years so he certainly isn't going to start now
I do think the Big Conversation is a good idea, but in principle I feel us normal hard working everyday people, no matter what we say the politicians will do what they want to do. This to me is very unfortunate, as many politicians have lost sight of what really matters, being an everyday human being, instead they sit cocooned in their London offices forgetting what really matters, I think they should come back to the real world, then look practically and using common sense at addressing issues.
If the government wants to know then the government should ask. This is just a marketing gimmick for the Labour party, it has nothing to do with the government at all.
Having failed to deliver on education, hospitals and transportation after the increase in taxes over the past few years the government know have the cheek to ask how to tackle the very issues that they have taxed from us to sort out. Maybe better financial management of our money is what is required not more discussion. Less talk more action Tony otherwise you won't be there to worry about in two years time.
Just the government's way of finding out what the hot potatoes are leading up to the next election. Then they can tell us what we want to hear to clinch that historical third term. I wouldn't even buy an apple from him.
Gerry Noble, UK
Of course I'll take part... Now ask me if I think it'll make any difference!
Karl, Northants, UK
Before launching the world's biggest focus group, I would like Mr Blair to engage in meaningful discussion/debate in parliament, with elected MPs and his own cabinet. If he wants to carry our research for the Labour Party's next manifesto then the taxpayer should not pick up the bill.
Reading the comments, they seem very negative.
We should realise that this is an enormous opportunity, how many times have you said, if only I had Mr Blair here - so let's have some more constructive comments.
The Big Conversation is just The Big Distraction. A political smokescreen perfectly timed to take the public eye off his grave erroneous decisions on the likes of Iraq, university fees, asylum and law and order.
Darrel, Wales, UK
I will take part in this because at least we are getting a chance to put forward our own personal priorities.
However, I note that The Big Conversation website appears to be a Labour Party Website and not a Government Website.
Will the (uncensored) results of this consultation be made available to the other political parties and the public?
However, the I believe the Government already know exactly what the priorities are for the vast majority of the population but simply take little or no notice whilst continuing with their own policies.
What we really need in this country is a change in the UK constitution that forces governments to be accountable to the people of the UK and act accordingly.
For starters a conversation is a two way communication, soliciting comments isn't a conversation. If the government is really interested in what the general opinion is then ask the MPs to solicit general opinion at their local surgeries and then have them to vote that way and on big issues put it out to a referendum. When it's the executive telling the whips to get the MPs to vote this way or that (let alone actually letting the people have a say) then it's not really very close to democracy. A choice of at most 3 significant parties and maybe 50-60 things that I have a strong opinion on. Where is my vote on that?
To all those who say "give Tony a chance" or "I have not seen such a forum before", I say, where were you when they offered the so-called citizen space website or the other government org. websites? These sites were withdrawn after too many contrary comments were received.
Edwin Thornber, UK and Romania
I'll give it a try, but I really can't see how the Govt can set up a filtering and recognition system that will realistically give all these diverse ideas adequate review. Yes it is a good idea, but how does my suggestion actually find its way to the person that matters and anyway, have you ever come across a 'free' commonsense idea that has been used over and above one (however inane) that has been supplied by a highly paid consultant!
Simon Mallett, UK
Yes, I think it's an excellent idea and I will be taking part. This kind of opportunity is not offered in many places in the world
Why should I bother wasting my time to take part? This government has ignored everything I have had to say so far. Nothing convinces me they will listen now. Oh and how strange that another election is looming...
Yes, I will be taking part in the big conversation. Not because I think the present government will listen to the people - they haven't so far - why should they start now? But because I believe that I have no right to criticise their policies if I have not used the opportunity to say what I think and voice my opinion.
Maureen Anstey, England
I find it slightly odd that in order to take part in "The Big Conversation" you have to fill in your name, address, you voting intentions and say whether you want to become a member of the Labour party!
What I want to know is, are people's questions sorted by how they answer as to which political party they support or whether they are interested in joining/funding the Labour party?
Also how would the data be used if we were to make lots of anti-Government comments? Would we find our phones being tapped and our e-mails monitored as a result of posting our views?
I shake my head, not at the 'Big Conversation' exercise, but at the small-mindedness and irrationality of many here. This government has demonstrated its willingness to listen - the problem is that not everyone says the same thing, and if one person feels that they haven't been listened to, then the whole exercise is said to be defective. Can anyone tell me if there is one single issue we all agree on? Therefore, someone will always feel that they are not listened to when their hobby-horse isn't ridden.
Yes, politicians are driven by basic convictions, and no, they don't have all the answers. The Big Conversation is an imaginative way to re-engage with the public. Not the only way, but one way.
I will be making my contribution as I want to so this country move forward and not be stuck in the past.
Alan Davidson, London, UK
The Big Conversation will be between lobbyists, pressure groups, political activists and the labour Party. The general public who are already apathetic will just not take part.
Alan Cameron, Scotland
I cannot believe the short-sighted nature of many of the comments so far. They won't listen therefore we won't talk. Maybe the individuals making these comments don't have anything worth saying. I find many people like to complain about issues but when it comes to actually finding a solution they are nowhere to be seen. Finding a solution to difficult questions is not easy and even less so when people are unwilling to contribute to the process. I would encourage everyone to contribute. If they don't listen some of you will be proven correct. If they do listen we may actually find ourselves with workable answers.
Sara Robertson, UK
Well, if he's so keen on doing what the public want how about referenda on:
a) The EU
b) Capital Punishment
The Government has had plenty of chances recently to listen and act on what the population have been saying but they've ignored it and said they carry on doing the exact opposite, is it going to be any different this time? President Blair seems to think he knows best anyway so why does he need our opinion?
Simon Rerrie, Birmingham, UK
I think John Major had a similar idea (something about a soap box) going into his election year. The problem with Tony is that he wants to be remembered as a popular, well-loved Prime Minister. However his reputation this year has been badly tarnished and the electorate are wising up. I think its only a matter of time before Tony appoints himself a position in the House of Lords and is looked upon in the same graces as Maggie.
Phil Reigan, UK
The big conversation is not about finding out what some people think about this government. I'm sure they know that already. There are many issues and problems facing this country over the next few years. The idea is to get to know how we the public think they should be tackled or resolved. All those who have done nothing but criticise should put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and get involved instead of just carping.
Peter Haymes, UK
I'll be taking part in my own way - by voting Conservative at the next General Election. Tony Blair has said he has no reverse gear, and it now appears there has no navigator either.
Give the guy a break! He's just trying to do the right thing. I can't believe how many people keep saying that the majority of people were against the war. Surely the few thousand people that were clogging up London are not the majority? Last I heard, there were about 60 million people in this country.
When are many of your correspondents going to learn? They seem to assume that they're not being listened to because the government doesn't do what they want. I was forced to listen to my mother for years, but in the end I made up my own mind!
How about referenda on really serious issues. Take, (for example) tuition fees to the country and see what we all think (and then have government listen and act accordingly).
How many of the people here saying it's a spin exercise have actually read the document?
Martin Bucknall, Scotland
Mr Blair has consistently ignored the British public's opinions on a vast range of issues. If he wouldn't listen to 1m marchers over Iraq, if he won't listen to the people's representatives, his own MPs, over foundation hospitals, PPPs and tuition fees, and in the absence of credible opposition, why will he listen now?
It hasn't been clear from the reporting whether this is a government or a Labour party scheme. I am deeply concerned that this government appears unable to distinguish the two, and looks to be using taxpayers' funds to pay for research for its next manifesto.
This would be a great idea, if the government were serious about listening. A few months ago, Blair requested the public send to him over the Number 10 web site what we thought of his government's performance. What happened here? It was withdrawn. I sent to him my thoughts and had zero response. The site was withdrawn, I suggest because he did not like what he was sent. So I think this is another gimmick, with no intent to change.
Gordon Grove, UK
Lots of people on this page seem to be saying the government never listens, but just how many of these opportunities have the public ever had before? As far as I'm aware, there's never been a decent forum within which the public can communicate with the government en masse. Let's give it a go rather than succumb to the crippling cynicism of our time.
James Whale, UK
Already have, didn't vote labour last time and have no intention of doing so next time. That we are free to do so is the blessing of our society.
It's a great idea! People have been criticising this government for not listening for six years now. What's the harm in finding out what people really want and what their priorities are?
New Labour has shown over and over and over that they simply do not listen to the public unless the public agrees with them so this is just a waste of time and money that would be better off being spent on schools, hospitals or public transport.
I tried to take part earlier this year. I and more than a million others make our views clear in the anti war demonstrations, we weren't listened to then and we won't be listened to now. Tony Blair has no reverse gear and is not listening. He has his own beliefs and will not change his course. We should not accept his behaviour nor his fanatical views. Roll on our own 'velvet' revolution!.
Andrew Wills, England
I have several comments I would like to make to Mr. Blair. However, none of them are printable.
I'd love to tell Mr Blair what I think of his Government and his leadership. But he won't want to hear it. So I'll express my views in the traditional way - by trying to vote him out.
Rob Griffiths, Bournemouth, UK
This is more political spin and trying to divert public attention. When he has not acted on conversation and public opinion. Why will he act on the results of this new gimmick, when he has not on serious issues and public opinion e.g. Iraq, E U constitution, United nations, Palestine, Guantanamo British prisoners, to name a few.
M Chatur, UK
I thought that politicians were led by underpinning beliefs and convictions rather than asking the public for ideas.
Dr. Chris Burton, UK
Tony Blair doesn't listen. Never has, never will. I won't take part. If he really did listen he would hold a referendum on the EU Constitution. He is not worthy of further comment.
David Waters, England
Just reading a lot of the negative comments on this page shows that people do have something to complain about and so they should take part. At least we have the right of free speech in this country; sadly this is not the case in many countries around the world. I believe that we should always take the opportunity to speak, you never know, one day someone WILL listen.
Doug Williams, Wales
To Mr Williams of the UK. I agree that we have the luxury of being able to speak freely at certain times, however, it's only effective if people listen and I am afraid Tony Blair doesn't. This whole thing is a farce and has only been put in place to impress other countries.
Politics is about difficult issues with few 'black and white' answers. It's about time all the people mouthing off about this government came up with solutions instead and I'm glad the Labour Party is calling their bluff.
The Libdems spend too much time going with the public and look where they are!
Perhaps none of my business, but at least folks CAN speak out. That's the blessing of democracy. Getting the leaders to listen? That's the challenge of democracy.
Richard Wilde, USA
This is just another exercise in "Blair speak". He can consult all he likes, but it is no substitute for action. This is just another case of everything in the window and nothing in the shop. If you don't want to act get out.
Alan Bache, France
They don't listen now so it will only make a difference if they decide to listen for a change and act on what is said by citizens. It appears like they only want to listen when they want to!
Yet another distraction! All talk and no action! When is this Government going to stick and positively do something for the majority!
I have been exhorting Mr Blair for six years to do something about the botched constitutional arrangement of Britain - especially the injustice of Scottish MPs voting in English laws - but don't tell me he'll listen. It's not to his advantage. I doubt whether we'd have much of a conversation on this!
Following New Labour's promise not to bring it tuition fees, and the promise not to introduce top up fees; a promise to listen to what the public really want. Why am I not filled with anticipation of a New Britain?
Blair is very good at pretending to listen. But when it comes down to action, he does what he feels is right, irrespective of anybody else views.
The reason that people are saying the Big Conversation will be a waste of time is because they are simply cynical. I believe that the Big Conversation really can and will make a difference, but lots of people have got to take part in order for it to be a success otherwise the efforts the Labour government are taking will not have been worth it. The government is offering to listen, it is now time for the people to talk.
Bradley Thomas, UK
I will take part, and I hope someone listens.
Steve Sharpe, UK
Yes I think I would take part simply because it's easy to knock politicians for not listening but Tony Blair is making a positive effort here irrespective of the negative attitude to anything coming of it. I honestly believe he does deserve a break and I hardly think the opposition would have suggested such a good idea. In principal I believe the opposition created most of our country's problems that Tony is left with sorting out!
Richard Sweetman, England
No, have just looked on the labour website and it just a big marketing survey - do they think that the British public are really that naive?
It's a studied insult, a waste of money and time. Furthermore it's nothing short of patronising to the Electorate, backbench MPs and local authorities, all of whom literally pay the price for New Labour Arrogance. To think Labour once stood for Socialism! This is nothing but spin - again!
Don't let's bother. It's a waste of time. Let's just vote them out next time. But please don't let the Tories back in.
John Mayhew, UK
If New Labour were remotely interested in what the public think, they would allow them to vote in a referendum on the European Constitution. They won't because they know full well what the public think but don't want to hear it. The Big Conversation is a spin led empty gesture
Martin Dubber, England
I hate to be cynical about this, but going on this governments record of ignoring public opinion (over the last year at least), I have little faith in them doing anything other than disregarding the negative responses and playing up the positive responses for their own benefit.
Maybe I am confused, but I was of the understanding that the general public have been trying to converse with the PM on numerous matters from lack of medical care, education and transport to being against a war to find weapons of mass destruction and he never listens. I fear the critics are right, another New Labour ploy.
Jean Elaine Seaman, Austria
So if enough people tell Mr Blair that after seven years in power the NHS is still a mess, the roads still a joke and the railways still knackered he'll resign and let someone else do the job?
If Mr Blair really wants to engage in conversation, he should start by listening to the 88% of people who want a referendum on the European Constitution
Er, where was the consultation with the people when Blair decided to go to war against our will? To little too late Tony, we don't trust you any more.
So if they hear from the people that we'd like a moral foreign policy and be so cosy with the US Republican Right they'd change their ways? Some hope! It's clearly a gimmick, but I think people should take part and leave them in no-uncertain terms what we think of them.
John Small, UK
So Mr Blair now wants to listen. Does this have anything to do with an election coming up in two years and he wants to say the right things? I won't be voting for New Labour again. Its the same Labour underneath the gloss and spin!
From a voters point of view I think potentially it is a good idea. However, I think the government will get a bit of a shock when they see what the voters really think and want.
I have just filled in the form on the Big Conversation website. I hope the government listens as they appear to be getting more and more out of touch. I'm particularly angry about university fees, so let's see what happens.
David, Worcester, England
What's it all about? This is the first I've heard of it, and I read this website every day, plus occasional newspapers, and I watch the news every night. Is it happening today? Where has it been advertised? How are you supposed to know about it? Farce.
Kirsten, London, England
A little less conversation and a little more action.
I sent many e-mails to the government, to my local MP (Labour) about Iraq. I didn't receive a satisfactory reply to any of them. The government ignored the opinion of the people then.
I marched to protest about student top up fees. The government ignored us. In these and other issues I, along with the rest of the British people, have been ignored. I see no reason to assume that this will make any difference. They will just be ignoring people on a wider scale.
I voted Labour in the last general election. Mr. Blair can rest assured that I will not be in the next one.
Again more spin. This will make not a blind bit of difference. The mechanisms are already there to convey your feelings to government, i.e. through your MP but unless you are a lobbying company or an individual with massive financial resources, the government, any government, will not listen to you. Democracy has been hijacked by the rich, it doesn't matter who you vote for, the average man on the street no longer makes a difference.
Democracy should mean continuous conversation, not a one-off opportunity to express opinions which may or may not be listened to, but in most cases will not be acted upon unless they happen to coincide with government policy.
Andy Millward, UK
Well done Tony Blair. Asking, and listening to, the people is what democracy is all about.
It has been a long time coming but welcome never the less.
Ian Saunders, UK
I think Mr Blair should have a "big conversation" with Mr Brown!
Hector McTavish, Scotland
I will take part, only to make the point that we as a nation are not listened to. If we refuse, the government will assume we don't mind what they are doing because they are getting no criticism. However I don't believe it will make one bit of difference. Tony Blair and the cabinet seem to be in a fantasy land where they think everyone is happy with them whilst in reality they are so out of touch it is untrue.
I am sure Mrs Merton said;'Let's have a heated debate'. It will be nothing more than this. Lots of people talking lots of rubbish with no conclusions and the government being proved that it was right all along. Lots of wasted taxpayers' money with little outcome.
Roger Storer, UK
In theory, it is a good idea. However, all too often, consultation periods are merely a delaying tactic by a government unwilling to tackle difficult problems.
They should just force Tony Blair to read 'Have your Say' every day. In my experience this is the best place on the net for sensible discussion on topical subjects.
Lots of comments on here criticising the Big Conversation. We should remember that at least we live in a country where our opinions are sought by government. Are people so naive as to think that the government will 100% ignore what the majority of people are saying? They are in the business of staying in power. Thus, where possible, I believe that they will try to keep our views in mind - otherwise they'll get voted out in the next election! If you don't agree with it, don't participate - just don't sit there criticising for the sake of it!
Kate Lovegrove, UK
My conversation with Blair would be something like; "How is it that when I take my daughter (who is in pain at the time) to see a GP, I'm told she has to have an appointment, and that the emergency appointments are all taken, whereas he gets a stomach ache and a consultant is biked across London to check him out?"
I would love to have a conversation with Tony Blair, but not attend a one to one lecture as I fear it may become. The problem will be that the spin doctors and advisers will manipulate the findings to suit their own purposes anyway.
Every day I sit at a standstill on the M4 next to an empty bus lane. I've watched that lane ever since it was imposed on us car drivers, watching taxi cabs carrying one person zoom along it, as my passenger and I sit unable to move forward an inch. I watch as once in 15 minutes perhaps a bus drives past carrying 4 passengers. Everything that is Tony Blair and his government is summed up to me in this useless, stifling, irrational bus lane. Motorists have complained, but he ignores us. The country speaks, and he ignores us. He acts as if in a vacuum. It's totally impossible to have a conversation with this government, because a conversation requires listening. This one never does and never will.
John Landon, UK
It has been demonstrated time and time again that Blair hears only two voices - those of big business and the USA. This 'consultation' is nothing but a gimmick to try to win back some credibility, it will make no difference whatsoever to his plans and policies.
The Big Conversation will make a difference. It will help the government understand what the priorities and concerns of the people they represent are. I couldn't agree more with the idea of a Westminster bubble. Politicians all too often get caught up in the game of politics instead of looking at what the people want and how to achieve those desires through long term planning. We live in a democratic country that supports the ideals of democracy. If we wish to back up our words with actions everyone needs to become more involved in the conversation.
What is the point ? They never listen to us anyway.
Ben Franklin, UK
Earlier this year, Mr Blair ignored the views of the United Nations, the biggest demonstration ever seen in London and the entire Muslim world. And now he wants to have a conversation with us?
Richard Cotton, London, UK
I really don't know what they're hoping to find out what they don't already know. Just read the papers, Tony, it's all in there.
This is really called the Big Con isn't it? This is a really good way for a government to selectively gather evidence to back up their own ideas and present it as 'the voice of the people'. If they really cared about the voice of the people we would be having a referendum with 20 questions on it.
Richard, Leeds, UK
What's the point of having a conversation with a man with no reverse gear? His views are immovable. He doesn't listen. That's not a conversation, that's a lecture.
Tom Franklin, UK
The government has never listen to lots of little conversations, why should they listen to a single big one? This government will only listen when beaten at the polls.